Bobby Womack ‘The Bravest Man In The Universe Tour’
Legendary soul artist BOBBY WOMACK’S performs songs from his brand new album ““THE BRAVEST MAN IN THE UNIVERSE” (out now on XL Recordings)
His first album in nearly 20 years years “THE BRAVEST MAN IN THE UNIVERSE” was co-produced by Damon Albarn and XL Recordings’ Richard Russell and recorded in three main sessions between October and December 2011 and features striking vocal guest spots from Lana Del Rey and Malian singer Fatoumata Diawara.
A man whose talent as a singer, guitarist and composer is matched only by his self-lacerating honesty, Womack sees his first album for XL Recordings as the first, real Bobby Womack album since 1994’s Resurrection. “I had given up on music, I didn’t have the desire that you have to have. I assumed that I’d stayed in the business too long… like an old fighter.” Thankfully, Damon Albarn had other ideas. When he had the brainwave of tracking The Last Soul Man down and asking him to collaborate on the 2010 Gorillaz album Plastic Beach. The Fall in December 2010. It was the beginning of a friendship and one fruitful enough to persuade Bobby Womack to get fully back into the ring, and come out fighting. Says Damon, “It’s heaven to be able to listen to Bobby Womack sing. He hadn’t really been in the studio or performed for about 15 years and I think he thought he wasn’t going to bother again. But his fire has come back – and that’s a treat for everybody because the world with Bobby Womack in it is a richer place.” The Bravest Man In The Universe is, in essence, an electronic secular gospel album. But boiling it down to those basics doesn’t convey the album’s power, nor get close to expressing the sheer joy of hearing one of soul’s greatest singers reaching for Heaven – and Hell – again.
Womack’s life would make one hell of a movie. Born Robert Dwayne Womack in 1944 in Cleveland, Ohio, Bobby and his four brothers were inspired by to form a vocal group, The Womack Brothers. The boys made their first record when Bobby was just ten, and were eventually discovered by the legendary Sam Cooke, who changed their name to The Valentinos. The Rolling Stones had their first UK No.1 hit with a cover of Bobby’s “Its All Over Now” in 1964, beginning a working friendship between Womack and The Stones that would continue to this day. But success as an artist in his own right was still some way off for Bobby until the mid-‘60s he became an in-demand guitarist, playing on three of the greatest albums of the late ‘60s and early ‘70s in Aretha Franklin’s Lady Soul, Janis Joplin’s Pearl and There’s A Riot Goin’ On by Sly And The Family Stone. Bobby went on to his greatest successes as a solo artist, scoring big US R&B hits with ‘70s albums Communication, Understanding, Across 110th Street and Facts Of Life,”. Disco affected Womack’s career, as it did every soul original, in the late ‘70s, before an extraordinary reinvention in the mid-80s with his trilogy of acclaimed albums The Poet, The Poet II and So Many Rivers.
It was only a matter of time before an enterprising artist or two decided that working with Womack would be a good idea. Entirely fitting that it should be serial collaborator Albarn and the man who gave us Gil Scott-Heron’s last musical statement… although Richard Russell is keen to dismiss obvious comparisons between The Bravest Man… and Scott-Heron’s I’m New Here. “Gil and Bobby are completely different people” with very different outlooks on life. Also, the recording I did with Gil was quite fragmented whereas we made this record with Bobby very quickly. “It’s the result of a real outpouring of music and work which we then edited down to a ten-track album.” “We’d build the platform and Bobby would be the leader and the voice and the lead writer. It was like a big party – we had a great time”
Womack may be the last original soul man standing, but he was never a traditionalist, as far as Bobby’s concerned, those new-fangled gadgets were just a key part of the spontaneity of the experience, helping him write and sing about subjects close to his heart, from pain and forgiveness to grief and love, from God, guilt and redemption. As the boss of the label – Richard Russell expectations for the album are very simple. “I hope people hear Bobby, get excited by Bobby, realize how great he is and check out his old records. A lot more people should be aware of him. Bobby reckons this is his best album. The fact that he thinks that makes all of this a massive success.” The Bravest Man In The Universe is something unique. Few artists manage one truly classic phase in their career. But, if you include the ‘60s period where he was the most in-demand session man in American music then Bobby Womack has already had three. What he says next makes it clear that the great man has the passion and energy, at the age of 68, to be thinking in terms of Classic Phase No. 4. “It’s a step in another direction. I wanna grow.”