Today’s Cool Album of the Day (#613 in the Series) is Bobby “Blue” Bland, Two Steps From the Blues
Released in 1961, the Bobby “Blue” Bland masterpiece, Two Steps From the Blues is generally considered to be a classic in the blues genre and a must-have disc on your own personal desert island. While this recording is not an original “album” in the strictest sense of the word since in keeping with a common practice of the day it is actually a compilation of singles, it is a perfect, soulful, bluesy, passion-filled representation of an iconic bluesman at the absolute peak of his powers.
Not your prototypical blues artist, Bobby doesn’t play an instrument like Buddy Guy or B.B. King, he never the less blazed a similar path and was equally influential in creating the jump, roadhouse, blues from the belly sound that in injected heart and soul into an otherwise be-bop sounding musical landscape and introduced Americans to a palate of “from the bowels of someplace scary” vocals, true to life urban street narratives, and to an art form that represented a drastic departure from the girls, girls, girls happy-go-lucky sound of Elvis Presley, and the doo-wop harmony laden vibes that were so prevalent in the mid to late 50’s.
While B.B. King has “Lucille”, his soon to be in the Smithsonian beloved guitar, Bobby “Blue” Bland has his pipes, a vocal talent that will bring you to your knees with a mournful dirge one moment, engage you in a sensual embrace the next, and leave you marveling at how a simple word like “cry” can be stretched from one to seven eargasmic syllables in the blink of an eye.
Two Steps From the Blues was one of the first albums to usher in the R & B migration from the juke joints to the mainstream. his band borrowing licks from B.B. and Freddie King, demonstrating over 12 angst ridden mini-operas that take you down a rabbit hole of love, lust, betrayal, jealousy, and rage that despite what the album title might suggest that this guttural blues singer is much closer than two steps from the blues.
Whether it is a 30 day relationship with a woman that proves to be ultimately untrue with false promises and cheating ways that leave Bobby a lover scorned and tired of living “Two Steps From the Blues”, or as a vengeful ex-boyfriend that takes great delight in watching his lost love fall to her knees to “Cry,Cry,Cry” in front of him, not to mention his lecturing of one of what seems to be many ex- girlfriends that he does indeed “Pity the Fool” that falls in love with her and expects her to be true, It is very clear from these disorder in the relationship house tunes, artistically transcribed mostly from the pen of Deadric Malone, that a visit to Doctor Phil might indeed be in order.
With a subtle and almost over the top layer of horns against the gnarly backdrop of the emotive vocals producer Joe Scott has created a real life atmosphere of hope prevailing over despair on the original tracks and a tour de force performance on the traditional classic St. James Infirmary that stands up against the best ever put to vinyl.
Taken as individual story lines this album may come across as a bit bleak and depressing. Taken as a whole, one gets the feeling that there is a bit of hope on the other side of that rainbow.
Some people just need to work a little harder than others to find it.
- “Two Steps from the Blues” – 2:34
- “Cry Cry Cry” – 2:43
- “I’m Not Ashamed” – 2:36
- “Don’t Cry No More” – 2:28
- “Lead Me On” – 2:06
- “I Pity The Fool” – 2:44
- “I’ve Just Got to Forget You” – 2:34
- “Little Boy Blue” – 2:40
- “St. James Infirmary” – 2:26
- “I’ll Take Care of You” – 2:26
- “I Don’t Want No Woman” – 2:40
- “I’ve Been Wrong So Long” – 2:19
Here’s some more Blues albums to check out.