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Malaco (MCD7538)

I Just Tripped On A Piece Of Your Broken Heart, I'm A Bluesman, I Need Your Love So Bad, Tonight's The Night, Ain't No Sunshine, If I Don't Get Involved, Member's Only, Just Won't Be Your Fool Anymore, The Truth Will Set You Free, Get Your Money Where You Spend Your Time, Second Hand Heart, Sad Street, When Hearts Grow Cold, There's No Easy Way To Say Goodbye, After All, Heart Open Again.

By the mid-eighties, Bobby Bland's career was in the doldrums. His old recordings (reviewed above) on Duke-Peacock and MCA had been swallowed up by the mighty MCA who did him no favours so when Malaco offered him a deal he jumped at it and his performances on the resulting hit albums like ‘For Members Only', ‘Portrait of The Blues' and ‘Blues You Can Use' brought him back into the spotlight where he belonged.

Not only was Bobby picking some of the most memorable tunes to sing, he was working with the cream of  

southern soul musicians like Roger Hawkins, James Hood, Jimmy Johnson, Carson Whitsett and Wayne Bennett who were present on most of his visits to his preferred studios; Malaco in Jackson and the legendary Muscle Shoals Sound Studios in Sheffield, Alabama.

This CD, the aptly named ‘Unmatched - The Very Best' collects together just fifteen songs recorded between 1985 and1998 and it's a superb listening experience from beginning to end. Apart from the upbeat I'm A Bluesman and Sad Street, Bland demonstrates his tormented crying vocals on a mixture of sumptuous blues ballads, simmering blues/soul songs and effortless reworkings of other artists material.

He makes a sinuous show of Little Willie John's Need Your Love So Bad, employs a lush backing by the Malaco Strings and the Muscle Shoals Horns on the arrangement of Ain't No Sunshine and even manages to inject some soul and subtlety into Tonight's The Night where, fortunately, his delivery is light years away from Rod Stewart's! It's almost impossible to pick a favourite but right at this moment, I'm going for the anguished heartbreak that oozes out of The Truth Will Set You Free but Wayne Bennett's piercing guitar on Second Hand Heart makes this track a close contender too - and who could resist the seamless soul feeling on Heart Open Again? It's the kind of song Boz Scaggs would kill for.

In the notes Barney Hoskins says "together these tracks give us a towering artist in the third wind of his career, an astounding singer resurrected by a sympathetic team who revered him and gave his career the traction it needed during the 80s and 90s". 

Bobby Bland was simply one of the most important blues vocalists ever. That's a fact. If you're not familiar with his work - here's your chance to put that right.

Ask for MCD7538. 

Review Date: Febraury 2011

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