Atom Bomb

The Blind Boys Of Alabama, 2005

While the sound of traditional soul gospel is still unmistakably at its core, Atom Bomb, the group's latest album, includes The Blind Boys' most adventurous forays into pop music yet, featuring loops, raps and roaring blues riffs. The disc includes an exuberant version of the Fatboy Slim/Macy Gray tune "Demons," featuring rapper Gift of Gab from Blackalicious, while Los Lobos guitarist David Hidalgo and blues harp icon Charlie Musselwhite help recast Norman Greenbaum's gospel-rock classic "Spirit in the Sky" as a raw, Detroit-style boogie.

The 10-track disc also includes a joyous rendition of Eric Clapton/Blind Faith's "Presence of the Lord," featuring the legendary Billy Preston on Hammond B3, as well as The Blind Boys' spin on such traditional tunes as "Old Blind Barnabus" (a song suggested to the group by Tom Waits), "I Know I've Been Converted," "Talk About Suffering" and "Moses." The title song, meanwhile, is a remake of an early Cold War-era Soul Stirrers tune that proves uncannily relevant some 55 years later.

Reviews

  • Blind Faith: On possibly their best collection yet, the veteran vocal group drops a powerful Bomb Their latest release - sadly, their final one with George Scott, who died March 9 - is their best yet. The vocals of main singers Fountain, Scott, and Jimmy Carter are tight and harmonic, and the playing is stellar. If "Atom Bomb" is Scott's final legacy, it's a brilliant one; it's proof that there is power in music. Simply put, the album is the Blind Boy's best, and it will certainly go down as one of the year's greatest releases. Blues Review (USA)
  • Age shall not weary them... Now approaching their eighties, they're determined to make the most of their time and their energy is extraordinary. They're sounding pretty contemporary, too, with Gift Of Gab from Blackalicious rapping on powerful versions of Bill Wither's 'Demons' and the trad 'Moses'. Elsewhere, their gospel voices are given a funky undertow by Billy Preston's organ, and Charlie Musselwhite adds some slow-burning blues harmonica to an inspired collection, with a simmering take on 'Spirit In The Sky' a standout. Uncut (UK)
  • The old boys are back in town and feeling funky. 'Atom Bomb' builds on the remarkable 'There Will Be A Light'... and revels in a deep, swampy funk. They'd probably be offended at the suggestion, but 'Demons' weaves a groovy voodoo; 'Talk About Suffering' could fit in any Stax box set; and 'Spirit In the Sky' rocks like Gareth Gates never existed. Here's a recommendation you don't read very often: this is their best album in 65 years. MOJO (UK)
  • Room is surely being made on the shelf for Grammy number five. Atomic stuff. After grabbing four Grammys in as many years, the Blind Boys' senior standing means they can call upon the services of some seriously A-list musos. This time around, invites are hungrily accepted by blues harp king Charlie Musselwhite, Los Lobos guitarist David Hidalgo and that marvellous keysman Billy Preston. It's Preston's Hammond organ that announces the album's most surprising track, a cover of Macy Gray/Fatboy Slim's "Demons". As with many of their previous covers of secular songs, the Boys make it their own, aided by Blackalicious rapper Gift Of Gab. It's not the only time they turn to the pop world - one-hit wonder Norman Greenbaum's "Spirit In The Sky" also gets redefined here. Elsewhere it's sterling readings of hardy gospel fare, like the classic title track as well as "I Know I've Been Converted" and "Old Blind Barnabus" that resonate with the group's pedigree. Room is surely being made on the shelf for Grammy number five. Atomic stuff. HMV Choice (UK)
  • Ever since their inception in 1937, The Blind Boys Of Alabama have been rocking the earth with their powerhouse vocalisations, so Atom Bomb is quite an appropriate title for their latest album...All three singers get their chance to shine on different numbers throughout Atom Bomb. The deep warm tones of George Scott lead on the title track and are equally effective on the traditional Old Blind Barnabus and New Born Soul. Clarence Fountain is subtly expressive on Talk About Suffering and Eric Clapton's Presence Of The Lord, while Jimmy Carter positively lights up with testifying spirit on I Know I've Been Converted and Faith And Grace. And, of course, when all three harmonise then the ground really does start to vibrate. This is the fourth Blind Boys album in a row produced by John Chelew for Real World... The musicians gathered for Atom Bomb never steal the limelight, don't overplay, and work very well to provide tone and texture behind the vocals. fRoots (UK)
  • There's no turning back for the Blind Boys of Alabama. Trotted out on the old-time gospel circuit in 2000...the surviving septuagenarian Boys found a whole new audience for their fervent gospel harmonizing. Triumphant touring ensued, as did an all-star Christmas album and a full-length collaboration with Ben Harper. Atom Bomb turns the knobs up a notch on this tale of artistic resurrection. As Rick Rubin did with Johnny Cash, (John) Chelew, who's helmed albums for John Hiatt and Richard Thompson, now casts these rough-hewn voices as trendsetters and tastemakers... Atom Bomb affords the Boys more opportunity to assert themselves, as on gospel standards such as "Talk About Suffering"; the title track, then a topical hit for the Soul Stirrers in 1950; and "Old Blind Barnabas," a swinging number in the vein of "Run On" from Spirit of the Century... "Spirit in the Sky," a recasting of Norman Greenbaum's fuzz-tone classic, ropes in blues harpist Charlie Mussellwhite and David Hidalgo of Los Lobos, and tops it off with a little bit of ZZ Top's "La Grange." Now, that's explosive. Barnes and Noble.com
  • "Everybody's worried about that atom bomb," the legendary gospel quartet sings on a title track that, a changed choice of weapons aside, has the relevance today it did when the Pilgrim Travelers sang it during the Cold War '50s. But, they add, "no one seems worried about the day my Lord shall come." For baritone George Scott, who sang lead on the song, that final day came last Wednesday. Scott's dark, low voice played a more prominent role on Atom Bomb than on recent albums, providing a smooth foil to Clarence Fountain's shouts and a perfectly suited deep-blues accompaniment that might sound menacing if it weren't supporting promises of a better life on the other side. USA Today (USA)