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4.2 out of 5 stars
Blak and Blu
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75 of 80 people found the following review helpful
Format: Audio CD
I am a bit surprised by all of the ambivalent reviewers on Amazon. This album is remarkable from start to finish and I'm not finding any dull tracks whatsoever.

First, let's get something clear. Gary Clark Jr. is not a newcomer as some people are suggesting. He has several self-released albums which for some reason are not available on Amazon but I have in my iTunes library: Worry No More, 110, Gary Clark Jr. and the commercially released Bright Lights EP. Those releases sound like demos compared to 'Blak and Blu' - which offers rich instrumental arrangements and seamlessly unites the classic with the modern.

The production is diverse and provides a fusion of so many different influences and genres: a creature that's part Jimi Hendrix, part Gov't Mule, part Amorica/Three Snakes-era Black Crowes, and a tablespoon of Ben Harper, while interstitially placing songs resonating classic Muddy Waters and even Marvin Gaye ("Please Come Home" is the modern-day "Distant Lover"). And his guitar solos? Please. He hits each one with such conviction and emotion that you can't but shake your head in amazement.

This album is The Truth. Clark hasn't gone 'commercial'-- for crying out loud several of the tracks are over seven-and-a-half minutes long. This is an expression of a true Bluesman, and I believe this is a work that will be influential to a new generation of rock musicians.

Please, pick up this record and listen through it, and I assure you that you'll be pleased.
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36 of 42 people found the following review helpful
on October 22, 2012
Format: Audio CD
I saw Gary Clark Jr perform on the first day of Chicago leg of the Dave Matthews Band Caravan last summer (July 8, 2011), and I have been waiting for him to release a full album ever since that day. Shortly after Gary Clark Jr started playing that day I knew that I would be buying any album he released on day one. Until today, I had been living off a fan's audience recording of Clark Jr's performance at the Caravan, but now I have an entire album and a wider variety of music to experience.

But enough about me. Here is my take on the album:

The tracks range from up tempo (Ain't Messin' 'Round; Travis County) to a bit of hip hop (Blak and Blu, The Life) to blues (Bright Lights) to a "crunchy" cover of 'Third Stone from the Sun.' I love the throw back to the Chuck Berry style guitar in 'Travis County,' and even though it is the second shortest song on the album it is one of my favorites already. 'Bright Lights' is one of the biggest highlights from the first time I heard Gary Clark Jr, so I was excited to see it included on this album and it does not disappoint. Finally, I want to comment on 'Next Door Neighbor Blues.' As soon as that track started playing I immediately thought of Robert Johnson and other early blues artists. It sounds like it was recorded in the studio next to Johnson back in the '30s, and I mean that in the best way possible. You can really hear the influence that old-time blues has had on Clark Jr not only in the recording style of this song, but also in story in the lyrics and the way he plays his acoustic guitar. It is truly one of the gems of the album.

I have been through the album twice, and it will be playing on a loop in my car and on my iPod for the next day or so before settling into my regular rotation.

Overall, if you're a fan of excellent guitar work with a heavy blues influence, you should pick up a copy of 'Blak and Blu.'
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15 of 18 people found the following review helpful
on October 23, 2012
Format: Audio CD
Having listened to Gary Clark Jr.'s EPs extensively and getting a chance to see him live this year at Lollapalooza, my expectations for this album were almost impossibly high. He is the first guitarist in a long time who can do things with the guitar that truly blow me away, and his Lolla performance gave me the kind of chills I expected after hearing his EPs and understanding what he was capable of.

So it comes as no great surprise that his first major studio-album has left somewhat of a sour taste in my mouth after a few start-to-finish listens. The album starts with blaring horns more reminiscent of a Bruce Springsteen album than someone who has the chance to be this generation's Hendrix. And those horns would serve as an unfortunate omen to the rest of the album - an incredibly overproduced, glaringly obvious attempt to appeal to the masses.

In some ways I can't blame Gary or his producers for putting out something like this. In this age of piracy and pop garbage it's becoming increasingly harder for "real" musicians to make a living. And there are certainly moments on the album that succeed in exhibiting Gary's unbelievable talents (Particularly: When My Train Pulls In, Glitter Ain't Gold, Numb, Third Stone From the Sun, You Saved Me and of course Bright Lights, though I prefer the rawer EP version to this album's version). But mixed within these gems are some songs that I'm not even convinced Gary Clark Jr. himself likes - particularly The Life (which was listenable on the EP version, borderline-embarrassing on this album) and the title track (am I listening to R. Kelly?). Then there's Please Come Home which, in the EP version, has an absolutely spine-tingling solo (starting at 1:35 in for those who want to hear it in its pure form) that has trouble distinguishing itself in the LP version because of the melodies his producers have looped over it.

All in all, there are tracks on this album very much worth listening to. Anyone who has never heard Gary Clark Jr. before will probably be very impressed by the skills that his producers have managed to display on certain tracks. But for Gary purists like myself, this is just another album falling victim to the heavy hand of producers and pop-radio influence. If you like anything you hear on this album, SEE HIM LIVE! He truly is a legend-in-the-making, and his skills can only be fully appreciated while watching his hands navigate the fretboard with the precision of a brain surgeon, creating magical sounds that soothe the soul. My hope is that he will revert back to this ability in future albums, rather than allowing his producers to strive for mass appeal.
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14 of 18 people found the following review helpful
on October 22, 2012
Format: MP3 Music
Gary Clark Jr. (skilled guitarist and fellow Texas homie) has been on the music scene for a number of years now. Finally, he hits a homerun and scores a breakthrough with 'Blak and Blu'. He released an EP last year that contains a few songs that were nicely re-recorded for this release. The entire album is stellar, but here are some comments about my favorite tracks:

~"The Life" - My favorite song on the CD and probably my favorite of any artist this year. It's a sincere exercise of introspection and a bright and hopeful gaze toward a better life. I can easily hear a *true* hip-hop artist contributing some meaningful verses to a remix.

~"You Saved Me" - An apparent ode to his muse, this one sounds like something Prince would have done. The guitar work is killer!

~"Things Are Changin'" - The voice distortion gives a nice touch to this acknowledgement of two lovers at a crossroads.

~"Travis County" - A fun salute to the rock and blues of the late 50s/early 60s (a la Chuck Berry), Gary renders a tale of a short stint in the Travis County jail.

~"Bright Lights" - With a justifiable confidence that is irresistible, he sings, "you're gonna know my name." No doubt about it! The guitar solo kicks muchass!

~"Next Door Neighbor Blues" - A old, wooden porch, overalls delight of a gem. I can't wait to hear this one live in concert!

Blak and Blu is one of the best CDs of the year! Obviously, I gravitate to his more mid-tempo songs. But Gary Clark Jr.'s eclecticism and musical gifts should appeal to a wide range of people with (what I consider) great taste in music. I don't know the first thing about guitar, but I know good music when I hear it. Blak and Blu is outstanding!
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11 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on October 25, 2012
Format: Audio CD
All reviews are subjective and many reviewers try to confine and define the musicians effort. Not here. Gary does something on Blak and Blu that does not happen often these days.....displays his vast talent and versatility, whether you like it or not. He samples various genres of music while flowing from one to the other almost effortlessly. Kudos to the production team for determining the arrangement and order of song choice. I heard much of what the other first reviewers speak of on the first listen.....but after not giving in to hear say and listening to Blak and Blu over and over, I find it to be infectious and a very good effort by a musician who refuses to be labeled. I hope you do too.
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on November 6, 2012
Format: Audio CD
This album blew me away! First of all ... I've known about Gary Clark Jr. for about three days now. I saw him in a video of a live performance of "Bright Lights" and I was completely blown away. Immediately got online and downloaded this entire CD. After hearing the whole album about ten times now - I'm completely in love with it. I don't EVER get excited by music anymore, but this guy is such a genius I go around to friends and co-workers now saying ... "Have you ever listened to Gary Clark Jr.?"

Seriously - this guy nails it and two or three of him would revive rock and roll and the blues and wake those genres up from the sleepy state they've been in for about two decades.

Okay - this album ... it receives criticism because it seems to be "all over the place" - but that's EXACTLY Gary's strength here. First, let's remember here that Gary's always said that he was influenced by ALL genres of music - including country music. Yeah, it's pretty unexpected that Gary didn't stay well within the lifelines of the "Blues" but he's making a bold statement about himself here that he's not going to be "labeled" by anyone.

This album has Blues - done right. Funk - done right. Psychedelic - done right. Hip Hop, Bee-bop - all done right. If you want an album where every song sounds the same - go buy something by BOSTON. If you want something that will send a chill up your spine every song - buy this!

I'm NOT even a fan of Hip Hop - yet the Hip Hop influence on this album makes me feel GOOD. Gary just "lifted" the good and meaningful parts of the Hip Hop genre right out of their box and laid them all out on this album in a way everyone can enjoy. I was playing this in my work center yesterday and a co-worker (also a hip hop hater) came into my cube and remarked ... "Damn, this is a pretty damn good groove here - who is that?"

Psychedelic ... AMAZING! Dude, here we are here in the 21st century and we have this black guy from Texas belting out some of the best psychedelic sounds we've heard in a generation! He's belting these sounds out on an Epiphone Casino (same guitar John Lennon and George Harrison used for years - and the same one that Paul McCartney said that if he "could only have one guitar - this would be the one".) NOBODY plays a Casino anymore! But Gary has his Casinos and he's fuzzin' 'em out with some kind of fuzz box and it all just puts you back into the time of Jimi Hendrix. And yeah - you can hear a lot of the Hendrix sound on this album.

I know a lot of people wanted for Gary to be TRUE to the Blues but people - this guy is far too talented to be put in any kind of box. Leave this guy to his own devices - and I guarantee he'll start a new musical revolution that will shake up the airwaves once again. There's no doubt in my mind that this guy is going to be a heavy influence on young players coming up in the ranks today.
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15 of 21 people found the following review helpful
on October 22, 2012
Format: Audio CDVerified Purchase
This album is one of the biggest head scratchers I have ever heard. The songs nearly alternate between outstanding and unlistenable all the way through. I can't help but feel poor Mr. Clark was influenced by the big-time producers and Warner Bros. to include some radio-friendly nonsense like The Life (seriously, how embarrassed would you be if you were blasting that song and someone came in the room?). I think the album overall is a bit overproduced and studio-gimmicky, when they should have let this wonderful talent do what he does best. I would recommend downloading: When My Train Pulls In, Numb, Bright Lights, Third Stone......, and Next Door Neighbor Blues. I wish I had previewed the album before buying, because I certainly can't imagine putting on Please Come Home or The Life anytime soon.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on October 30, 2012
Format: Audio CD
I had heard of but not heard Gary Clark Jr. so this CD is a fresh take for me. I especially enjoy the sincere committed guitar playing with excellent blues-based songs and solos. The range of material suggests he doesn't want to be pigeon-holed as a blues musician. Not all the urban Afro-pop/funk is to my taste, but it's pretty well done. Whether including this material was an artistic or commercial decision doesn't matter to me; I credit the artist for showing he can write, sing and play in other styles. I'm playing to see him live ASAP!
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on October 26, 2012
Format: Audio CD
WOW!!

I picked this album up at Starbucks while buying my morning coffee, and recognized the artist from all the good vibes I've heard about him on the internet. I never heard his EP, never listened to him on Youtube, and really hadn't heard as much as one note from him.

This album rocked me a bit. I listened to the whole thing twice during my commute and couldn't quite figure out what to think. I heard Eric Clapton, Jimi Hendrix, Prince (the Artist Formerly Known As), Chuck Berry, R&B, Soul, Delta Blues, and a smattering of so many other styles I couldn't quite put a finger on, other than knowing that I LOVED IT.

I came to realize that even though I may not have liked every song, they were all brilliant in a different way from each other. If anyone listened to Jack White's Blunderbuss earlier this year, I liken this album to the absolutely fresh approach each of these different artists brought to their respective musical styles.

Impressive stuff for the exquisite music it brought. Listen carefully. It's all there.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on June 20, 2014
Format: Audio CDVerified Purchase
This great new talent is trying to appeal to too many genres. Stick with the crunchy, bluesy stuff. Others do the glossy R&B stuff better. Few play blues as well as this young man.
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