It’d be fair to say that the one single unifying thing for all human-kind would be heart-break. We’ve all, to varying degrees, experienced it – and, I think, the expression of heartbreak in various forms of performance and / or art are, and will always be, not only at the core of creativity; but also the very thing that will endure. Even in contrast, for example in the gloriously optimistic Love Is Gonna Lift You Up or the adversity-definat Jubilee on this record, if there was no heartbreak then there’d be no ‘down’ to be lifted ‘up’ from with ‘love’.
Art often amplifies the feelings of us all; sets out to magnify emotions, sometimes larger than life . Perhaps unwittingly we’re attracted to this because, there’s a base level survival instinct embedded in us. Other people’s heartbreak, when amplified and shared give us, I think, a will to overcome our own. Mum used to always say “there’s always someone worse off” when faced with something challenging or difficult in life – and I want to thank her, for many things, but here, in this album review, for bringing me up to try and be empathetic to others; to know that, even on my darkest days, or through my worst mistakes, that, other people have been, and are going through worse; and to care about that and to try and not only think about myself in those darkest times. Thanks, Mum for giving me that lesson to always try and be a better self and think of others.
There truly is profound sorrow and contrastingly, euphoric optimism on this album. Producers, Damon Albarn and Richard Russell have done an exceptional job in creating the musical spaces for Bobby Womack to breath in and to give us the album of his career.
When I was writing notes in reviewing this record, I wrote a sentence that said that Bobby Womack “understands heartbreak”. I sat here, listening to the record staring at the sentence and deleted it. Womack doesn’t “understand” heartbreak – he has had his heart broken, over and over again and on this record, his voice, is that of someone tortured by heartbreak. But I don’t think he “understands” it. I think, that is the point here. He’s had his heart-broken, arguably more than many – he lost his infant son in 1976; turned to cocaine addiction to try and cope and ten years later lost another son, Vincent, aged 21 to suicide. And he confesses, I think, in these songs, now in his late sixties – writing these songs in a period of time where he had been diagnosed with cancer, that he doesn’t understand heartbreak. But he has survived it.
- review by Andrew Tidball