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June 1997

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Robert Ward & the Black Top All-Stars
Fear No Evil
Black Top

This review was first published in the April 1991 issue of the Phoenix Blues Society Blues News. Everything I said then about this CD is still true. Ward has released two subsequent CDs, but neither has approached the brilliance of Fear No Evil. For another absolutely awesome song by Ward, check out Black Top's 1991 compilation Blues Cocktail Party for his version of "The Comfort Table."

* * * * * *

Robert Ward album coverBlack Top Records' Hammond Scott has done it again by unearthing another long-lost music legend! A few years ago it was James "Thunderbird" Davis. Now he brings us Robert Ward, found living in Dry Branch, Georgia, 20 years after the last of his sessions with Motown Records.

Along with Jimmy Nolen of James Brown's Famous Flames, Ward helped to define the genre of funky R&B guitar. His style, with a powerful resonance obtained through the use of a Magnatone amplifier, was a major influence on the late Stevie Ray Vaughan and especially on Lonnie Mack.

Ward's first notoriety as a guitarist came in 1962 on The Falcons' "I Found A Love," backing the vocals of Wilson Pickett. Based in Dayton, Ohio, Ward also formed The Ohio Untouchables, which later became The Ohio Players after Ward left to work fulltime with Pickett.

Fear No Evil shows that Ward hasn't lost a thing since his heyday in the 60's. "Your Love Is Real" and "Something For Nothing" are the best examples of his blues style, and the three instrumentals on the disk really smoke. But the hottest number is the gospel-tinged "Lord Have Mercy On Me," on which Ward's vocal work outshines even his magnificent guitar playing. Imagine O.V. Wright singing with Pops Staples on guitar, and you'll have the right idea.

While not strictly a blues disk, Fear No Evil will satisfy any blues lover, especially those who like their guitars dirty and funky.

- Bill Mitchell

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