“I’m badass / badass / badass and blind”: that’s the proclamation that pop singer/songwriter musician Raul Midón makes at the top of Bad Ass and Blind. Categorizing Midón is tough given the eclecticism he brings to the table. Ultimately, his niche fuses elements of jazz, pop, and soul, among other genres, throughout. Bad Ass and Blind settles somewhere in the realm of contemporary jazz or jazz-pop. As the title suggests, he is a badass, showing incredible musical restlessness throughout the album. It pays off more often than not.
Title track “Badass and Blind” kicks off the album energetically, chocked full of funky vibes. By far the most risqué moment of the album, Midón showcases his flawless set of singing pipes, as well as dropping some bars — rap bars. While the rapping is more tongue ‘n’ cheek as opposed to hard-nosed, he definitely talks some trash. Midón cleans it up on “Red Green Yellow”, an easy-going jazz-pop joint. No gimmicks or frills to be found here; just sound, clear vocals.
“Pedal to the Metal” packs more punch while maintaining that crisp and clean jazz shtick. While Midón may not channel his inner badass like he does on the seminal title track, he continues to shine. Among highlights are the electric guitar section and the harmonically unpredictable bridge. “Wings of Mind” is the first ‘traditional’ jazz track on Bad Ass and Blind. String bass strengthens this traditional identity, coupled with a hard-swinging groove, and furious comping piano truly sets the harmonic identity, particularly during the solo section. Even through the intensity, Midón maintains the utmost cool, never over-singing. He concludes dramatically, giving the song its biggest moment.
Midón remains easy-going on “If Only”, navigating through the harmonic changes like a pro. Despite its length, “If Only” packs a respectable punch, aided by the drum groove and overall tidiness of the production. Even the gritty electric guitar solo isn’t too gritty — it’s just enough ‘stank’ to propel things to the next level. “Sound Shadow” is brief but intriguing, with the accompaniment comprised of highly syncopated guitar, creating a driving effect. Oxymoronic, it’s busy, yet smooth as butter. Once more, he is on autopilot, adding the cherry on top.
“Jack” ranks among the most thoughtful moments from Bad Ass and Blind. A tender, sentimental ballad, Midón delivers the record with passion and indisputable authenticity. While the particular song doesn’t feature a notable climax, its pleasant and enjoyable sound is undeniable. Dedication and all things ‘warm and fuzzy’ remain the m.o. on follow-up, “You & I”. Aided by the gift of groove, there’s more ‘fuel for the fire’ compared to “Jack”. While the title and subject matter are arguably cliché, Midón sells them sensationally with his masterful instrument. “You & I” picks up more steam within the last minute, where he’s supported by backing vocals, not to mention employing a dash of falsetto.
“All That I Am” returns to jazzier stylings, similar to “Wings of Mind”. Swing has returned full force, giving Bad Ass and Blind another traditional moment. Even with old school in mind, there are enough quirks to keep the joint from sounding anachronistic. The piano solo, in particular, is superb. “Gotta Gotta Give” embraces more of a retro, funk-jazz sensibility. It’s not far-fetched from “Badass and Blind”, sporting the same swagger. Compared to “All That I Am”, “Gotta Gotta Give” is much more contemporary. Midón concludes with a classic courtesy of The Steve Miller Band: “Fly Like an Eagle”. He doesn’t play it straight—there are some altered harmonies to keep things interesting. Still, the classicism is maintained.
All in all, Raul Midón meets the expectations of the album’s title. Indeed, he’s Bad Ass and Blind. While this LP doesn’t reinvent the jazz script, some successful risks take place. Of course, that’s assuming one considers Bad Ass and Blind a ‘jazz’ album. If that’s the play, Midón doesn’t throw too much at the fan base. Sure, the rhymes and profanity are surprising, but beyond that, he focuses on his craft as opposed to his place in the rap game. Ultimately, this is a sound, well-rounded offering.