Robben Ford – Blue Moon

Blue Moon
Blue Moon

Robben Ford reached legendary status, at
least in some circles, when he first hit the
blues scene – with Charlie Musselwhite,
Jimmy Witherspoon, and his family group (the Charles Ford Band) – some 30 years ago. At 50, he boasts one of the most oddly varied resumés in pop music -from Miles Davis to Barry Manilow, from George Harrison to Kiss to Dylan – while diehard fans are still waiting for his “ultimate” solo album.

Blue Moon may not be all that, but it comes darn close – picking up where 1995’s Handful of Blues left off before Ford took a left turn with Tiger Walk. Handful was ostensibly a group effort, by Robben Ford And The Blue Line, with bassist Roscoe Beck and drummer Tom Brechtlein, but while they provide the groove on much of this effort it’s Robben’s show all the way.

Ford wrote or co-wrote eight of the songs here, and this batch of originals is among his best. Still, he opens with a hip, jazzy reinterpretation of Little Walter’s “Up The Line,” as if to loosen up – and the vehicle succeeds in doing so. Next is his “Hard To Please,” a relaxed swing shuffle. For the funkier “Don’t Deny My Love,” Vinny Colaiuta and Jimmy Earl replace the ex-bandmates, on drums and bass, respectively. Two mixes of the song appear, the first a bit darker, but not radically different. (Considering the artist, label, and fan base, it makes one wonder what the thinking is here. No doubt Robben Ford fans would much prefer an additional song over a “single” or “dance” mix.)

The slow 12-bar blues “Make Me Your Only One” is Ford’s bread and butter, the type of thing he’s excelled at from day one, never seeming to lack in fresh ideas. Besides his masterful guitar playing, he illustrates yet again that he’s a soulful, straight-forward, unaffected blues singer – all qualities unfortunately lacking in Julie Christiansen, who enters at the second bridge to completely take the listener out of the movie Robben has created.

“Indianola” is an instrumental homage to B.B., but like Ford’s earlier tributes “The Brother” (to the Vaughans) and “The Miller’s Son” (to Clapton), its nod is more in spirit than mimicry. “Something For the Pain,” co-written with Kevin Bowe, boasts an especially infectious groove, although one gets the feeling Rob could have turned the heat up just a notch.

Two of Ford’s best originals show a different side to the bluesman: the four-to-the-bar “Good To Love,” which features his best vocal on the CD, and the ballad “My Everything,” a potential (and coverable) standard. Ford trades solos with himself at the song’s fade, switching from the Collins-esque string snapping that’s marked perhaps too much of his recent work to a more full-bodied sustain.

Actually, the more I listen to Blue Moon (and it’s been in heavy rotation), the only thing keeping it from being Ford’s “ultimate” is that, having followed this astounding artist’s career for thirty-plus years, I know he’s capable of even more.

This article originally appeared in VG‘s May ’02 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.