Saturday, June 17, 2006

Get on Down With Bobby Bland: A '70s Transition

Bobby "Blue" Bland:

Lover With a Reputation

Up and Down World

Although never as well-known as his contemporary B.B. King (as discussed in this post), Bobby "Blue" Bland's remarkable career has produced an outstanding body of work in the blues, soul and "soul-blues" fields that is now in its sixth decade. Bland has always been a favorite of mine, and today's post will kick off a week's worth of posts featuring Bland and artists influenced by him (tomorrow, however, will be a usual "Sunday Gospel Time" post, as unfortunately Bland never did a gospel album, without the world is much poorer).

Although the Don Robey's Peacock/Duke/Back Beat enterprise was based in Houston (Duke Records had been started in Memphis but Robey took it over in the early fifties), Bobby Bland's Duke recordings, particularly those of the mid-to-late '60s and early '70s, were recorded in other places, including Chicago, Memphis and Detroit, and those recordings brought some variety to Bland's soulful blues bag. 1970's "Lover With a Reputation" was recorded in Memphis with Willie Mitchell and the Hi musicians and it's a cooker. Over a strong groove Bland roars and soars while a femme chorus gives strong support.

In 1973 Don Robey sold his labels to ABC, who cancelled the Duke imprint and transferred Bland to the Dunhill subsidiary. Bland's first Dunhill LP, His California Album, successfully brought Bland into the '70s and the new approach by producer Steve Barri delivered the hit "This Time I'm Gone For Good." Another cut from the LP, "Up and Down World," garnered single release as the flip to Bland's cover of "Goin' Down Slow." Over a rollicking, southern soul-styled groove, Bland revisits the "revenge" territory from his '50s and '60s hits, warning his wrong-doing woman that "what goes around comes around."

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