Robert Cray

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Robert Cray

Most certainly one of the kings of the blues, Robert Cray was born August 1 , 1953 in Columbus, Georgia. Possessing an aching soul voice and supple blues fingers, Cray single-handedly revitalized the profile of blues music when his breakthrough 1986 album "Strong Persuader" went on to sell 2 million copies on the strength of his Top 40 hit "Smoking Gun"- a feat unheard of for blues in the plastic pop 80s decade. Subsequent albums repeated the formula to diminishing sales. Cray moved from the major label to independent labels like Sanctuary, then his own label, Nozzle. Mercury Cray's blues straddle the line between Memphis soul and contemporary guitar blues. To date more than 20  albums have appeared on Cray in some 30 years of recording. He also appeared in the film "Animal House" as bassist for the fictitious band Otis Day & The Knights

Album Discography

"Who's Been Talkin'?" (Mercury 1980)

1. Too Many Cooks
2. The Score
3. Welfare, The (Turns Its Back on You)
4. That's What I'll Do
5. I'd Rather Be a Wino
6. Who's Been Talking?
7. Sleeping in the Ground
8. I'm Gonna Forget About You
9. Nice as a Fool Can Be
10. If You're Thinkin' What I'm Thinkin'

*** Very bluesy debut reveals Cray to be an exceptional blues singer and guitarist. A mix of Cray originals ("Nice As A Fool Can Be", "I'd Rather Be A Wino") and terrific covers (Willie Dixon's "Too Many Cooks", Freddy King's "The Welfare (Turns It's Back On You"). If you are looking for a straight Cray blues album here you go.

"Bad Influence" (Hightone 1983)

1. Phone Booth
2. Bad Influence
3. Grinder, The
4. Got to Make a Comeback
5. So Many Women, So Little Time
6. Where Do I Go from Here
7. Waiting for the Tide to Turn
8. March On
9. Don't Touch Me
10. No Big Deal
11. I Got Loaded - (bonus track)
12. Share What You've Got, Keep What You Need - (bonus track)

***** Cray reaches greatness already at album number two. A fabulous collection full of Grade A material like Cray's own "Phone Booth" (also done by Albert King), "Bad Influence" (also done by Eric Clapton), slow grinding "The Grinder" & "Waiting For The Tide To Turn" plus the light-hearted "So Many Women, So Little Time" and romping "I Got Loaded". Staxy-soul makes it's debut with Eddie Floyd's "Got To Make A Comeback". One of Cray's essential discs.

"False Accusations" (Hightone 1985)

1. Porch Light
2. Change of Heart, Change of Mind (S.O.F.T.)
3. She's Gone
4. Playin' in the Dirt
5. I've Slipped Her Mind
6. False Accusations
7. Last Time, The (I Get Burned Like This)
8. Payin' for It Now
9. Sonny

***1/2 Although not as impressive as the previous masterpiece, this new one contains another set of strong material. Producer Dennis Walker authors the heartbreaking "I've Slipped Her Mind" and "She's Gone", co-written by Cray, mines similar ground. Both are solid soul blues gold. Another definite winner is Cray's co-write "Playin' In The Dirt", which warns of infidelity's consequences: "We're bound to get some one us/When you're playin' in the dirt".

Collins/Cray/Copeland "Showdown!" (Alligator 1985)

1. T-Bone Shuffle
2. Moon Is Full, The
3. Lion's Den
4. She's Into Something
5. Bring Your Fine Self Home
6. Black Cat Bone
7. Dream, The
8. Albert's Alley
9. Blackjack
**** Acclaimed set featuring a trio of electric blues guitar masters- Albert Collins, Cray and Johnny Copeland. Each take turns at the mic with Cray providing one of the better cuts ("She's Into Something").
 
"Strong Persuader" (Mercury 1986)

1. Smoking Gun
2. I Guess I Showed Her
3. Right Next Door (Because of Me)
4. Nothin' But a Woman
5. Still Around
6. More Than I Can Stand
7. Foul Play
8. I Wonder
9. Fantasized
10. New Blood

***** The equivalent of a grand slam for Cray and modern blues as a genre. This crossover blues masterpiece stormed the pop charts and went on to sell in excess of two million copies- a rare feet in the 1980s. The top 40 smash "Smoking Gun" was just one of many unforgettable cuts. "Right Next Door (Because Of Me)" is a vivid blues about Cray overhearing his neighbors fight over who the woman was cheating with. Can you guess who?: "She was right next door and I'm such a strong persuader/She was just another notch on my guitar/She's gonna lose the man that really loves her/In the silence I can hear them breaking hearts." The Memphis Horns add sugar to the funky groover "Ain't Nothin' But A Woman", which contains another great lyric: "You can give me an hour alone in a bank/Tell me a boat of lawyers just sank/But it ain't nothin' but a woman" that keeps "young Bob" happy. "I Guessed I Showed Her" is another highlight in an album packed with them.
 
"Don't Be Afraid Of The Dark" (Mercury 1988)

1. Don't Be Afraid of the Dark
2. Don't You Even Care
3. Your Secret's Safe With Me
4. I Can't Go Home
5. Night Patrol
6. Acting This Way
7. Gotta Change the Rules
8. Across the Line
9. At Last
10. Laugh Out Loud

 *** Although considered a letdown when it was released this gold-selling follow up has it's share of great moments. In some ways it is "Strong Persuader" part 2 as it contains the same slick production and follows a similar blueprint. You got radio-friendly pop blues via "Don't Be Afraid Of The Dark" (also the soundtrack to a beer commercial!) & "Acting This Way". Staxy soul blues ("Gotta Change The Rules") and guitar spanking slow blues (the edgy "Don't You Even Care?"). It also contains one of his oddest songs with "Night Patrol" with Cray wondering what went wrong with a drunk and a 17-year-old girl on the corner. By song's end he can also wonder about himself, as he too hits the streets a potentially dangerous wandering psycho. "Laugh Out Loud" is a fine blues shuffle featuring some tart Cray guitar licks. 
 
"Midnight Stroll" (Mercury 1990)

1. Forecast, The (Calls For Pain)
2. These Things
3. My Problem
4. Labor of Love
5. Bouncin' Back
6. Consequences
7. Things You Do To Me, The
8. Walk Around Time
9. Move a Mountain
10. Holdin' Court
11. Midnight Stroll

****  Memphis is on Cray's mind on this exceptionally strong soul blues disc. Two radio singles kept Cray's profile high ("Consequences" & "The Forecast (Calls For Pain)"), but it's the soul leanings with the help of the Memphis Horns that really resonate. "Bouncin' Back" is the soul blues equivalent of Gloria Gaynor's classic disco anthem "I Will Survive". Here Cray shakes off the pains of a failed relationship. The song also contains an unbelievable falsetto wail at the song's climax. "My Problem" is a fine Memphis soul ballad. There's also some good blues shuffles ("Walk Around Time" & "Labor Of Love"). Overall this ranks in the Robert Cray top 5 club (other members are: "Bad Influence", "Strong Persuader", "Shame + A Sin" & "Time Will Tell")
 
"I Was Warned" (Mercury 1992)

1. Just a Loser
2. I'm a Good Man
3. I Was Warned
4. Price I Pay, The
5. Won the Battle
6. On the Road Down
7. Whole Lotta Pride, A
8. Picture of a Broken Heart, A
9. He Don't Live Here Anymore
10. Our Last Time

**1/2 Cray's record sales began to slip with this mixed bag. "The Price I Pay" is a stunning soul song and "I Was Warned" a simmering rumba-beat soul blues with plenty of guitar soloing from our man. Other than these two diamonds and the upbeat "Just A Loser" there isn't much else on this disc that flirts with greatness.
 
"Shame + A Sin" (Mercury 1993)

1. 1040 Blues
2. Some Pain, Some Shame
3. I Shiver
4. You're Gonna Need Me
5. Don't Break This Ring
6. Stay Go
7. Leave Well Enough Alone
8. Passing By
9. I'm Just Lucky That Way
10. Up and Down


****
 
Just when it appeared Cray was running out of material he unleashes one of his finest (and bluesiest albums). "Some Pain, Some Shame" is vintage Cray. "1040 Blues" a lowdown diatribe against Uncle Sam's greedy taxations. For me the stunner is the soul belter "Don't Break This Ring" featuring perhaps Cray's single best vocal to date. "I Shiver" is an icy midtempo groover and his take on Albert King's "You're Gonna Need Me" is immaculate.
 
"Some Rainy Morning" (Mercury 1995)

1. Moan
2. I'll Go On
3. Steppin' Out
4. Never Mattered Much
5. Tell the Landlord
6. Little Boy Big
7. Enough for Me
8. Jealous Love
9. Will You Think of Me
10. Holdin' On

*** Fairly routine album serves up another amalgam of soul, blues and R & B. "Moan" is a kissing cousin to "I Shiver" and embodies the spirit of what the blues is all about. When Cray sings "I don't feel so good this morning" you are experiencing a "blues moment" if ever there was one. Unfortunately no other cut really lives up to this opener. He covers Syl Johnson's "Steppin' Out" and Wilson Pickett's "Jealous Love" but 7 of the 10 tracks were either written or co-written by Cray. Truly a triple threat .Great album cover too!
 
"Sweet Potato Pie" (Mercury 1997)

1. Nothing Against You
2. Do That For Me
3. Back Home
4. One In the Middle, The
5. Little Birds
6. Trick or Treat
7. Simple Things
8. Jealous Minds
9. Not Bad For Love
10. I Can't Quit

*** Last album for Mercury Records leans heavily in the R & B side of Cray's bag thus is more akin to "Midnight Stroll" than say "Shame + A Sin", calling our attention to the Stax/Volt era. It's also no surprise that the name of Otis Redding should come up in the credits. The Redding cover "Trick Or Treat" really kicks up some sand. "The One In The Middle" has a gorgeous melody and "I Can't Quit" hits hard.
 
"Heavy Picks: The Robery Cray Band Collection" (Mercury 1999)

1. Phone Booth
2. Forecast (Calls for Pain)
3. Smoking Gun
4. Playin' in the Dirt
5. Don't Be Afraid of the Dark
6. Too Many Cooks
7. Dream, The
8. Right Next Door (Because of Me)
9. Consequences
10. Bad Influence
11. I Guess I Showed Her
12. I Shiver
13. Trick or Treat
14. I Was Warned

**** Decent compilation of some of Cray's best for Mercury Records. The biggest ones are here ("Smoking Gun", "Right Next Door (Because Of Me)", "Don't Be Afraid Of The Dark", "Bad Influence") but there's also some glaring omissions (where's "Moan" or "Bouncin' Back" for example?). Nevertheless, casual Cray fans will be delighted with this purchase.

Robert Cray & Albert Collins "In Concert" (Indigo 1999)

1. Intro- The Chicken
2. That Will Never Do
3. I've Gotta Take a Chance
4. One More Kiss
5. I'm So Satisfied
6. Collins Intro / Don't Lose Your Cool
7. Angel of Mercy
8. That Ain't the Way to Do It
9. I Don't Want You Cuttin' off My Hair
10. Don't Want No Woman
11. Watch Me Baby
12. Collins Instrumental Jam
13. Albert's Alley

 
"Take Your Shoes Off" (Rykodisc 1999)

1. Love Gone to Waste
2. That Wasn't Me
3. All the Way
4. There's Nothing Wrong
5. 24-7 Man
6. Pardon
7. Let Me Know
8. It's All Gone
9. Won't You Give Him (One More Chance)
10. Living Proof
11. What About Me
12. Tollin' Bells

**** As he possesses an elasticoul tenor in the same league as the greats Sam Moore and Al Green I always hoped he would make a bona fide Memphis soul album. I could also picture Cray recording with Willie Mitchell for Hi Records back in the 70s and, well, I got something darn close. The knockout first track "Love Gone To Waste" was written and arranged by none other than Mitchell. It is a delicious midtempo Memphis soul number complete with sweet horns. Yes! The blues is not absent from this effort by any means, but it's mostly present in Cray's assertive blues guitar lines. Despite the 70s soul leadoff the disc is really "blues-soul" outing, or even just a retro-soul album, than a straight blues one. Cray writes about half of the songs, meanwhile covering soul classics like Sir Mack Rice's "24-7 Man" and Solomon Burke's "Won't You Give Him (One More Chance)," as well as Willie Dixon's "Tollin' Bells." Keyboardist Jim Pugh penned the groovin' "Pardon".
 

"Shoulda Been Home" (Rykodisc 2001)

1. Baby's Arms
2. Already Gone
3. Anytime
4. Love Sickness
5. I'm Afraid
6. No One Special
7. Out of Eden
8. Cry for Me Baby
9. Far Away
10. Renew Blues
11. Help Me Forget
12. 12 Year Old Boy

***1/2 Again Cray opens with a great 70s soul-styled track, the joyful "Baby's Arms", which would have been a smash in the right era. Often backed by apreggiated guitar chords, Cray's vocals are front and center here, passionately leaning into these predominantly slow or mid-tempo tunes. The album could've used a couple more rompers like Sir Mack Rice's "Love Sickness" as it consists of many mellow readings like the epic "Out Of Eden" and "Help Me Forget". Meanwhile "No One Special" ranks as one of Cray's best melodies and "Cry For My Baby", "Twelve Year Old Boy" and T-Bone Walker's "Renew Blues" are good blues tracks.

"Time Will Tell" (Sanctuary 2003)

1. Survivor
2. Up in the Sky
3. Back Door Slam
4. I Didn't Know
5. Your Pal
6. Lotta Lovin'
7. What You Need (Good Man)
8. Spare Some Love?
9. Distant Shore
10. Time Makes Two

***1/2 Robert Cray has never been limited to straight blues. His stew of blues, rock, R&B & Memphis soul has served him well since his very bluesy debut "Who's Been Talkin". The new disc "Time Will Tell" contains no 12-bar shuffles and no straight slow blues cuts. Sure, there's elements of blues in the songs but this is more of a R&B/Rock CD. After two fine Memphis Soul/Blues-influenced cds that critics loved but didn't sell quite as well as his earlier records it seems Cray wants to try some new things on "Time Will Tell". His guitar playing is very sharp on this outing and the band sounds great, especially on "Back Door Slam" & "Spare Some Love?". He uses a sitar on "Up From The Sky" and he is more outspoken in his lyrics, such as the anti-war sentiments of "Survivor". Some of the songs seem unfinished to me- lacking a memorable melody or groove. I would still recommend this cd- Cray fans will definitely dig it and newcomers might like the slightly altered formula.
 
"The Best Of: The Millenium Collection" (Mercury/Universal 2003)

1. Smoking Gun
2. Right Next Door (Because of Me)
3. Bouncin' Back
4. Don't You Even Care
5. Holdin' On
6. These Things
7. I Was Warned
8. One in the Middle, The
9. Some Pain, Some Shame
10. You're Gonna Need Me
*** Budget-friendly compilation of tracks picked out by Cray himself. Interestingly only a couple of his "hits" are here ("Smoking Gun", "Right Next Door") while the other 8 are some of Cray's best and most unheralded moments ("Bouncin' Back", "Don't You Even Care?"). So because only 3 tracks would be repeated this could be a nice companion piece to "Heavy Picks".

"Heritage Of The Blues: Phone Booth" (Hightone 2003)

1. Phone Booth
2. Don't Touch Me
3. Porch Light
4. Last Time, The (I Get Burned Like This)
5. Bad Influence
6. Playin' in the Dirt
7. Change of Heart, Change of Mind - (S.O.F.T.)
8. Got to Make a Comeback
9. Grinder, The
10. Where Do I Go from Here
11. Payin' for It Now
12. I've Slipped Her Mind

Robert Cray "Twenty" (Sanctuary) "Twenty" (Sanctuary 2005)

1. Poor Johnny
2. That Ain't Love
3. Does It Really Matter
4. Fadin' Away
5. My Last Regret
6. It Doesn't Show
7. I'm Walkin'
8. Twenty
9. I Know You Will
10. I Forgot to Be Your Lover
11. Two Steps From the End

**** The title track- an earnest folk blues masterpiece- contains the poignant anti-Iraq war lyrics: "Standing out here in the desert/Trying to protect an oil line/I'd really like to do my job but/This ain't the country that I had in mind/They call this a war on terror/I see a lot of civilians dying/Mothers, sons, fathers and daughters/Not to mention some friends of mine". Irregardless of the message the song is a deep melancholy piece, with weepy guitar and aching vocals from Cray. Simply one of the best recordings of his career. The remainder of the record serves up more of Cray's stew of R & B, soul, folk, blues and even a touch of lounge jazz ("My Last Regret"). Although mostly a laid back, confident set there's also some upbeat numbers like the rocking "It Doesn't Really Matter" and guitar spanking soul blues of "That Ain't Love" & "I'm Walkin'". Cray wrote 5 of the tracks with 5 

"The Ultimate Collection" (Universal 2005)

1. Who's Been Talking?
2. I'm Gonna Forget About You
3. When the Welfare Turns Its Back on You
4. Phone Booth
5. Got to Make a Comeback
6. So Many Women So Little Time
7. Playin' in the Dirt
8. I've Slipped Her Mind
9. False Accusations
10. Right Next Door (Because of Me)
11. Smoking Gun
12. I Guess I Showed Her
13. I Wonder
14. Nohthin' But a Woman
15. Don't Be Afraid of the Dark
16. Don't You Even Care
17. Acting This Way
18. Forecast, The (Calls for Pain)

DISC 2:
1. Things You Do to Me, The
2. Bouncin' Back
3. I Was Warned
4. He Don't Live Here Anymore
5. Our Last Time
6. You're Gonna Need Me
7. 1040 Blues
8. Passing By
9. I Shiver
10. Moan
11. Steppin' Out
12. Jealous Love
13. Never Mattered Much
14. Trick or Treat
15. I Can't Quit
16. Nothing Against You

DISC 3:
1. Dream, The
2. T-Bone Shuffle
3. Brown Eyed Handsome Man
4. Playin' with My Friends
5. Love Struck Baby
6. I Pity the Fool

"Live Across The Pond" (Nozzle/Vanguard 2006)

DISC 1:
1. Phone Booth
2. Poor Johnny
3. Our Last Time
4. Right Next Door (Because of Me)
5. 12 Year Old Boy
6. I Guess I Showed Her
7. Things You Do to Me, The

DISC 2:
1. I Was Warned
2. Twenty
3. Bad Influence
4. One in the Middle, The
5. Back Door Slam
6. Time Makes Two
7. I'm Walkin'

*** In the liner notes Cray says fans had been asking for a live album for years so here it is. Two discs worth recorded over the course of seven nights in 2005 at the famed Royal Albert Hall in London. Cray was touring to support his previous studio platter, the superb "Twenty", so this set includes four cuts from that record including the brilliant anti-war piece "Twenty", and two from his other Sanctuary record, "Time Will Tell". Being that the album versions were flawless you really couldn't improve upon them but the loose, extended versions here are not mere carbon copies. The midtempo Blues "Our Last Time" is fleshed out to 8-plus minutes, "Back Door Slam" has a slightly slower pace and extra guitar jabs and "Time Takes Two" is much Blusier than the album counterpart.

The set also includes some Cray classics like "Phone Booth", "Bad Influence", "Right Next Door (Because Of Me)" plus a stunning 6-plus minute version of "12 year Old Boy" that decisively blows the studio version away (found on "Shoulda Been Home"). On the other hand, glaring omissions of "Smoking Gun", "Don't Be Afraid Of The Dark" or "Baby's Arms" and no new songs or cover tunes may disappoint some. Nevertheless, "Live Across The Pond" is a fine Blues set by an excellent Blues band and that's all it set out to be.

"The Definitive Collection" (Hip-O 2007)

1. Phone Booth
2. Bad Influence
3. Playin' in the Dirt
4. Smoking Gun
5. I Guess I Showed Her
6. Right Next Door (Because of Me)
7. Don't Be Afraid of the Dark
8. Forecast, The (Calls for Pain)
9. Consequences
10. I Was Warned
11. I Shiver
12. Moan
13. Trick or Treat
14. Love Gone to Waste
15. Survivor
16. Poor Johnny

*** As single disc retrospectives go this one covers more years than "Heavy Picks" by adding three post-1999 tracks ("Love Gone To Waste", "Survivor", "Poor Johnny") but it nicks a couple key cuts ("Bouncin' Back", 'Too Many Cooks"), making this less than definitive.

"Live At The BBC" (Island/Mercury 2008)

1. I Guess I Showed Her
2. Foul Play
3. Don't Be Afraid Of The Dark
4. Don't You Even Care
5. Night Patrol
6. Nothin' But A Woman
7. Phone Booth
8. These Things
9. My Problem
10. Forecast, The (Calls For Pain)
11. Consequences
12. Right Next Door (Because Of Me)
13. Acting This Way
14. Smoking Gun

"This Time" (Vanguard 2009)

1. Chicken in the Kitchen
2. I Can't Fail
3. Love 2009
4. That's What Keeps Me Rockin'
5. This Time
6. To Be True
7. Forever Goodbye
8. Trouble & Pain
9. Truce

"Authorized Bootleg: Austin, TX 5/25/87" (Mercury 2010)

1. Introduction
2. I Guess I Showed Her
3. Let's Have a Natural Ball
4. Spoken Word Interlude
5. Don't Touch Me
6. Foul Play
7. Bad Influence
8. Spoken Word Interlude
9. Last Time, The (I Get Burned Like This)
10. Still Around
11. Back at the Chicken Shack
12. False Accusations
13. New Blood
14. Phone Booth
15. Playin' in the Dirt
16. Spoken Word Interlude
17. Smoking Gun
18. Spoken Word Interlude
19. Right Next Door (Because of Me)

"Cookin' In Mobile" CD + DVD (Nozzle 2010)

DISC 1:
1. Our Last Time
2. Anytime
3. Love 2009
4. Right Next Door
5. Chicken in the Kitchen
6. Sitting on Top of the World
7. One in the Middle
8. Lotta Lovin'
9. Smoking Gun
10. I Can't Fail
11. That's What Keeps Me Rockin'
12. Time Make Two

DISC 2:
1. Live at the Saenger Theater
2. Behind-the-Scenes
3. Photo Gallery
4. Phone Booth [Video]
5. Twenty [Video]
6. Sitting on Top of the World
7. One in the Middle
8. Lotta Lovin'
9. Smoking Gun
10. I Can't Fail
11. That's What Keeps Me Rockin'
12. Time Makes Two
13. Phone Booth
14. Twenty

"Nothin' But Love" (Mascot 2012)

1. (Won't Be) Coming Home
2. Worry
3. I'll Always Remember You
4. Side Dish
5. A Memo
6. Blues Get Off My Shoulder
7. Fix This
8. I'm Done Cryin'
9. Great Big Old House
10. Sadder Days
11. You Belong to Me [*]

"On My Soul" (MRI 2014)

1. You Move Me
2. Nobody's Fault But Mine
3. Fine Yesterday
4. Your Good Thing Is About to End
5. I Guess I'll Never Know
6. Hold On
7. What Would You Say
8. Hip Tight Onions
9. You're Everything
10. Deep in My Soul
11. Pillow

"40 Nights Of 40 Years Live" (Povogue 2015)

2 CD 1 DVD

Disc 1
1 I Shiver
2 I'll Always Remember You
3 Poor Johnny
4 Won't Be Coming Home
5 Your Good Thing Is About To End
6 Sittin' On Top of the World
7 Wrap It Up
8 Love Gone To Waste
9 Bad Influence
10 These Things
11 Right Next Door (Because Of Me)
12 The Forecast (Calls For Pain)
13 Time Makes Two
Disc 2
1
I Guess I Showed Her (1987 recording)
2 Right Next Door (Because Of Me) (1987 recording)
3 Smoking Gun (1987 recording)
4 Still Around (1987 recording)
5 Too Many Cooks (1982 recording)
6 -Bone Shuffle (1982 recording)

"Robert Cray & Hi Rhythm" (Megaforce 2017)

1. The Same Love That Made Me Laugh
2. You Must Believe in Yourself
3. I Don't Care
4. Colorado Aspen
5. Just How Low
6. You Had My Heart
7. Pt. 1 I'm With You
8. Honey Bad
9. The Way We Are
10. Don't Steal My Love
11. Pt. 2 I'm With You

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