BOB BELAND – Left Of Center

Wrong Way Works 2017

Looking for an angle to roll a third stone from the Sun, Los Angeles songwriter claims a stake to terra firma.

BOB BELAND - Left Of Center

BOB BELAND –
Left Of Center

Bob Beland’s been around for four decades, both as a bands member and a solo act, but he never really registered with a wider, on a world scale, population, a situation “Left Of Center” is likely to remedy. Scrabble elements and a selfie on this album’s cover are a mere reflection of what’s going on underneath, as the record is a sort of puzzle, and if the listener’s able to pick up all the pieces to fit together, a picture emerges that is, yes, slightly left field or even disturbing. Which is why, perhaps, some reassurance might be in order, and “It’s Alright With Me, Mr. Bob” addresses such worries – even though it was laid down long before our times of turmoil, in 1983 – in a call-and-response fashion set to the steady, celebratory beat of Burundi-like drums, while the unhurried pace of “Off The Handle” contradicts the cut’s title in a way Ray Davies would approve of.

Excelling in humor, Beland’s songs range from a pure piano ballad “One Bright Burning” to saloon vaudeville ditty “Sloppy Joe” which marry aloof Americana to British eccentricity. So “The Lost Highway” might be melodically dry, yet there’s a stinging electric guitar pouring psychedelia into the mix, whereas the listing of rhythm-and-blues classics in, well, an R&B number “Some Friends Of Mine” is underpinned with a brass section and one of those buddies, Bobby Pickett’s bass. After that it’s strange to see “Who’ll Save The World?” welcome both idealism and cynicism – strange, until its link to opener gets revealed, and Mr. Bob comes centerstage as an unlikely hero to embrace savior possibilities. On music level, it works; so give the man a lever and a place to stand, and he’ll move the Earth.

****1/4

August 30, 2017

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