Bob Desper: New Sounds

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Bob Desper: <i>New Sounds</i>

A cult favorite resurfaces

New Sounds, the only album ever released by blind singer and guitarist Bob Desper, came out on a tiny Portland, Ore. label in 1974.

It eventually became a prized collectible for fans of downer-folk, with copies selling for a thousand bucks or more. The record certainly has its charms: Desper’s yearning voice encompasses Tim Buckley’s dreaminess and Chris Isaak’s melancholy, while the sole accompaniment—his ringing acoustic guitar—is gorgeous, despite what must have been a minuscule recording budget.

But the songwriting is simply adequate, offering pleasantly forgettable melodies and mild lyrics that reflect a spiritual—and sometimes specifically Christian—bent with clichés like, “Just remember there’s a better day.” Discourage Records’ vinyl reissue of New Sounds comes with a bonus 7-inch of Desper’s 1972 single, “Dry Up Those Tears,” with its obvious George Harrison influence. Too bad there wasn’t a sequel to 1974’s promising beginning; though still living in Oregon, Desper hasn’t recorded since.