Bobby Womack, The Bravest Man in the Universe, Album Review.
L.S. Media Rating ****
In 2010, Gil Scott-Heron, the undisputed ‘Godfather of Rap’, released his 15th studio album following a 15 year hiatus.
Produced by the XL record label founder Richard Russell, Heron found a whole new legion of fans; those who hadn’t already yet had the privilege of hearing his poetry and philosophy. Tragically, after he covertly infiltrated the mainstream(for he was sampled by Kanye West and Drake), he died after previously battling HIV and pneumonia. However, inspired by the success that became of Heron MK 2, Russell turned his attention to the similarly maligned Bobby Womack. Damon Albarn, wanting to continue the relationship he formed with Womack (after he became a guest vocalist on the Gorillaz 2010 album), offered to produce a new album for him; Russell joined swiftly after he got wind of the project.
The title track, and first on the album, is possibly the best introduction that you could get to Womack and his talents. Not only does it feature him playing guitar, which he did for Aretha Franklin no less, but him crooning he was ‘once lost, but now found’; a poignant story of how he was feeling before being approached by Albarn. Nevertheless, it also sets your expectations high for the tracks that follow; rarely does it disappoint.
Despite Russell’s status as a legendary producer and the musical genius of Damon Albarn, the best track on the album is when their presence is less obvious; on the minimal, soul bearing . This is no doubt the intention; it’s a centre piece displaying the versatility of Womack, he needs no production trickery to capture your intention, that this is not a Albarn & Russell production ft. Womack, but a Bobby Womack album telling to the world that he’s still here and as great as ever – a true-sit up and listen moment. Any doubts that Womack is a relic of soul music of the past, are swiftly assuaged with a track that features a duet with Lana Del Rey; on which, he effortlessly outshines her.
On the very few occasions that the album lulls, it seems as if it’s because Womack has ran out of ideas and therefore as a result the production comes to the forefront, plugging the gaps and seemingly creating a disconnect.
Whether or not Bobby Womack has a taste of renewed success similar to that of Gil Scott-Heron is irrelevant; neither of them needs it, but without question they deserve it; and that’s not just based on Womack’s history, but this current release.