Robert Cray Band – That’s What I Heard

Album Review | Nozzle Records/Thirty Tigers | Review by Allan Wilkinson | Stars: 4/5

For those of us who remember his breakthrough album Strong Persuader, back in the mid-1980s, which contains the highly memorable “Right Next Door”, together with TV appearances on such shows as the The Tube, the name Robert Cray will no doubt be synonymous with both the soulful blues musicians of old, such as Sam Cooke, Curtis Mayfield and Bobby ‘Blue’ Bland as well as anything associated with the blues.  In the appropriately entitled That’s What I Heard, Cray and his band re-visit some of the songs that clearly demonstrate where his influences lie, with some fine interpretations of Mayfield’s “You’ll Want Me Back”, Deadric Malone’s You’re the One” and Don Gardner’s infectious “My Baby Likes To Boogaloo”.

If Cray’s distinctive guitar playing has earned him the reputation he very much deserves, playing alongside such notables as Eric Clapton and Buddy Guy, then it’s with his voice that we concentrate on here.  The opener “Anything You Want”, one of four original Cray compositions, is every bit as good as anything we’ve come to expect from the band over the years and for the all-out gospel sound of “Burying Ground”, Cray recalls the Sensational Nightingales, but also some of the iconic Ry Cooder recordings of the mid-1970s, notably the live Showtime set at the same time.  Produced by Steve Jordan, whose song “Promises You Can’t Keep”, co-written by Danny Korchmar and Kim Wilson, is one of the album highlights, also features guest appearances by Ray Parker Jr and Steve Perry.  That’s What I Heard could very well be your next Saturday night and Sunday morning album simultaneously.

Choice Track: To Be With You (NSV 499)