|Bobby 'Blue' Bland|
During the peak of his popularity, in the 1960s, Bobby ‘Blue’ Bland was largely unknown to white Americans. Though he had a voice that someone described as ‘barbed wire wrapped in silk’ and a fistful of hits, and he toured up and down the United States relentlessly, he was always the ‘King of the Chitlin Circuit’.
|The Beale Streeters|
Born in small town Tennessee, his family moved to Memphis, not in small part because his mother recognised the power of her boy’s voice and wanted to give him a chance at the big time. Like so many of that era, Bobby started out in gospel groups and was one of the founding members of a group of musicians known (after the fact) as the Beale Streeters. With him in the Beale Streeters were B.B. King, Roscoe Gordon, Johnny Ace and others who went on to shine in the music world.
|Elvis and Bobby (in cool white sweater)|
Bobby’s music was sophisticated and luscious. Though he had the voice of a soulman that could be heard on the other side of the Mississippi River if need be, he had the ability to bring it down low and gentle and make the ladies (who adored him!) grab their hankies and sigh. White audiences had certain expectations of black performers and one of them was ‘keep it simple’. They got B.B. King’s guitar playing and James Brown’s funk because it didn’t change all that much between records. But listen to Bobby. Sometimes he’s shouting out a roof raiser, and the next minute he’s swaying his way through a sarcastic love letter with his own style of funk. Then, with just as much facility (and felicity) he switches gears to a jazzy cover of Stormy Monday.
In fact, listen to this record and then put a label on it. Is it R&B, soul, gospel or jazz? Who cares, Bobby did it all equally well.
One of the great pleasures of this collection, and all of his great songs from this era is the band. A sly organ run here, popping horn charts there. Orchestra strings on the sad numbers and some of the best bluesy guitar strumming, this side of Memphis, by the amazing Wayne Bennett. White audiences were simply too narrow minded to accommodate music of this variety and elegant diversity.
Bobby of course, saw it differently. He told someone, “The Man only ever allows one Black guy on top at a time.” And in his time, the Top belonged to his friend B.B. King.
The title of this UK release is called The Voice. That about sums it up. Bobby didn’t play the piano or guitar. All he had was the most amazing rock solid, warm and scrumptious voice, matched in the Washerman’s Dog book only by Lou Rawls.
01 Who Will the Next Fool Be
02 I Pity the Fool
03 Don't Cry No More
04 Ain't that Lovin' You
05 I'm Not Ashamed
06 Cry Cry Cry
07 I'll Take Care of You
08 Call on Me
09 Blue Moon
10 Turn Your Love Light On
11 Stormy Monday
12 Two Steps Away from the Blues
13 Ain't Nothin' You Can Do
14 Ain't Doin' too Bad
15 Sometimes You Got to Cry a Little
16 Ain't No Telling
17 Yield Not to Temptation
18 I'm Too Far Gone to Turn Around
19 These Hands (Small but Mighty)
20 Good Time Charlie Pt. 1
21 Ask me 'bout Nothing (but the Blues)
22 Share Your Love With Me
23 That Did It
25 Back in the Same Old Bag Again
26 Chains of Love