Tad Robinson

Tad Robinson
Back In Style

Severn Records

By Art Tipaldi
July 2010

I had to check the CD to make sure it was a Tad Robinson record in the player and not Al Green. From the opening pulses of Kevin Anker’s Hammond organ to Robinson’s throaty whispers, Back In Style harkens back to the soul salad days of Hi Records and Willie Mitchell. Robinson is one of a handful of white singers who can effectively interpret soul and blues. It’s all first class soul here.

With soul dripping from every syllable, Robinson can deliver Motown, Stax, Chicago blues, or greasy Memphis soul with respect and a singer’s commitment. The core band Robinson has assembled is first rate with guitarist Alex Schultz, Steve Gomes on bass, Rob Stupka on drums, and Anker and Benjie Porecki on keyboards. The addition of the Memphis Horns on the first five songs adds the perfect touch to the soul traditions Robinson loves.

The CD opener “Rained All Night” shows off Gomes’ continued songwriting expertise in this genre. With Robinson’s aching vocals, it’s heartbreak and lonlieness at the dark end of the street. Robinson’s “I’m In Good” leads off with Shultz recreating Robert Ward’s guitar lines in answer to Wayne Jackson’s nostalgic Hi Records horn arrangements as Robinson’s sleek voice announces a lover’s joy. Robinson’s falsetto calls lead off “Sunday Morning Woman,” a clever original dealing with the Saturday night/Sunday morning dilemma between blues and gospel. The record ends with a pair of retro soul styled tunes. Anker’s Wurlitzer and the heavy horns of Kenny Rittenhouse and Jerry Queene on “Turn to the Music” offers a hip swinging, bossa nova style. “Get Back to Love” ends the record with Robinson’s classy nod to how music could teach about love. As Schultz wrings terse moods from his strings, Robinson delivers his fervent plea to put the world aside and love in the moment.

Robinson’s two covers are “Just Out Of My Reach” (which sounds like a tune from the soundtrack of The Five Heartbeats) and an elegant reprise of Clarence Shields’ “You Name It, I’ve Had It.”

Whether Robinson ascends vocally from a whisper to a falsetto plead, from a painful howl to controlled pain, he can sing words with such a personal feeling it’s hard for a listener not to be personally touched. This is one of the top soul blues albums of the new blues year.

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