Damon Albarn and Richard Russell have done – trying to find the right words – (maybe it’s) an admirable job on the new Bobby Womack album. And given that he’s not made a new record for a decade or more, I’m both thrilled and grateful that someone has.
It’s a record that won’t seem uncomfortable to anyone that liked the last (and final) Gil Scott-Heron album a couple of years back – as I did. Russell seems to have hit a working formula at XL – take an ailing legacy legend who’s best years are deemed behind him by the criterati, add modern audio embellishments and – bing – you have a career reviver with instant critical momentum.
The formula isn’t that new – Rick Rubin has been doing career refurbishments for years, albeit more by stripping back than adding, with mixed results from Johnny Cash (fantastic) to Neil Diamond (not quite so fabulous: Diamond has been a notoriously immovable stoner for years – ask anyone in his record company – who seemed to mostly loose his grip around 1973 when he began writing albums about seagulls, and then troughed a couple of years later whilst dueting with Babs Streisand, always a career low for anyone).
So to Bobby. I like it. As an album it’s mostly pleasant – nice (the word my English teacher told me never to put to paper) even. Loads of critics really like it – and some have even given it 5 stars (maybe the same writers who gave the mid 2000s Dylan albums 5 stars each too, which begged the obvious question then: if those get five, where does that leave Blonde on Blonde?). Given his previous work 5 stars here is also a mighty claim. As are even four.