Robert Cray
Midnight Stroll
(Mercury 846 652)

Oh, my late teens, how I roll my eyes at you now. How could you have enjoyed this slick overproduction and embarrassing lyrics? Ah, you were young and liked "the blues." Well, I got news for you: it's time to sell it back.

I am as surprised as anyone to learn upon pulling Midnight Stroll down from the shelf that it is a pretty crappy album. Used to love it. This was in my post-classic rock, pre-jazz mode, but the real question is how did this CD survive 8 years in my ever-more-finicky collection? Nostalgia, perhaps – "Bouncin' Back" is still a good song, "Walk Around Time" is nearly as good. But my Lordy, it sounds like a damn Bonnie Raitt album now that I hear it again.

At the time I would have argued that this was a good album because it marked a departure from Robert Cray's processed blues sound by adding R&B elements (Stax influences, mainly, courtesy the Memphis Horns). Cray's voice, I'm certain, has never sounded better than here, particularly the Al Green-isms on "Bouncin' Back."

And I still contend that Robert Cray is a fantastic guitar player. The problem may be the band: utterly boring and drenched in that 1989-90 reverb that could make no one sound good. Completely tight, but doing nothing.

"The Forecast (Calls For Pain)" was the single, but "Bouncin' Back is the only gem here. Pretty damn great soul song. The rest of the album sounds like it was recorded on a karaoke machine. I've never understood why a producer would aim to make real instruments sound fake. The rhythm section may as well have been an M1.

Oh, the folly of youth, the misery of college. Well, I'll say this for myself: I never owned a Bonnie Raitt album.

Review by Vice Principal Samuels