Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Lost Gem Of The 80s #1: Robbie Robertson - st (1987)

It’s easy to decide how you’re going to feel about Robbie Robertson. You just have to look at the credits.

We’ll start with Robbie himself. We know he’s the esteemed guitarist and songwriter for The Band (a band I never liked until I saw Scorsese’s Last Waltz). That alone brings a lot of trust and respect. Now, this album doesn’t veer toward the lean country blues the Band were so steeped in, but these are the 80s afterall.

Then look at the guests. The first names to pop out are going to be U2 and Peter Gabriel, and both contributions are pretty noticeable. These make sense considering the album is produced by Daniel Lanois, who also produced U2’s Joshua Tree and Gabriel’s So (two seminal albums of any era), as well as Bob Dylan’s comeback (and best album in my opinon), Time Out Of Mind. And, like U2 and Gabriel, he has a style that’s easy to spot. It’s sweaty and atmospheric. If you do the math, you could easily see the songs on this album as extensions, or even outtakes, if you will, of Joshua Tree and So. If two of the greatest albums ever hooked up and spawned, wouldn’t you be interested in the results? U2 are more than guests, they’re the band for two tracks “Sweet Fire Of Love” and “Testimony”. You know it’s them the second a guitar is strummed or a drum is hit.

Also on board, though less of a headline, are The BoDeans and Ivan Neville (son of Aaron). Round that out with various members of the Band, and it's obvious what this is going to be about and sound like. While these may not mean as much to unfamiliar listeners, rest assured they are in keeping with the quality of the others. Overall, some pretty good genes.

It’s tempting to think the guests almost steal the album right out from under Robertson, but that isn’t the way to look at it. They lend their talents to compliment his. All of the songs are powerful, in that 80s Reagan/Bush Sr. kind of way, and vaguely political, also in that 80s Reagan/Bush Sr. kind of way. One of the singles, “Showdown At Big Sky”, got some airplay and MTV played the video a few times. It best sums up what you’re in for. Also on the album is the original version of “Broken Arrow”, a song made famous a few years later by Rod Stewart, albeit in an inferior version.

It took Robbie 11 years to release a solo album, and he’s only released 3 others since, but this is an excellent piece of music from any era. If you don’t believe me, check out #77 on Rolling Stone’s list of the 100 Best Albums Of The 80s.

The Nugget - "Sweet Fire Of Love". Again, it's that great lost track any U2 fan, and there are a couple, needs to be aware of.


dish said...

Albeit, not from the 80's, but the Rick Danko solo album is quite good as well.

Juice and Rye said...

ok, just found this blog.
pretty sick, jon, because this takes some time. as a recovering blogger, i can say, peace be on you and your family.

thx for the heads up on NERD (skater p is sweet); i'll let you know about GITD. i'm total poser going, but jen told me to get over it.

now...i'm read for Robbie. but don't take joshua tree in vain. seriously. entire part of my life spent listening to that on family vacations.