- Released: June 12, 2012
- Label: XL Recordings
Rolling Stone - p.783.5 stars out of 5
-- "He's at home testifying over coolly throbbing beats, and on the anti-war title track Womack pleads for brotherly forgiveness..."
Entertainment Weekly - p.83
"Womack shines -- not just a brave man, but a remarkably resilient one." -- Grade: A-
Living Blues - p.65
"The Cleveland-born singer-songwriter remains in typically pliant voice, though his rasp has grown rougher around the edges, and he still writes good songs."
Billboard (p.72) - "The set is anything but overproduced, sporting a mostly minimalistic feel....Womack's gritty, soulful sound is squarely at the heart of what we hope will turn out to be his comeback album."
Q (Magazine) - p.994 stars out of 5
-- "The title track pitches Womack's fantastically textured voice over a super-sparse piano, bass and clicking drums, just the hint of strings and acoustic guitar allowed to whisper over it all..."
Mojo (Publisher) - p.844 stars out of 5
-- "THE BRAVEST MAN impresses on a steadily rising graph as Womack's soul-soaked voice humanises the machinery in ways rarely heard these days."
Uncut (magazine) - p.75
"The results are startling, setting Womack's distinctive voice against stark electro backings and thunderous beats."
- 1.The Bravest Man in the Universe
- 2.Please Forgive My Heart
- 3.Deep River
- 4.Dayglo Reflection
- 5.Whatever Happened to the Times
- 6.Stupid Introlude - (featuring Gil Scott-Heron)
- 8.If There Wasn't Something There
- 9.Love Is Gonna Lift You Up
- 10.Nothin' Can Save Ya - (featuring Fatoumata Diawara)
- 11.Jubilee (Don't Let Nobody Turn You Around)
Personnel: Bobby Womack (vocals, guitar); Richard Russell (drum programming).
Audio Mixers: Stephen Sedgwick; Richard Russell.
Recording information: Studio 13, London (03/07/2012); The Manhattan Center, New York (03/07/2012); XL Recordings (03/07/2012); XL Studios, London (03/07/2012); Studio 13, London (10/03/2011-12/??/2011); The Manhattan Center, New York (10/03/2011-12/??/2011); XL Recordings (10/03/2011-12/??/2011); XL Studios, London (10/03/2011-12/??/2011).
Photographer: Jamie-James Medina.
Damon Albarn enlisted Bobby Womack to sing on Gorillaz's 2010 album Plastic Beach, pushing the great soul singer back into action after a prolonged period of silence. Remarkably, the unlikely pair struck up a friendship, a partnership that led to 2012's The Bravest Man in the Universe, Womack's first album in 13 years. Signing with Richard Russell's XL Records, Womack collaborated with his longtime cohort Harold Payne, Albarn, and Russell on this ghostly, skeletal soul collection, each man bringing his own signatures to the table. Russell's beats intertwine with Albarn's spectral chords, each evoking distinct memories of his past work, but even if there are clear antecedents in Russell's production of Gil Scott-Heron or the futuristic funk oeuvre of Gorillaz, these two do not bend Womack to fit their needs: they free him to make a startlingly modern Bobby Womack album, one that harks back to such previous masterworks as Understanding and The Poet, albums that fully embodied both the singer and his times. And so it is with The Bravest Man in the Universe, an album that sounds like 2012 as much as it sounds like Womack: the rhythms belong to the modern world, the slow, shimmering grooves undeniably Womack's, as he's been specializing in this sound since the turn of the '70s. Initially, the most bracing elements of The Bravest Man in the Universe are those electronic flourishes from Russell and Albarn and, most of all, the power of Womack's singing. He's showing signs of age -- his voice is etched and weathered -- but he sounds undiminished, both as a vocalist and as a man. This is not a quiet, mournful album about the dying of the light; this is about living in the moment, embracing age and modernity with equal enthusiasm. The past is present on The Bravest Man in the Universe -- nowhere more so than on "Dayglo Reflection," where a song by Womack mentor Sam Cooke is interpolated and chanteuse of the year Lana Del Rey is deployed as effectively ethereal counterpart, but Bobby covers the traditional "Deep River" and revives "Whatever Happened to the Times," a song he co-wrote with his old running partner Jim Ford -- although Womack is never beholden to time gone by; the old days are part of him, informing how he's facing the present, and there's nothing remotely approaching nostalgia here. For as haunting as parts of the album are, there is no fetishization of death on the parts of Albarn and Russell; even with a tinge of melancholy coloring the fringes of the album, this is an album that affirms the power of life, in all of its mess and glory. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine