As a singer grows older, his conception goes a little deeper because he lives life and he understands what he’s trying to say a little more.
While I’m not too familiar with Bobby Womack’s back catalog, there’s no denying the power of his new record, The Bravest Man In The Universe. I first heard Womack on Quentin Tarintino’s Jackie Brown with “Across 110th Street”, and there’s no mistaking his voice. Womack also appeared on Gorillaz albums, Plastic Beach and The Fall which gained Womack some new fans. Now, with The Bravest Man In The Universe, Womack makes a record that rarely shows up in music, an honest record.
Womack has been through plenty of struggles over the years with drug addictions and a cancer scare earlier this year (he’s now cancer free). Much like Gil Scott Heron’s 2010 I’m New Here, this is an album that can only be made by someone who’s a survivor. This record isn’t the easiest thing to spin with Womack bringing the best vocals of his career, much like Johnny Cash’s later recordings. There’s plenty of moments where Womack looks back at his life and reflects on all the shit he’s been through and how he’s managed to stay alive after all of it. “The Bravest Man In The Universe” might be the best example of this with Womack bringing his vocals into the front with some nice piano and bass in the back.
“Please Forgive My Heart” starts with a simple piano and Womack pleading for forgiveness and singing about how he’s lied and has little left to put his trust in. Tracks like “Please Forgive My Heart”, “Whatever Happened To The Times” and “If There Wasn’t Something There” seem to take a page from Heron’s I’m New Here, and it’s also evident in the music which also has some of the production by Richard Russel.
Womack takes every track with a determination that’s rarely heard in music. There’s no denying that Womack’s voice is a more powerful instrument than ever before with his vocal going into a deep place and then straining it by reaching into his higher singing.
Damon Albarn’s help is most evident in “If There Wasn’t Something There” where the chorus has many of the same sounds that Gorillaz works with although there’s just enough of Womack’s own style to make it fit in with everything else on the record.
There’s some other guests on here that offer their talents to the album, including one that raises some eyebrows. Lana Del Rey offers some backing vocals on “Dayglo Refection” and she fits in with the slow R&B atmosphere of the song and it proves to be only time where she sounds good on a song. Fatoumata Diawara adds her vocals to “Nothin’ Can Save Ya” and she takes over the song. She doesn’t add anything too special to the record but it fits in well and gives a good break from Womack’s vocals before the ending of the record comes in.
While it could have been a easy “here’s my very serious album” move for Bobby Womack, there’s two songs on The Bravest Man In The Universe that defy those expectations. “Love Is Gonna Lift You Up” a very bright techno track with some horns and even some upbeat piano towards the end. It might sound too dated and upbeat for some listeners, but it fits in very well with rest of the album. “Jubilee (Don’t Let Nobody Turn You Around)” is jerky with it’s beat and really stands alone from the rest of the album, but also serves as a very good ending to the album. It’s oddly joyful and shows a man being able to look at the future with hope and optimism.
Rating: 8.9 out of 10.