Bobby Womack - The Bravest Man in the Universe

In nearly 70 years Bobby Womack has shaped a music career that would have most established artists weeping with envy into the nearest HMV bargain bin. From writing for the Rolling Stones to touring with Hendrix, and in more recent times collaborating with Gorillaz and Mos Def, Womack has worked with some of the biggest names in music, in and amongst a 30 year battle with drug addiction, a marriage scandal involving Sam Cooke’s widow, and overcoming not one, but two types of cancer. Perhaps 'The Most Resilient Man in the Universe' would have been a more fitting title for one of the most hotly anticipated comeback albums of the year.

It’s been almost thirteen years since Womack last released an album – eighteen since he released any original materia – and The Bravest Man in the Universe is his twenty-sixth solo studio album. Recorded and co-produced by Blur and Gorillaz mastermind Damon Albarn and head honcho of XL recordings Richard Russell, this album is a modern take on Womack at his best; a snapshot into the life of a soul legend at 68.

The title track opens to slivers of violins and Womack’s distinctive gravelly growl, luring you into a false sense of conventional security, before a futuristic robotic voice announces the album title and the track breaks down into heavy bass and detailed, mechanical percussion. Albarn and Russell’s production is post-modern, but still clings organically to Womack’s roots; the plaintive piano chords and jazzy guitar riffs are still there, drifting in and amongst all the drum pads and techy voiceovers. This, is 21st century soul.

The modernisation of Bobby Womack does not begin and end in production. ‘Dayglo Reflection’ sees songstress of the moment, Lana Del Rey, triumphantly join forces with Womack in an unlikely, but sensual collaboration that oozes gorgeousness. Their voices are surprisingly compatible, Del Rey’s dulcet tones uniting perfectly with Womack’s more gritty sound. As Sam Cooke states in the opening bars of the track, "As a singer gets older his conception goes a little bit deeper as he lives life and he understands what he is trying to a say a little more". Indeed, Womack appears worldlier, verging on godly, in his musings and understandings of life. ‘Please Forgive My Heart’ is strikingly honest, almost like a portrait of Womack’s inner soul, whilst ‘Love is Gonna Lift You Up’ is passionate and rousing, fortified by lashings of synth.

It is difficult to superlatively single out an album from a musical CV so extensive and brilliant as Womack’s; indeed, it would be unfair to. He himself has pronounced The Bravest Man in the Universe as "the best thing I've ever done", but perhaps it is better to view the album not as an object of singular greatness (as indeed it is), but as a culmination of a magnificent career, one that hopefully, is far yet from over.



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Last updated: 18/04/2018 08:26:55

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