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# A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

Steve Robinson - Swallowing the Sun

  by Malcolm Carter

published: 5 / 5 / 2021

Steve Robinson - Swallowing the Sun
Label: Sunshine Drenchy
Format: CD


Classic folky-pop with Beatle touches. on first album in five years from former Headlight and Roger McGuinn sideman Steve Robinson

It was never going to be easy to follow-up ‘Cycle’, the album Steve Robinson made with Ed Woltil back in 2015 ; an album of perfect, intelligent pop songs. Again, it’s never easy to pigeon-hole the music of Robinson or Woltil but artists such as Nilsson, Neil Finn and even the Beatles are a few that come to mind as their albums unfold. Now, in the first few months of what looked like a gloomy 2021, Robinson has unleashed his latest solo album, ‘Swallowing the Sun’ and what an inspiring, uplifting experience it is. Hailing from Northern England has always coloured Robinson’s lyrics; his move to Florida has obviously tinted his music. While you don’t have to dig too deep to find references to his formative years spent in the UK, even his most melancholy songs are uplifting due to the gorgeous melodies Robinson without fail cradles his words in. ‘Swallowing the Sun’, is an apt title for this collection of songs. While probably not intentional it pretty well sums up Robinson’s warm, inviting vocal style. It feels unfair to compare Robinson to other artists; he’s so talented in his own right, but again he doesn’t make it easy to avoid. ‘Quiet One’ is obviously Robinson channeling George Harrison, something he does so well. He avoids the sickly-sweet touches that other, better-known artists have exploited when trying to capture the beauty in Harrison’s work. Robinson has captured more of Harrison’s spirit in this song that any other I’ve heard. XTC’s Dave Gregory lends sublime slide guitar to the track; coupled with Robinson’s thoughtful lyrics and his unique but familiar vocal style it would be the highlight on any album but on an album full of such riches it’s impossible to pick just one song out for attention. ‘Swallowing the Sun’ was co-produced by Robinson with Woltil and they’ve lost none of the magic that made ‘Cycles’ such an embarrassment of riches. While Robinson has described his music as either folky-pop or poppy-folk and his love of ‘60s pop is never far from sight in his,work, it’s obvious even from the opening track that Robinson isn’t stuck in some ‘60s bubble. ‘Sorry Amsterdam’ has some subtle lyrical nods to the Smiths and, if it wasn’t for Robinson’s warm vocals, the listener could be forgiven for closing their eyes and drifting back to the ‘80s believing the Smiths were in the room. But the next song, ‘Wild God’ puts paid to any thoughts that Robinson was going to present us with an album which could be classed as his ‘80s phase. Rolling acoustic guitar eventually gives way to sterling lead guitar while Robinson once again proves just how underrated he is as a lyricist. “Eat your words and spew your junk/Fill your boots till you’re all sunk/Drunk on wild god”, is the chorus and the verses are even more scathing against, as Robinson says, "the religious pretenders." While his lyrics are making their mark, the listener is distracted by the drum track and the atmospheric nuances scattered throughout the track. ‘Milk and a Dash’ is one of those songs in which Robinson is going to bring a smile to the face of any expat, or a tear in the eye even. Often Robinson takes inspiration from his past in Northern England in his lyrics. He has a talent for conjuring up times past in his lyrics and he doesn’t take a whole song to paint a picture. At times one line is enough. It’s on songs such as ‘Milk and a Dash’ that Robinson proves that he’s up there with Ray Davies lyrically. The opening line, 'Shadows on the Radiogramme' will be enough to capture the attention of those of a certain age ; “the smell of baked beans and spam” will seal the deal. Almost any line from this song will evoke memories (“The Queen with her Gilbert on with her favourite songs/She’s getting the words all wrong”). It’s up there with Robinson’s best. His vocals, especially the background vocals, on this track are simply superb. ‘Skinful’ is where Robinson shows his more serious side. An aching acoustic ballad, given more pathos courtesy of Steve Connelly’s pedal steel guitar. The lyrics touch on a range of emotions many are going through in these challenging times ( “Scared to tell the truth when they ask you if there’s anything wrong/Acting like a bull in a china shop with ballet shoes on” ).Again Robinson’s vocals are outstanding, the production and playing are simply breathtaking and it’s yet another song that proves that Robinson is vastly underrated as a vocalist and songwriter. ‘Make You Mine’ is classic Robinson ‘folky-pop’; strings adding to the jauntiness is another once heard never forgotten cut again displaying Robinson’s skill with lyrics. Dave Gregory makes a return on guitar on ‘Needle in the Red’. It is another captivating melody while lyrically the song is open to the listener;s own interpretation. These ears hear the track as being an anti-drug song, especially given its title, but whatever the listener takes away from the song, those lyrics and cutting guitar lines will hang around for days, or at least until it’s given another play. A remarkable piece of music. ‘Dizzy Love Song’ is Robinson in Beatles mode; harmonica as catchy as the common cold and a melody that is irresistible. It’s one of Robinson’s sunny folk songs that’s impossible not to love. The album closes with ‘Proud of Our Love’, an acoustic ballad obviously directed at a loved one with outstanding lead guitar lines it displays Robinson’s folk leanings perfectly and is a fitting end to the album. After ‘Cycle’ it felt that Robinson had maybe reached his peak, five years down the line it still sounds fresh and each track is a perfect little shiny pop gem, but ‘Swallowing the Sun’ even suppresses those songs. Not a second is wasted and it’s one of those albums which you simply have to play over as soon as it’s finished. There are rumours of another Robinson/Woltil collaboration, a follow-up to ‘Cycles’, but even if it doesn’t appear this year we have enough here to get us through 2021. Right now I’m going to wrap myself in ‘Skinful’, watery-eyed I’ll know I’ll end up hitting replay. Robinson’s songs reach out and touch me like few others make me feel happy/sad and isn’t that the whole point?

Track Listing:-
1 Sorry Amsterdam
2 Wild God
3 Quiet One
4 Milk and a Dash
5 Mr Empty Head
6 Skinful
7 Make You Mine
8 Needle in the Red
9 Smiling Delirious
10 Dizzy Love Song
11 Proud of Our Love

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