It isn’t often that legendary musicians venture far into genres in which their fame was not conceived. As these legends approach the latter part of their career, they often stick to the familiar, touring, playing their hits and producing albums that old and new fans alike will yearn for.
Robert Dwayne “Bobby” Womack is no ordinary legend.
The underrated, 68-year old legend of R&B and soul has explored multiple styles of music throughout his career, including country, gospel, doo-wop and more.
Bobby Womack released 26 studio albums from 1968 to 2000, and his newest release, The Bravest Man in the Universe, may be his most innovative yet. Countless artists attempt to merge music past with its’ present and future, and that is what Womack has attempted.
He recruits good friend Damon Albarn for production and much of the instrumentation on the album. Womack appeared on Gorillaz’s Plastic Beach and The Fall in recent years, proving a perfect combination of Bobby’s vocals with Albarn and company’s musicianship.
The album blends Womack’s strong, rough vocal prowess with the funk, hip-hop style that made Gorillaz so famous. The opening title track is a stellar composition, beginning with only vocals and climaxing to a haunting, beat driven track. Full of bass, violin, piano, electronic beats and whistles, this is easily one of the best songs of the year.
The entire album is full of every instrument, heavily accompanied by digital effects and beats. Womack seems to have fully embraced Albarn’s visions and opinions in this effort.
Other tracks such as the single, “Please Forgive My Heart” is the greatest type of love song, with Womack pouring out his heart through his voice, a simple heart beat-type rhythm carrying the song.
“If There Wasn’t Something There” is surely a lost Gorillaz track and “Love is Going to Lift You Up” may have been the most popular dance song ever had Womack release this about 40 years ago.
Other major highlights include “Jubliee (Don’t Let Nobody Turn You Around),” which, if not the first electronic bluegrass song, is at least the best, will get you tapping your foot or clapping your hands.
Womack’s lyrics are deep, insightful and by no means taken lightly. In “Stupid,” which features Gil Scott-Heron in the intro track, he takes on the church, accusing of greed and deceit. Lana Del Rey guests on the album, along with others.
Bobby Womack had already put his mark in music history. His desire to create, innovate and think outside of the box is greater than many artists around. But his ability to do so is what makes him so great.
It is truly an experiment that should go down in history in some way. It could be considered a soul album. It could easily be interpreted as an electronic or hip-hop or funk album.
That is what makes The Bravest Man in the Universe magnificent. It will be one of the best this year.