Album Review

The Bravest Man In The Universe

The Bravest Man In The Universe

by Bobby Womack


XL
7.5 / 10
27th June 2012

Reviewed by Ricardo Kerr


On his staggering 27th album The Bravest Man In The Universe, soul singer Bobby Womack is expounding devotion and skepticism in equal measure which is a hard balancing act to maintain; deliverance and damnation all rolled into one. With a life as full of fortune and controversy as his you would expect little less. Though he made his name in the early 70s Womack's star has been on the rise in the last few years, certainly aided by his recent work with Gorillaz. It appears that it wasn't a clean break with Damon Albarn helping out on production duties, adding a whole lot of quirkiness to the record. You get the feeling that, in spite of how many albums he has under his belt, this is one of his first opportunities to be anything other than a meat and potatoes soul singer.

Having been pigeonholed for so long his desire to throw his weight around and try new things is palpable. The title track swims in a slinky trip-hop groove, like Massive Attack unearthing the bones of Otis Redding. That smooth rhythm permeates most songs on the album. 'Dayglo Reflection' brings blogosphere darling Lana Del Ray along for the ride. Her coolly detached persona makes for an excellent foil to Womack, like slow dancing with both Jekyll and Hyde. At the end of the day, Womack's strength is his gritty and haggard voice, an instrument he employs to full effect. Some songs are driven entirely by his grainy singing (such as the threadbare blues number 'Deep River') and would be absolutely lacking in lesser hands. Later on in the album the slick retro funk of 'Love Is Gonna Lift You Up' is crisp and refreshing.

Rather than end on a sombre whimper, The Bravest Man In The Universe goes out with a bang. 'Jubilee (Don't Let Nobody Turn You Round)' bumps, pops, and grinds in all the right places leaving you with an urge to boogie that will be hard to quench. On The Bravest Man In The Universe Womack has completely overshot the world of neo-soul and landed in the future with an incomparable blend of soul, R&B, electronica and old school swagger. It just goes to prove once again that you can never count the crafty veteran out. To describe Bobby Womack as “going strong” hardly does the man justice. He is a survivor; tough, gutsy, and perhaps indeed The Bravest Man In The Universe.




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