Robben Ford

Supernatural

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When an artist records one type of music exclusively for years, it's always amusing to hear the artist's manager, record company or publicist claim that he/she "defies categorization." The fact is that when an artist spends his or her entire career recording a specific style of music, categorization comes easy -- and it's silly and dishonest to claim otherwise. But if any artist really does defy categorization, it's Robben Ford. The eclectic singer/guitarist is a compelling bluesman, but he's equally convincing as a jazz improviser and a pop/rock singer. On Supernatural, Ford's primary role is that of an easygoing pop/soft rock singer -- although a pop/soft rock singer who often incorporates soul, blues or jazz. Ford, who was 47 when this album was recorded, gets in some nice guitar solos on the title song and the bluesy, playful "Lovin' Cup," but Supernatural isn't a blowing date -- it's a vocal date, and Ford's vocals often take us back to the pop world of the '70s. In fact, Steely Dan's '70s albums are a valid comparison on this CD -- like Steely Dan, Ford incorporates enough R&B, jazz and blues elements to give his relaxed, laid-back pop and soft rock a healthy amount of grit and spice. Especially enjoyable is the socially aware pop-soul item "Hey, Brother" -- depending on how you arranged it, this is the type of song that would have worked for Steely Dan, El Chicano, War, Rare Earth or Donny Hathaway in the '70s. Supernatural isn't among Ford's essential albums, and it falls short of being a gem. But it's a decent, if slightly uneven, effort from one of the few artists who really is versatile enough to defy categorization. [A Japanese version the CD was also released.]

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