Bobby Womack - The Bravest Man in the Universe
A wise yet not world-weary record from the soul legend
‘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 …’
So said Sam Cooke back in the day, and so opens electro-soul hymn ‘Dayglo Reflection’, the fourth track on the first album from Bobby Womack in 12 years. It’s a fitting quote for many reasons – Womack was mentored by Cooke and then shunned in soul circles when he married Cooke’s widow in the 60s – and it resonates through the songs and biography of a 68-year-old singer, composer and guitarist who has lived more than most. He worked with The Rolling Stones, Elvis, Aretha Franklin, Janis Joplin; made a remarkable 80s soul trilogy in The Poet, The Poet II and So Many Rivers; suffered years of drug and alcohol addiction and has recently been diagnosed with cancer for the second time.
And through all of this: that voice. A collaboration between Womack, Damon Albarn (they worked together for Gorillaz) and pop facilitator / XL label boss Richard Russell, The Bravest Man in the Universe features cameos from Lana Del Rey (‘Dayglo Reflection’) and Malian singer Fatoumata Diawara (‘Nothin’ Can Save You’). It’s an electronic gospel and weathered soul album; a wise yet not world-weary record about battles, ageing, love and most of all, forgiveness – notably on stunning beat ballad and album highlight ‘Please Forgive My Heart’, which encapsulates Womack’s cardinal force. ‘It feels like the sky’s falling,’ he sings. Then he lifts it up again.