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Rich Robinson | Paper | review | rock | Lollipop
by Brian Varney
Though Rich Robinson was the silent brother in The Black Crowes, content to lurk in the shadows while brother Chris shot his mouth off about any and everything, he was also responsible for the vast majority of the band's riffs and songs and, according to some folks, desperate to be in the spotlight. The self-release of Paper, where Rich sings (for the first time), plays almost all the instruments (drums and keyboards are the only things played by someone else), produces, and even uses one of his own paintings as the cover, seems to support this theory. This is a solo album in the truest sense of the word.
Perhaps this is why I'm so surprised at how closely it stays to the course charted by the Crowes. I dunno why, but I figured that with this being such an obvious expression of independence, Rich would do his best to distance himself from past glories as his brother Chris has done on his two solo releases. I guess Rich figured that you stick to what you do best, which in his case is certainly the Southern-tinged classic hard rock sound that the Crowes perfected during their decade-plus, six-album run. A couple of the songs on Paper, such as "Enemy" or "Know Me," could easily pass as Crowes tracks, and I have no complaints about that.
However, in spite of the myriad similarities to one of my favorite bands, Paper is a dissatisfying experience. Perhaps it's because I've been spoiled by hearing Chris Robinson's fine voice singing this type of material for so long, but Rich's voice just doesn't get the job done. There's nothing wrong with his voice, but there isn't much to recommend it either. And a strong vocalist is important to making this type of material memorable. Also, at 14 tracks and over an hour in length, the album is simply too long. Perhaps in his excitement at being able to do everything himself, Rich forgot to hire an editor.
I know Rich is capable of making great music, but anybody trying to work completely solo, without the band dynamic or just having someone there to offer editorial criticism, is bound to misstep. Unfortunately, there are too many missteps on Paper for me to recommend it.