Robert CRAY – Strong Persuader 1986

Robert CRAY – Strong Persuader 1986
UDCD 564

Blues

STRONG PERSUADER won a 1988 Grammy for Best Contemporary Blues Recording.

1986’s STRONG PERSUADER was a milestone both for Robert Cray and blues in the ’80s. It earned Cray, a veteran of the Pacific Northwest blues scene, both his first solo Grammy and Top 30 hit (“Smoking Gun”) along with a lift out of the blues ghetto which he’d been excelling in during recent years. As for the blues themselves, Cray infused fresh blood into a genre that had been limping along in that particular decade.

With a smooth singing style to go with an equally recognizable guitar tone, Cray developed a sound that owed as much to soul stylist O.V. Wright as it did to Texas guitarist Albert Collins (with whom Cray had won a Grammy along with Johnny Copeland the prior year). The use of the Memphis Horns strengthened the soul connection on songs such as the punchy “Nothing But A Woman” and the chugging effervescence of “Guess I Showed Her.” Of course, Cray’s heart lay in the blues and when he wasn’t lamenting the woes of infidelity in “Right Next Door (Because Of Me)” and a bad break-up in “Still Around,” his guitar playing smoldered throughout the forlorn “New Blood.”
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Cray’s music contains sometimes sexual lyrics, which are showcased on Strong Persuader. Some lyrics from “Fantasized”, for example: “She had sugar-sweet lips and magical hips just like I fantasized, what a slow ride, she moaned and she cried just like I fantasized.”
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The set that made Cray a pop star, despite its enduring blues base. Cray’s smoldering stance on “Smoking Gun” and “Right Next Door” rendered him the first sex symbol to emerge from the blues field in decades, but it was his innovative expansion of the genre itself that makes this album a genuine 1980s classic. “Nothing but a Woman” boasts an irresistible groove pushed by the Memphis Horns and some metaphorically inspired lyrics, while “I Wonder” and “Guess I Showed Her” sizzle with sensuality.
By Bill Dahl. AMG.
**
Stinging urban blues by way of Texas and Memphis distinguish Robert Cray’s major-label debut, which followed three strong independent releases. Here he fleshes out his sound with bursts of brassy Southern soul courtesy of the Memphis Horns, but keeps his pungent, steely guitar solos out front in an engaging dialogue with his plaintive vocals. Released in 1986, Strong Persuader signaled that Cray, as a writer like his contemporary Stevie Ray Vaughan–had something to say about his interior life beyond the usual bluesman’s laments, an approach that pays homage to the music’s rich traditions while suggesting new areas of inquiry.
By David McGee.
**
Robert Cray hits the bulls-eye with this collection of blues, rock and soul. His fast, dexterous guitar is always melodic, never gimmicky, and he leads a tight, no-frills backup band that often manages to sound like a Muscle Shoals studio band of the sixties. Robert’s strong, clear voice conveys both rage and humor (sometimes at the same time!) but from the cover picture, you know the humor is the real message. The songs are mainly about love’s suspicions and betrayals, most prominently in “Smoking Gun”, and his lyrics are always compelling. Every song delivers flawlessly, making it impossible to nitpick or say some songs are better than others. There is nothing innovative or unusual about “Strong Persuader”, it’s all been done before, but few have done it as well, or managed to sound so distinctive as Robert Cray. This Seattle native has held a steady popularity among his fans and music critics, but despite his amazing singing and playing, his thorough professionalism, and his “marquee good looks”, he never broke out into really massive popular appeal. What a shame!
By Andy Agree.
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Robert Cray-G uitar, vocals
Peter Boe- Keyboards
Andrew Love- Tenor Sax
Wayne Jackson- Trumpet, Trombone
Lee Spath- Percussion (tracks: 3, 6, 9)
Richard Cousins- Bass
David Olson- Drums
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01. Smoking Gun  4:09
02. I Guess I Showed Her  3:40
03. Right Next Door (Because Of Me)  4:21
04. Nothin’ But A Woman  3:59
05. Still Around  3:42
06. More Than I Could Stand  3:00
07. Foul Play  4:19
08. I Wonder  3:58
09. Fantasized  4:05
10. New Blood  4:21
**


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