Bobby Bland, who is up there among the Soul Singer all-time greats, recorded from 1952 to 1969 (when the label was sold to ABC) for the Duke/Peacock label out of Houston, Texas. In the eyes of many commentators, self included, his best work was produced during this timeframe. Those geat people at Ace have produced two best-of sets, the first of which, "Bobby "Blue" Bland: The "3B" Blues Boy: The Blues Years 1952-1959" covers the period up to 1959, and the second, "The Voice: Duke Recordings 1959-1969", up to the end of the Duke sojourne. Broadly these split between the more traditional guitar-led and horns driven, Texas blues, on the first, and his, probably more familiar, soul material, on the second. I should add that the usual excellent Ace Notes are included.
This is the second of those sets. As a soul album it's awesome and a match for a best-of from any of the better known names in the soul genre. Brown was firmly based in the blues territory but even when singing conventional blues of a style not unlike, say, Gatemouth Brown, his voice stood out as something else entirely. Joe Scott, the arranger and band leader gave him a backdrop that was a match for "THE VOICE" (as Ace term him) in full flight. In addition the sheer range of material is way, way, beyond the numbers collected on the first album.
Up-tempo "hits" such as, "Turn on your Lovelight", "Yield Not to Temptation" and, "Don't cry no more" (with a fabulous latin rhythm) are included. I've apostrophised "Hits" since they climbed the US R&B chart but rarely, if ever, the Pop chart. And, outside a small band of admirers, his work was totally unknown in the UK. Since then, "Lovelight", in particular, has become far better known as the years wear on with covers from almost everyone of note, up to, amazingly, the Grateful Dead. I would imagine that every bar band in the Southern states used to play these numbers. Absolutely rightly, they are considered classics. However as another reviewer has stated, rarely, if ever, do you hear his records on the radio outside of the specialist shows.
"Who will the next fool be", "I'll take care of you", "Cry, Cry, Cry" are a few of the slower numbers I would single out as highlights, but there are plenty more.
"I Pity the Fool", "Ain't doing too bad", "Ain't that loving you" and the Bobby version of T-Bone Walker's, "Stormy Monday Blues" are slow blues but they're blues with loads of extra colouration and drama provided by Joe Scott and his boys.
Buy this one and you won't go wrong. For a best-of, I can't fault it, and I do have quite a few of the original singles and albums. I don't think anything of great importance has been omitted (and how many times can you say that of a best-of?). If you're getting into 60's Soul and you've already sampled the Stax/Atlantic wares then try Bobby the Blues Boy, next. Very different but very worthwhile. After this you'll probably want the companion set.