Advertisement
YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

New Pick of the Week

Bobby Bland "Years of Tears" Malaco

September 16, 1993|MIKE BOEHM

Bobby Bland has made a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame career out of straddling the line between soul and blues; at 63 he shows no sign of losing his footing.

"Years of Tears" plays to his key strength, which is an ability to bring you into the bleak, dark, anxious and solitary places inhabited by troubled minds. Bland can work an undercurrent of humor into numbers such as the cheated-on blues, "There's a Stranger in My House." But the rule here is that the more dire the situation, the more grabbing the performance.

"Somewhere Between Right & Wrong" follows the classic story line of two adulterous lovers who can't resist the mutual pull they feel; Bland, with his aching, humid, heavily laden voice, gets at the compulsion and the yearning but doesn't leave out the guilt. "Years of Tears to Go" is a fine existential lament: "I don't worry about tomorrow, what waits for me, I already know / If I could see into the future, oh Lord, for me I know it would show / I've got years of tears to go." Even when he finds the solace of a good romance in "Sweet Lady Love," his singing suggests a counterpoint of deep pain.

Bland's signature mannerism, a hog-like grunt that he uses as occasional punctuation, isn't the most attractive calling card in R&B; here, he keeps it to a minimum and sticks to straight readings of simply etched songs that cut to their core emotions without any fancy filigree in the lyrics. The showcase is on the voice, and the superb, clean and lean playing of a traditional Southern soul band anchored by veterans from the Muscle Shoals rhythm section. Keyboards player Clayton Ivey is splendid at every turn, and the sharp horn section includes Jim Horn on baritone sax. This would be the perfect backup band for Eric Clapton, another fine evoker of deep sorrows who unfortunately seems committed to the slicker, more contemporary sound of his recent albums. For Bland, it's the perfect company with which to burrow into some deep blues, soulfully expressed.

Advertisement
Los Angeles Times Articles
|
|
|