Bob On Bob 2020
A paean to The Golden State from an artist enchanted and disillusioned by Californian reality.
He might have traveled a lot, as most musicians used to do, but the bulk of Bob Beland’s life has been spent in Los Angeles; still, it’s taken the veteran a few decades and seven albums to finally focus the eighth on this locale. Not the urban one, no, because he’s not enamored of the city’s glamor, and he’s not in love with San Francisco’s nonchalance, either, paying homage to the music that originated there to rock the world but concentrating more on the state’s Arcadian delights. Hence a story of a pair of youth set on exploring the promised land and seeing Cali though both rose-tinted glasses and the naked eye.
There’s alluring sweetness to the transparent strum of opener “Honey In The Hive” that doesn’t take a lot of time to outline Beland’s current penchant for Bolanisms – relocated from The Big Smoke to America and given a scintillating detail which sprinkles Bob’s cinematic soundscapes of a pop stripe, so the organ-oiled “In Big Sur” shines a light through its sad balladry, and the starry tribute to Neil Young of “I’ll See You There” hugs you like an old friend. The results of such approach are never in your face, even though “Something/Anything?” comes across as a rather insistent plea for intimacy whose groove is infectious, especially after psychedelic strings have descended on the tune and invited a relentless piano for a boogie interlude.
So whereas “Underneath The Sweeping Sky” bares the artist’s singer-songwriter streak, the cut’s multicolored arrangement and warmth feel irresistible, albeit not too bright, while the mid-paced “Heartbreakers And Soultakers” searches for innocence in the ’60s-styled headspace – cosmically smeared with interstellar synthesizers. As a contrast, steel guitars tie the soft “Orange Groves” down to earth, and the fiddles of “Pal O’ Mine” offer an unsophisticated country jive before the stately, hymnal title track brings this joyful journey to a close, infusing the finale with quiet spirituality.
It’s deceptively simple but complex work, and if 2017’s "Left Of Center" didn’t push Bob Beland into a public view to an extent he deserves, this album should do so.