Bobby Womack’s The Bravest Man In the Universe [Album Review]

06/25/2012

Once we heard Bobby Womack’s first single off The Bravest Man In The Universe we wrote:

In the beginning of Bobby Womack’s “Please Forgive My Heart” he sings “I can try to say I’m sorry, but that won’t be quite enough to let you know that I feel,” his gravely chords resonating like a worn saw trying to cut through…Albarn’s style bubbles familiarly of Plastic Beach with moving piano progressions broken up by chirps, hollow bass thumps, and sharp hi hats.

If the albums is anything like this track, this will surely be one of our favorites in 2012.

The storyline of Womack, a 68-year-old soul singer with a history of heartache and struggle, reviving his career with two highly acclaimed contemporary producers is the backbone and pitfall of the album. Two years ago, Bobby Womack remerged on Damon Albarn’s (Gorillaz) album, Plastic Beach, after having not released an album since 1994. When it was announced that both Albarn and Richard Russel, who had just produced Gil Scott-Heron’s final record, were collaborating on The Bravest Man In The Universe a certain aura of excitement surrounded the record. On Womack’s website he wrote “I was ostracised from the music community when I was 21 (on marrying Barbra Cooke, Sam Cooke’s widow). I feel like after 45 years Damon has welcomed me back in.”Both Russel and Albarn faced a difficult task: successfully pairing a veteran soul singer’s style in a contemporary sonic landscape.

The Bravest Man In The Universe‘s biggest fault is that rarely succeeds in this task, but when it does, the songs are perfect. Only “Dayglo Refelction” supersedes the harmony of “Please Forgive My Heart.” Featuring the equally troubled self-described “gangsta Nancy Sinatra,” aka Lana Del Ray, the singer provides Womack’s style both a context and counter weight. Her voice billows smoothly next to Womack’s whiskey soaked tones; while, her own trouble gaining acceptance in the music world parallels Womack’s experience. “Stupid” is another strong track with a wheezing sample, snappy drum pattern, and Womack singing “what they feed you, start to believe, giving you just enough, making you need it, by the time you wake up, they’re already gone.”

The production also weakens the album. “Love Is Gonna Lift You Up” sounds oddly like Reading Rainbow’s theme song, in a poor attempt to create an uplifting track. On “Jubilee Don’t Let Nobody Turn You Round” Womack seems to struggle to match the rhythm of the buoyant bass kicks.

This is a very good album, but not as good as we’d hoped.

Bobby Womack ft. Lana Del Ray – “Dayglo Reflection”