Album: Bobby Womack, The Bravest Man in the Universe (XL)
Bobby dazzles as he returns to his gospel roots
As one of the great individual stylists of Seventies soul music, Bobby Womack has been unaccountably silent for too many decades now.
Once, his sermonising style anatomising the knots and pitfalls of relationships offered a thoughtful counterpoint to the more physical leanings of the funk era; but its reflective nature long since slipped out of favour with black music's increasingly functional dancefloor priorities. So kudos to XL's Richard Russell for reprising the refurbishment process he applied to Gil Scott-Heron, and for finding the right collaborator in Damon Albarn.
Eschewing the psychedelic-funk arrangements of Womack's heyday, Russell and Albarn have opted for sparse electro grooves, the better to focus attention squarely on the singer's sepia timbre. The title-track opens proceedings with that voice naked save for a sombre cello, Womack opining that "the bravest man in the universe is the one who has forgiven first", a customary slice of gospel wisdom, before a skeletal electro pattern kicks in, shaded by hints of piano, acoustic guitar and strings. The formula continues for "Please Forgive My Heart", where spare piano chords and stuttery synth beats accompany his evocative plaint that "it feels like the sky is falling, and the clouds are closing in".
The same few elements are juggled variously throughout the album, with variety provided by Lana Del Ray and Fatoumata Diawara duetting on "Dayglo Reflection" and "Nothin' Can Save Ya" respectively. His lyrical themes remain constant: hope and shame, guilt and faith. And always audible are his roots in gospel. On "Love Is Gonna Lift You Up", you can all but hear the swaying choir absent from the chorus, while the concluding "Jubilee" harnesses the spiritual standard "Don't Let Nobody Turn You Round" to a pounding electro pulse – over which Bobby finally gets to do a little of his old-school sermonising. It's been a long time coming, and all the more welcome for it.
Download: The Bravest Man in the Universe; Please Forgive My Heart; Whatever Happened to the Times; Jubilee
Geoffrey Macnab reviews American Hustle, also starring Christian Bale and Bradley Cooper
elephant appealThe first 23 lots in our charity auction have now gone. But there are 22 more still up for grabs
Michelle Nijhuis' daughter insists (s)he is, and she learnt a valuable lesson on gender in books
news Opponents claim it would stop performers such as Beyonce and Madonna appearing on TV
It takes a platoon of chefs, litres of brandy and rum, and almost 100kg of dried fruit
newsThat most ancient of crimes is on the rise, threatening farmers' livelihoods, community trust – and human health
Arts & Ents blogs
Christmas comes early: Justin Bieber is 'retiring from music'
Justin Bieber is NOT retiring from music
Nymphomaniac, film review: 'Despite the surreal sex scenes this is a serious drama'
Call the Midwife Christmas special: Behind the scenes with Miranda Hart
Justin Bieber's mishaps and controversies
- 1 America's 'virgin births'? One in 200 mothers 'became pregnant without having sex'
- 2 Sun will 'flip upside down' within weeks, says Nasa
- 3 Christmas comes early: Justin Bieber is 'retiring from music'
- 4 Iain Duncan Smith leaves Commons food banks debate early
- 5 Children evacuated from swimming pool after prosthetic leg mistaken for paedophile
- < Previous
- Next >