Picks and Pans Review: Storyville

updated 11/11/1991 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 11/11/1991 AT 01:00 AM EST

Robbie Robertson

The former front man for the Band ventured to New Orleans to record his second solo album. He named it for a bygone bawdy section of the city and brought some of the abundant local talent, including the Meters, the Zion Harmonizers and the Rebirth Brass Band, into the studio with him. The few cuts with a discernible Crescent City influence are quite flavorful, such as the spirited gospel-processional "Shake This Town," and "Go Back to Your Woods," which tints a funky swamp crawl with a little Motown (hear the riff borrowed from the Temptations' "Cloud Nine"?), a little blues and a bracing horn contingent.

Robertson's greatest liability is his ravaged voice. When the mood is spooky, however, the hushed intensity of his delivery can remind you of someone telling a ghost story by a campfire. But he makes his wisest vocal decision on the haunting "Day of Reckoning (Burnin' for You)," when he simply recites most of the lyrics.

A more charismatic singer—say, Sammy Lianas of the BoDeans—might have really put this material across. With Robertson, it's heavy on atmosphere, light on appeal. (Geffen)

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