GVR Records – 2018
10 tracks; 48 minutes
Bear Williams is the alter ego of Larry Kimpel who will be a familiar name from his time as bassist/musical director with Maze (featuring Frankie Beverley). The name arises from his wife’s pet name for him and he decided to use it for this project. Using a band of experienced LA session players, Bear has created a solid album that mixes soul and Rn’B influences: Ricky Zahariades (Bill Champlin and many others) is on guitar/BV’s, Billy Steinway (Stevie Wonder, Patti Austin) on keyboards and Herman Matthews (Tower Of Power, Kenny Loggins, Teresa James) on drums; Julie Delgado duets on one track and adds B/V’s on others. Bear plays bass, handles lead vocals and wrote all the material apart from one cover, collaborating with Ricky and Billy on some of the songs.
Bear has a strong voice and uses it well on both uptempo material and ballads. The ballads in particular take us into familiar soul arrangements, Bear emoting well on tracks like “I Cry” and the title song which has some beautifully restrained playing from the band with acoustic guitar, shimmering piano and electric guitar as Bear bares his soul about his love for his partner. On “I’m Your Friend” Ricky’s guitar adds a hint of country over mainly acoustic backing.
Closer to the blues is “Backyard”, a mid-paced groove with the versatile Ricky laying down an extended solo that fits the style well, Bear recognising the merits of a girl who will lend a hand in the garden! Bear’s brooding bass opens the insistent groove of “No Love” in which he sings of having lots of possessions but “what kind of life is it with no love”. Maybe salvation lies in an “Old Fashioned Girl”, a track which builds up a head of steam as Bear celebrates his new love in fine style, Billy’s keys providing a backdrop to some double-tracked guitar work by Ricky that takes us briefly into Allmans territory, a fine start to the album. “Should’a Known Better” is a fast-paced funk/dance tune sure to get the feet moving and mid-tempo soul tune “I’ll Be The One To Last” takes us into Stevie Wonder territory.
The pick of the album for this reviewer was the medley of “Dancin’ Shoes/Two Of A Kind” which across 8 minutes blends funk, soul and catchy hooks to great effect. Ricky’s slide features on both halves of the medley and Julie Delgado duets on the lively “Two Of A Kind”. Both songs are attractive and certainly caught the attention of this listener. The sole cover is Rod Stewart and Ronnie Wood’s “Stay With Me” which seems a strange fit with the rest of the album which mainly celebrates Bear’s new found love but, for all its misogynist lyrics, it is an old favourite and the band plays it fairly straight, albeit without the sort of loose and louche feel of The Faces’ original.
Overall an enjoyable album with several high points. Not a blues album but still plenty to enjoy.