For those who don't know, Bobby Womack is the man. Back with his first original album in eighteen years, it doesn't take long to realise that the man is what he definitely still is. Much in the same way that Gil Scott-Heron did on I'm New Here, Womack has produced an album that sounds supremely current, without feeling overly forced to sound so. The album is one of sparse, minimal beats, with Damon Albarn's Gorillaz style production evidently oozing throughout. These sparse beats provide the perfect supporting cast for the leading role, Womack's voice. It would be silly to expect his voice not to have aged, but on tracks like the utterly brilliant 'Please Forgive My Heart' it's clear that he's still one of the great vocalists.
Although Womack was one of the few artists to keep 'proper' soul and R&B music alive after the 1970s, it would also be silly to expect him to have continued in a similar vein with this release. Sad as it may be that old-school soul isn't 'in' these days, The Bravest Man In The Universe does enough to stop you longing for recycles of his earlier work. 'Wasn't Something There' retains Womack's gruff, powerful vocals just as they should be, over a beat akin to Gorillaz' 'Stylo', which of course he featured on. 'Deep River' on the other hand is an entirely stripped back, vocal led acoustic ballad, full of hard emotion and sadness. Both tracks demonstrate that his voice can tread paths both new and old with equal ease.
Even when there's the dreaded featuring 'insert modern artist here' moment on 'Dayglo Reflection' with Lana Del Rey, it still fits perfectly with what Womack is about. Its sketchy The King Of Limbs esque beats and string arrangements wonderfully complement the two vocalists. This is essentially the polar opposite of what happened when another legend, Santana, tried to be 'trendy'.
That being said, this isn't quite the perfect comeback. 'Love Is Gonna Lift You Up' is a horrendous cheesy moment that should've been disposed of long ago in the depths of the 80s. It's really not very good. Album closer 'Jubilee (Don't Let Nobody Turn You Round)' is also rather suspect. It's essentially just Womack making noises over the sound effects from a very, very primitive computer game. However the likes of the superb 'Stupid' more than make up for these lapses.
The melancholy longing of 'Whatever Happened To The Times' really sums it up though, whatever did happen to the times? Whatever happened to artists with soul? That being said, judging by The Bravest Man In The Universe, Bobby Womack's time has come once again, and he's still got it. Flawed as it may be in parts, this is an album that the music world desperately needs, a vital injection of raw soul and emotion.