The Bobby Womack, you may ask? Yep. That one.
When I set out to write about one record per day, and after I’d run my random number generator, I peeked at a couple of the “big” moments. For one, my birthday: today, February 18th. I had picked up this Bobby Womack album on the strength of its lead single of the same name. It’s an okay album the few times I’ve listened to it. I just wish such an average album hadn’t fallen on my birthday, but beggars can’t be choosers, amirite?!
I am familiar with Bobby’s music because of his work with the Gorillaz, but also because my parents spoiled me with every genre imaginable growing up.
Unfortunately for Womack, The Bravest Man in the Universe suffers because it lacks strong support of its lead single.
“The Bravest Man in the Universe” is, I’m sure, inspired by Womack’s experience working with Damon Albarn and the Gorillaz (“Stylo” from Plastic Beach). It’s edgy and industrial, and seems to draw influence from the Reznor School of Music, with a sinister bass line and swelling, electric drums.
Womack’s vocals are distinctively warbling, harkening back to the likes of James Brown and Al Green, even Aaron Neville the 60’s and 70’s. The fact that an album like this even exists is a testament to the type of music industry we are experiencing today. Bobby Womack was popular 30 years ago. Public interest waned, but he influenced the legions, and decades later, Albarn called him up to sing on his animated electronic band’s album along with an intelligent rapper (the Mighty Mos Def), and Womack said yes.
You can’t make this stuff up. If that’s not an internet success story the likes of, I don’t know, Boxxy, I don’t know what is.
Anyway, Bravest Man starts hot and then fizzles. There’s a sexy duet with Lana Del Ray (“Dayglo Reflection”) and an old soul-inspired track that reams the money fueling religion (“Stupid”), but then there’s a track like “Love Is Gonna Lift You Up” that reminds me why I listen to the music I most normally listen to.
If the rest of Bravest Man were similar to its title track, we’d be in business. Unfortunately, it teeters on the edge of mediocrity.
Here’s a Sam Cooke quote in full from “Dayglo Reflection” which pretty well spells out what I am calling “The State of the Womack” –
“I say, as a singer grows older, his conception grows a little deeper, because he lives life and he understands what he is trying to say a little more. And I think this gives. If a singer tries to find out what’s happening in life, it gives him a better insight on telling the story of the song he is trying to sing.”
And here’s “Dayglo Reflection” featuring Lana Del Ray, for your perusal:
Standout tracks: “The Bravest Man in the Universe” and “Stupid” and “Dayglo Reflection” – “Whatever Happened to the Times” is a pretty little stripped-down ditty too.
Weakest track: “Love Is Gonna Lift You Up” is, in my estimation, like a Tim & Eric song attempting to be serious. Except he is serious.
RIYL: R&B, soul. Sam Cooke, Al Green, Curtis Mayfield, Herbie Hancock, Gorillaz.