Bobby Blue Bland
Bobby Blue Bland--HIS CALIFORNIA ALBUM--Dunhill (ABC) DSX-50163
Joe Scott is gone, along with his trumpet with two bells, and his absolute control over everything that Bobby Blue Bland sang (or, as some critics believed) thought and felt.
A blues historian wrote one time, in an otherwise distinguished book, that "without Scott's original and coordinative talents, Bland would probably be just another blues singer." Whatever that means. How our words come back to haunt us!
Gone along with Scott is the slick and programmed sound of the band. with its ringing horns and rim shots on the drum, with every note pre-arranged and on little cards, so that when Bobby wanted to change the sequence, or add another number in the middle, there would be a pause so they could dig out the proper card.
Apparently gone (though he never showed up in Bobby's records, but only in shows) is Al "TNT" Braggs, the skinny dude who did the monkey and the chicken and the frug, or imitations of B.B., Sam Cooke, and Ray Charles. It's hard to see how he would fit into the new Bland image.
Almost gone are the Bland Dolls of old--at least Bland's original Dolls, the ones that sang one phrase over and over in a response to Bobby's "preachin' ".
The changes have been coming for a long time now, but with this new album they are complete.
What is left of Bobby Blue Bland is that superb instrument which is his voice. That is not just enough--it is magnificent, and it's been getting better and better through the years.
As bluesmen go, Bobby Blue Bland has enjoyed a rather successful life. He's never had to work day jobs and play weekends for small change. He's been in demand, been loved and idolized (especially by the women) for two decades or more.
But it's always been in the context of black clubs and halls, and, except for a small audience of blues freeks, to an almost exclusively black audience.
This latest album may change all that. Finally his record company is giving him decent promotion, with ads and radio spots, and producer Steve Barri has given him the backup band and material needed to show him off to a larger section of the public.
This is the "new" Bobby Bland, with funky orchestration in back of him, singing pop and soul and blues and even a country-flavored number (though if you'd never heard the country version you'd never know it!), and singing with more power and feeling than ever before.
From the opening guitar note to the end it is a showcase for one of the best damn voices in the business, and a man whose distinctive style can not only handle a wide variety of material, but one who can take that material and make it his very own.
You've never heard a version of the blues song "Goin' Down Slow" like this. Nor have country fans ever heard "(If Loving You is Wrong) I Don't Want To Be Right" the way Bobby does it.
And when he hits "Help Me Make It Through The Day" there are just no words to describe it. If this album doesn't make it big there just ain't no justice left.