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Gary U.S. Bonds: Back in 20

About.com Rating 2.5 Star Rating


The cover of Back In 20

The cover of Back In 20

The Bottom Line

Gary's back, but he doesn't sound like his old self, either in concept or execution. The blues-rock numbers he essays here are competent, as is the backing band, but even the guest spots can't make up for the general lack of fire.
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  • Gary's new originals are fairly solid.
  • Bonds is backed by a great band.
  • A number of superstar cameos.


  • Gary's voice is not what it used to be.
  • No attempt to replicate his classic "sound."
  • As a blues-rock album, it's rather generic.


  • Gary U.S. Bonds
  • Studio Album
  • Comeback
  • Blues-rock

Guide Review - Gary U.S. Bonds: Back in 20

Gary "U.S." Bonds' brand of echo-laden party rock was a major fixture of the relatively dull pre-Beatle years of the early Sixties, but unlike many of his peers, he never went away - in fact, Bruce Springsteen helped him engineer an amazing comeback in the early Eighties with the hits "This Little Girl" and "Out of Work." Now he's back, along with Broooooce (and Southside Johnny, and Phoebe Snow, and the Allmans' Dickey Betts). Can lightning strike thrice?

Well, yes and no. Gary simply isn't what he used to be, or rather, his voice isn't - it's dropped in register and lost a good bit of its potency since his glory days. You might not even know this was Bonds without the CD case. And unlike the Eighties sides, these dozen songs don't really attempt to recreate the sound of his glory days. "Back In 20" really only works as a generic collection of blues and soul-based rock.

That said, it's not bad. Bonds covers Otis' "Dreams To Remember," Buster Brown's "Fannie Mae," Keb’ Mo’s “She Just Wants To Dance,” and Delbert's near-hit "Every Time I Roll The Dice," but the rest are originals co-written by Bonds himself. The startling he-said she-said duet with Snow, "Bitch/Dumb Ass," is a standout, as is "Murder And The First Degree" and "Don't Do It Here." The band’s tight, too, complete with a big, ballsy brass section. If you've always wanted to hear Bonds reinvent himself as a modern urban bluesman, this new CD will offer some limited thrills. But school, sadly, is not back in.

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