Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Bobby “Blue” Bland – the Definitive Collection

While Bobby’s biggest hits were more soul/pop oriented, he still identifies himself as a blues singer and he certainly had that aspect in his tunes.

The first number in this collection, “I Smell Trouble” is also one of the most straight-ahead blues on this CD and is a good indication on how strong Bobby was in this genre. “Further Up the Road” is still quite blues oriented, but is already starting to get a little more big-band/pop flavored. He goes all the way to pop/r’n’b territory in “Little Boy Blue”, though he does keep his blues growl in his voice as he sings – I guess he truly was a cross-over artist!

He does do a nice, organ-dominated, minor-key blues with “I’ll Take Care of You” which then goes into a string dominated ballad, “Lead Me On”. Apparently, he did not want to be pigeon-holed!

One of my favorite Bland songs here is the fantastic “I Pity the Fool”, covered by none other than David Bowie in the 60’s with his band, the Mannish Boys, and, of course, is where Mr. T. got his trademark line. Great, great, r’n’b/soul shouter!

Also included is definitive take on T-Bone Walker’s “Stormy Monday Blues”, which became a big hit for Bobby and is probably the version that most people think of when they think of this tune. Nice, T-Bone flavored guitar playing and Bobby’s distinctive edge to his voice make this another classic.

Yet another hit for Bobby is the r’n’b smash, “Turn On Your Love Light”, which is a jumping horn number that is followed by the sound-alike “Yield Not To Temptation” – the record company was clearly attempting to duplicate the success of “Love Light”!

The majority of the balance of this comp is ballady-r’n’b numbers, though he still goes into blues territory now and again, as on “Chains of Love”. “Ain’t No Love in the Heart of the City” and “I Wouldn’t Treat a Dog (the Way that you Treat Me)” are both solid, strong soul numbers. Closing is a duet with none other than B.B.King on a song that he made famous, “Let the Good Times Roll”. Apparently, B.B. started out with Bobby before heading out on his own!

Overall, nice stuff, if you’re a fan of his “Stormy Monday Blues” and “Love Light”, but don’t go in expecting hard-core blues. Still, a good overview of Bobby’s prolific career.