Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Bobby Bland's Blues at Midnight

Bobby ‘Blue’ Bland is one of the great voices of American vernacular music of the past sixty years. Its interesting to note that it is been twenty-five years since Bland signed with Malaco and it led to a very productive relationship and some terrific blues recordings although his Malaco output is essentially ignored (with the exception of one compilation) by some alleged blues authorities such as The Penguin Guide. The following review appeared by in the March/April 2003 Jazz & Blues Report (Issue 261). As the last sentence of the review states, we are fortunate that Bobby Bland is still with us.

It is quite fortunate that the legendary black radio promotion man, the late Dave Clark, convinced the folks at Malaco to sign Bobby ‘Blue’ Bland to a contract in 1985. 18 years later, Bland has just had his 12th album issued on Malaco, Blues at Midnight, and it is another excellent addition to the body of work Bland has produced over the past two decades. It is true that Bland’s voice perhaps lacks the range of his classic Duke recordings, and his famous growl sometimes sounds like he is clearing his throat, but he still phrases a lyric in a manner that is matched by few.

This disc includes a number of superb new soul-blues songs including Frederick Knight’s Where Do I Go From Here, George Jackson’s I Caught the Blues From Someone Else, and Larry Addison’s closing lament of modern urban life Ghetto Nights, which effectively incorporates some police sirens and other sound effects. In addition, there are singular interpretations of What a Wonderful World, associated of course with Louis Armstrong, and the Z.Z. Hill hit I’m a Blues Man. The songwriting duo Robert Johnson and Sam Mosley contributed the down in the alley blues You Hit the Nail on the Head. The pair also contributed the shuffle Baby What’s Wrong With You, while Rue Davis & Harrison Calloway penned I’ve Got the Blues at Midnight, with it being 3 O’clock and Bobby’s still watching the door, wondering where his woman can be and as he urges on Clayton Ivey during Ivey’s Hammond organ solo.

Recorded in Muscle Shoals, Alabama, and Jackson, Mississippi, such legendary session men as Roger Hawkins, Jimmy Johnson, Clayton Ivey and Carson Whitsett anchor the sessions that include brassy horns and have solid backup vocals on several tracks. We are fortunate that Bobby Bland is still with us, and this release displays the consistency of his Malaco recordings with excellent material, playing, and subtle, expressive singing showing that Bobby Bland remains a living master and every bit the Blues Man.

For purposes of FTC regulations, I likely received a review copy from Malaco Records.

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