Bobby "Blue" Bland was simply the best soul singer that too many people have never heard of, and if he was technically a blues singer, even his uptown approach to the blues was closer to jazz than it was to the growling country blues template most people were familiar with, so even in the blues community he often went overlooked. The man could simply sing, his voice a combination of Ray Charles and James Brown, always passionate, intense, dynamic, and full of the deepest soul anyone could imagine. This wonderful, generous, and essential set (29 tracks on a single disc) includes all the tracks from 1961's Two Steps from the Blues album along with the best A and B sides of singles Bland released between 1955 and 1961. Rather than arrange things chronologically, Dave Henderson, who compiled things here, has sequenced the songs to really let the brilliance and genius of Bland shine clearly, from the opener, 1961's "Don't Cry No More," through Bland's classic and signature "Farther Up the Road" from 1957, a stunning version of "St. James Infirmary," complete with spooky horns, from 1961, and the dual-sided single "Cry, Cry, Cry"/"I've Been Wrong So Long" from 1960. Whether Bland was a blues singer or a soul singer is a matter of academic ephemera. The closing track here, "I Lost Sight of the World," should settle things. He was both in one, and few have done better at either.
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