Friday, April 20, 2012

215 Two steps from the Blues. A short journey from greatness.

Album: Two Steps from the Blues
Artist: Bobby Blue Bland
Year: 1961
Genre: Blues


  1. Two Steps from the Blues
  2. Cry Cry Cry
  3. I'm Not Ashamed
  4. Don't Cry No More
  5. Lead Me On
  6. I Pity The Fool
  7. I've Just Got to Forget You
  8. Little Boy Blue
  9. St. James Infirmary
  10. I'll Take Care of You
  11. I Don't Want No Woman
  12. I've Been Wrong So Long

Some blues artists have magnificent names. There are guys who played the Blues with monikers so cool you could be a fan of them even if you didn't like their music at all. Blind Lemon Jefferson is a personal favourite (if only for the fact that his name implies most lemons are capable of sight) along with Muddy Waters and Clarence Gatemouth Brown who cleverly chose a silly middle name so people would have something to distract them from the fact that his name is Clarence. Clarence is not a blues name but then neither is Bland . If anyone tried breaking into the music industry today with a name like Bland their manager would change it straight away. Nobody wants their music bland (with the with the possible exception of electro fans).

I'm pleased to report that Bobby Blue Bland is definitely not insipid, lukewarm or bland in any way. In fact he's a damn exciting guy with a magnificent voice. He's not the first person people think of when Blues singers are mentioned but he deserves his place in the pantheon of greats if only for giving us Turn on Your Lovelight, one of the great blues groovers of all times and Aint No Love in the heart of the city, which has provided samples for hip hop artists for years.

I was looking forward to checking out Bland's biggest album so imagine my disappointment when I discovered this wasn't it. Bland's best moments aren't on Two Steps from Blues. They've been replaced with strings, and backing singers and a room full of other musicians. This isn't the blues as much as it's big band soul. The blues comes from a point of poverty and it's best when it stays there. When a bunch of guys with violins and classical training stand behind a blues man it stops becoming blues and becomes something else entirely. Something diluted, something less, something....bland.

There's nothing here that is anything near as exciting as Lovelight or Stormy Monday or anything else that can be found Bland's next album, which is mysteriously out of print. This album is definitely two steps from the blues and I wish Bland had taken those two short paces and made an actual blues album.

Highlight: Don't cry no more
Lowlight: I've just got to forget you

Influenced by: Muddy Waters and a producer
Influenced: The Grateful Dead (or at least the next album did)

Favourite Amazon Customer Review: "If you liked this, you'll love Texas Johnny Brown's Nothin' but The Truth, he's the man that wrote Two Steps From The Blues. He is awesome."

-Sometimes it's good to have a recommendation along with a review, but instead of a review seems a bit wrong.

So are you happy to remain two steps from the blues or would you rather put more distance between the two of you? Let me know below.

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