The Blind Boys of Alabama - Atom Bomb
(Real World Records)
2 1/2 stars (out of 5 stars)
Reviewed: April 23, 2005
Review by Andy ArgyrakisWhenever a legendary group is out of the mainstream limelight for a long time, it's only natural to develop the "out of sight, out of mind" mentality. In the case of the enduring gospel group the Blind Boys of Alabama, members may have been trudging it out on the road since the 1940s recording a somewhat steady stream of projects, but without a major crossover hit single, their public presence almost whittled away. But thank goodness for Peter Gabriel and Real World Records, a pair that's given the group a resurgence in popularity and attention that may have very well surpassed their glory days. Between the critically acclaimed comeback album Spirit of the Century, an opening slot on the former Genesis leader's "Growing Up" tour and the recent spiritual covers album Higher Ground, the gang got back on track with a vengeance. Add in an all star collaboration packed Christmas album in 2003, plus last year's tag team with Ben Harper on There Will Be a Light, and the Blind Boys are more active in their elder years than many of the young whipper-snappers on the rise.
Though it's incredibly generous of the guys to churn out yet another offering of studio material for 2005's Atom Bomb (a title with no correlation to U2's latest How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb) all that running around as of late may have knocked a bit of steam from under their sails. Unlike all the aforementioned new recordings, there seems to be a general sleepiness in the 10-track endeavor, resting mostly in the down and dirty blues rather than the inspirational gospel flavor of the Harper partnered 2004 Grammy Award winner. Take for instance the slow shuffle of "I Know I've Been Converted,' the harmonica drenched drowsiness of "Moses" and the dirge-like guitar grinder "Faith and Grace.'
The group is a bit better off on the barbershop quartet styled "(Jesus Hits Like the) Atom Bomb" and the gut wrenching "Talk About Suffering" (which marks one of the multiple appearances by Los Lobos' David Hidalgo) yet still sounds slightly sleepy. "Old Blind Barnabas" tries to lean towards the spunky side telling another inspirational message, though it still pales in comparison to recent renditions of "Motherless Child" or "Higher Ground." Again, it's awesome to know the Blind Boys are still making music and staying busy on the road, but with all due respect to their lauded status, maybe a little longer break would've resulted in a bigger overall bang.
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