Bobby “Blue” Bland
Undoubtedly one of the greatest blues performers ever, Bobby “Blue” Bland’s catalog has been covered by and influenced musicians as diverse as Van Morrison, The Grateful Dead, and The Allman Brothers Band. With his patented silky delivery that suddenly and often disconcertingly shifted into a snarling growl, along with a body of work as consistent and revered as any blues performer has ever compiled, Bland is an artist who has had as much impact on the vocal performance aspect of the blues as anyone who didn’t play an instrument. In a field ruled by virtuosos, a case can be made for Bland as the most important blues singer in history, on par with legends like Sinatra and Tony Bennett in their genre.
Although this double-disc set doesn’t cover Bland’s work past the late ’70s, where he experienced a rebirth of sorts on the Malaco label, it handily compiles all his essential sides recorded from 1952-1979 for Duke, Dunhill, and MCA. These 50 tracks, remastered to sound better than on any previous release, include virtually all of his essential material, including such stone classics as “Stormy Monday Blues,” “Ain’t Nothin’ You Can Do,” “Farther On Up the Road,” “I Pity the Fool,” and “Turn on Your Love Light.” Covered literally hundreds of times since, these songs remain inextricably woven into the fabric of American blues and in their original versions are essential to an understanding of the art form.
Not a writer, Bland worked with a variety of songsmiths during this time. They provided him with material that not only meshed perfectly with his distinctive voice, but also was genre defining by any measure. His backing bands could swing and get lowdown while following his every vocal mannerism with requisite style, class and intensity. Need the whole story? Check out the 16-page booklet featuring complete track notes and an informative essay.
Even those who already have some of this music might want to replace their now anemic single discs with this meaty and full-bodied anthology. Those who don’t yet own anything by this remarkable performer, need look no farther on up the road.
Universal Records, 2220 Colorado Avenue, Santa Monica, CA 90404; http://www.universalrecords.com