Sunday, April 22, 2012

15 great tunes from Robbie Robertson's solo career

While I knew and liked a bit of the Band's work, I became a fan of Robbie Robertson when he released his first solo album in 1987. 
He had done a bit of quality soundtrack work, even a bit of acting since leaving the Band. I was excited to hear that the album would be produced by Daniel Lanois and feature appearances by the BoDeans, U2, Peter Gabriel and Maria McKee; all favorites of mine at the time.

Some of the guys in the Band may have been upset with Robbie for breaking up the band but he did what he said he was going to do;that is, get off the road and work sparingly. He could have cashed in and assembled a band to play all the old hits, but he didn't. He challenged himself and moved forward.

 His first solo album is a must own and it's follow up, "Storyville" is also great.  
I confess he started to lose me a bit with his next couple more experimental works but his return in 2011 with the excellent "How to become Clairvoyant" was a welcome addition to his legacy; another "must own".

Of course, sadly, the music world just lost the talented Levon Helm this week. It was a reminder that we have to appreciate artists while they are still with us. 
Buy their music, go to their shows; it doesn't last forever. Robbie Robertson is still among us and he deserves to be celebrated.

Here are 15 songs from his solo career .

I came to the party a bit late on this one, after purchasing a vinyl copy of the soundtrack to the "King of Comedy" in the early 90's. 
This song is so heartfelt and so passionately delivered. His old Band mates Richard Manuel and Garth Hudson help him out on it.
It moves me every time I listen to it. I only wish it would be remastered and issued digitally.

                                        "Between Trains"

           Robbie's self-titled album is one of the best albums in the last 30 years.

                 I love the  BoDeans backing vocals on this one

                          "Showdown at Big Sky"


at the time , "Broken Arrow" might have been my favorite tune on the album. Obviously Rod Stewart had a pretty big hit with it, but it doesn't compare with the genuine soul of Robbie's original...

                                   "Broken Arrow"

           Another one with the BoDeans
                         "American Roulette"

 on the album version, U2 backed him. live Daniel Lanois joined him

 Sammy Llanas of the BoDeans had a "role" in this piece of musical noir

               "Somewhere Down the Crazy River"


"Storyville" was a worthy follow up, further exploring the mysteries of the night. His work in film and friendship with Martin Scorsese seems to have given him a vision and a knack to be able to "cast" the right musicians and singers to enhance his work. "Storyville" also featured excellent contributors like Ivan Neville, Bruce Hornsby and Paul Buchanan from the Blue Nile.

                            " What About Now"

 "Go Back to Your Woods" features Bruce Hornsby


                                           "Resurrection" was a great album closer.


Robbie did a great tune for the movie about firefighters,  "Ladder 49", shot here in Baltimore .

                                 "Shine Your Light"

"How to Become Clairvoyant" was one of the best albums of 2011 and it gets better with each listen. 
Once again Robbie "casts" some great musicians; his old friend Eric Clapton, Robert Randolph and Tom Morrello among them. 
This is music to listen to in deep dark night. Keep the lights off, relax and take it in.
It has a wisdom that only comes from experience. It has mystery, sensuality, and an aching sadness ...

                    "How To Become Clairvoyant"


This one reminds me of some of the great stuff Daniel Lanois has done

Might be my favorite from the cd

                                    "She's Not Mine"

            "He Don't Live Here no More" examines the life he had to leave behind for good to save himself....


        "Straight Down the Line" shows how 
             great Robert Randolph is on lap steel


a nice piece with Eric Clapton, 
another beauty filled with longing...

                               "Won't Be Back"

My only complaint is that Robbie doesn't tour! These days he could do a short run of theatres at his own pace, but it must not be artistically rewarding enough for him . 
Either way, I hope he continues to produce such fine music!

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