Picks and Pans Review: Robbie Robertson

updated 01/18/1988 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 01/18/1988 AT 01:00 AM EST

Robbie Robertson

Other than some sound track work, Robertson, once guitarist and songwriter for the Band, has been away from recording for a full decade. His return—and first solo album—is a powerful, deeply satisfying record. Only a few songs—Showdown at Big Sky, Broken Arrow and Sonny Got Caught in the Moonlight—resemble the evocative folk-rock sound of his former group, and those mainly because of the aching background vocals patterned on the harmonies employed by the Band. Robertson's own voice seems to have coarsened even more in the intervening years, but he makes effective use of such guest singers as the BoDeans, Rick Danko and Ivan Neville to mask his deficiencies. The basic tone of the album is a cross between Peter Gabriel and U2. That's hardly surprising, because both Gabriel and Bono lend striking vocals to this album. Daniel Lanois, who has distinguished himself producing Gabriel and U2, co-produced this collection with Robertson. Lanois uses all his production tricks, including unassertive but hypnotic percussive effects. Once again he crafts a spacious aural environment that summons visions of a meadow festooned with ribbons blowing in the wind. Apart from the rumbling Hell's Half Acre and the dark gospel of Testimony, there isn't much to grab listeners the way pop albums are designed to do. Maybe that's the difference between the glitter of fool's gold and the less apparent glow of a valuable nugget like this. (Geffen)

From Our Partners