Remember that? Yeah, us neither! Anyways, let’s dive into a tape!
Robert Cray – Who’s Been Talkin’ / Too Many Cooks
(1980) Produced by Bruce Bromberg and Dennis Walker
1. Too Many Cooks
2. The Score
3. The Wellfare (Turns its Back on You)
4. That’s What I’ll Do
5. I’d Rather be a Wino
1. Who’s Been Talkin’
2. Sleeping in the Ground
3. I’m Gonna Forget About You
4. Nice as a Fool can Be
5. If You’re Thinkin’ what I’m Thinkin’
I was lucky enough to be introduced to the music of Robert Cray through a close friend when we went to see him live in concert. This was when the Hi Rhythm album was newly released. We caught him (and band) at a small theater in Keene, NH. That night I was made a believer. After all, Robert Cray is a strong persuader!
Who’s Been Talkin’ / Too Many Cooks is the first album by the Robert Cray band. It has been released and then re-released under both titles. Robert Cray is a legendary blues guitar who can and who has played with the best of them. While he may not have been a legend back in 1980, this album planted the seed that would soon become one – especially if you consider that it was recorded in only two sessions. As you might expect, it is loaded with killer tunes.
Cray and co. kick things off with ‘Too Many Cooks’ – a cool and swanky tune that comes out of a smoky back alley and emanates that lonely, yet exciting city feeling. The piano goes off the rails while staying under the radar. This is the kind of song that they build bars for. Then we slow things down with ‘The Score’. The tune kicks off with a solo Cray before the band back him up. This is a classic blues shuffle. You’ve heard it 1,000,000 times, but at that point, what’s wrong with another! We should also note that Cray’s tone is in ‘ultimate blues tone’ territory, here. He just cuts through like hot wire.
‘The Wellfare’ continues that slow, classic blues vibe. However, this song let’s the harmonica stretch out a little bit and the tune overall feels a little lighter, despite being about someone facing tough times coming up ahead. ‘That’s What I’ll Do’ brings the swing back to the forefront. This bad boy channels some jazz club vibes with plenty of piano and interplay between the horns and harmonica. A dark and smoky statement of conviction.
‘I’d Rather be a Wino’ brings out that classic, what I like to call BBQ blues sound. It’s slow, drawn out, and intentional. It sounds perhaps a touch subdued, but mighty large! Wouldn’t we all rather have a glass than deal with whatever we have to deal with?! Cray’s voice and guitar have been great up until now, but Cray gives us some real power on these vocal takes!
‘Who’s Been Talkin” slows things down as Cray croons about the desperate situation his love life has become. This one is oozing mojo. A great selection for slow dancing, crying into your beer, or playing poker. The song takes its time, sinking lower and lower into the blues – another night club number. ‘Sleeping in the Ground’ lifts up despite it’s morbid title. In classic blues fashion, the song is a bitter tongue in cheek statement to an ex-lover.
‘I’m Gonna Forget About You’ brings us that big B.B. King blues sound. We’re talking horns, twinkling piano, backing vocals, a big beautiful sound. This may be the most upbeat, driving song on the album. It’s also the first on the record to feature another lead vocal. There’s a certain lightheartedness at play here that reminds me of Simon and Garfunkel / Van Morrison… you’ll just have to listen to hear what I mean.
‘Nice as a Fool can Be’ let’s it breathe, putting most of the work on the vocal line. The horns do a great job of cradling the guitar, which comes through like melted butter on this one. ‘If You’re Thinkin’ What I’m Thinkin’ brings us home on a slow, suspicious groove, sax solo included!
The verdict is favorable. This is a damn fine blues record. Cray may have only written 4 of the tracks, but I’m willing to turn a blind eye to that since the blues is so steeped in the tradition of passing down/covering songs. While in my opinion it lacks any genre defining tunes, and doesn’t break any new ground – it is worth having in your rotation! His playing is clean, crisp, and impactful. The band sounds great. If you love blues, are curious about blues, want to explore Robert Cray – START HERE!
Respect, DJ O’K