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Customer Review

TOP 500 REVIEWERon 9 September 2013
The TOM ROBINSON BAND, one of many UK groups formed after seeing the early SEX PISTOLS perform, could be sited as THE example of a group who had a DYNAMITE first album but crashed and burned after suffering the dreaded "second album curse." The original group, featuring Tom Robinson (lead vocals, bass), Danny Kustow (guitar, vocals), Mark Ambler (keyboards) and Brian "Dolphin" Taylor (drums) formed during 1976's heady "anyone can do it" UK punk revolution and burst onto scene in 1977 as punk began to be swallowed by the major record companies, eventually spitting out the "new wave." 'THE ANTHOLOGY 1977-1979 is another great release in the spate of 3-6 disc sets that EMI Records have been releasing over the past few years, it contains all of their studio work, live concert material and a DVD featuring a BBC documentary on the band, a few live TV performances and music videos, and a thicker more detailed booklet than found in most of the EMI "complete output" releases.

Robinson first realized he was gay as a young teenager but was racked by guilt due to the mores of the day, homosexuality was considered a criminal offense in England until 1969 but prejudgesses still lingered. Suffering a nervous breakdown after attempting suicide at 16 he was sent to Finchden Manor, a therapeutic community for disturbed teenagers where he first met Kustow. An avid listener of influential disc-jockey John Peel's seminal pirate radio program "The Perfumed Garden," Robinson later witnessed an inspiring school performance by Alexis Korner, a founding father of the British blues scene, cementing his desire inspiring to pursue a musical career. In 1973 he became a member of Café Society, a London acoustic trio eventually signed to the short-lived Konk label, THE KINKS' boutique imprint. Their one album, produced by head KINK Ray Davies, went nowhere, and to add insult to injury Robinson infuriated Davies when the habitually late producer came to another session tardy, prompting Robinson to serenade Davies with his own "Tired Of Waiting For You!" Davies retaliated by refusing to free him from his contract, and later released the scathing put-down "Prince Of The Punks," which only succeed in giving the public a troubling glimpse of Davies' dark psyche. During the long legal and personal battle with Davies, Robinson became more involved in the emerging gay scene and embraced the politics of gay liberation, which linked gayri ghts to the wider issues of social justices, such as feminine inequality and racism. In 1976 Robinson attended an early SEX PISTOLS gig and found the inspiration for his next musical foray. He reconnected with Kustow, and the TOM ROBINSON BAND were off and running.....

Disc One chronologically documents their most fertile period beginning with the debut single "2-4-6-8 Motorway/I Shall Be Released" which primed the pump by rocketing into the Top Five. A tale about a lorry driver's life cruising the UK's roadways, Robinson, who became an outspoken proponent of gay and individual rights, later stated that it covertly meant the he was cruising for sex. The B-side is an impressive heartfelt take of Dylan's "I Shall Be Released." Robinson got to meet a hero when the band did a "Peel Session" in Nov. 1977. The band performs three songs from their upcoming album; "Up Against The Wall," "Long Hot Summer" and "Ain't Gonna Take It." The fourth, "Don't Take No For An Answer" is the lead track on their next release, the four track EP 'RISING FREE.' Another strong release, the EP reached #18 in the charts, and included one of the band's most memorable tunes "Sing If You're Glad To Be Gay," a serious plea for gay tolerance ironically couched in a catchy sing-along. This popular release also featured the humorous music hall tale of "Martin," and "Right On Sister" a nod to the feminist cause. A few months later they released their debut album, 'POWER IN THE DARKNESS.' The UK album contained studio versions of the three BBC recordings and seven new tunes, in the US the 10 track UK album was joined by another 12" platter containing both sides of the debut single and all four of the EP tracks, all for a single disc price. Both were released on EMI's Harvest imprint. Continuing the high bar set by the previous releases, 'POWER IN THE DARKNESS' was one of the most impressive album debuts from the new wave, and it's power and heart hold up today. Robinson's sincere working-class vocals and rudimentary but steady bass were surrounded by Kustow's surprisingly accomplished tasty guitar, Ambler's soul and jazz informed keyboards and Taylor's driving funky beat. While many of the songs lyrics chronicle the ills of 1978 Britain; "Ain't Gonna Take It," surviving during the "Long Hot Summer" while "Up Against The Wall," fighting against fascism and intolerance in "The Winter Of '79" because "You've Got To Survive," Robinson pulled no punches. He called out the fence-sitters in "Better Decide What Side You're On," admitted his own doubts in "Too Good To Be True" and warns everyone to watch their backs in "Man You Never Saw." The fact that Robinson pulls off all these heavy topics without being pedantic can be attributed to music so great you never notice the medicine going down. All is not heavy though, "Grey Cortina" celebrates the simple pleasures of the working man, and band's confidence peaks by ending with the anthemic title track, one of their strongest......

'POWER IN THE DARKNESS' went Gold in the UK, topping off at #4 in the charts. The also won two Capital Radio listener awards for "Best New Band" and "Best London Band." Unfortunately, as the saying goes, it was downhill from there. Disc Two begins with a demo and live track, the last two to feature original keyboardist with Mark Ambler until the next disc. Ambler left mysteriously after 'POWER,' and to quote Robinson "You could date the band's decline from exactly that point. Bowing to pressure for Mark to leave was definitely my first fatal mistake." Temporarily replaced by ex-ROOGALATOR Nick Plytas, they performed at a major Anti Nazi League rally in early 1979. Bringing keyboardist Ian Parker permanently on board they began sessions for what would be 'TRB2' with Producer Chris Thomas manning the boards once again. Thomas, whose early experience included subbing for a vacationing George Martin in the midst of the sessions for THE BEATLES 'White Album,' built quite a resume over the years working with PINK FLOYD, PROCOL HARUM, ROXY MUSIC, SEX PISTOLS, INXS, THE PRETENDERS and Elton John. Although prepared with a stack of new material, the overwhelming pressures of their new found fame caused friction within the band and between Thomas, causing the frustrated producer to quit the project. Dolphin Taylor suggested Todd Rundgren as a replacement, but afterwards became disenchanted with the tracks Rundgren wanted to include on the album, Taylor was the next to leave. He later offered to return, but Robinson refused and drummer Preston Heyman finished the sessions. Although pictured on the finished product, Charlie Morgan later became the permanent replacement.

'TRB TWO' reached #18 in the charts, but the damage was irreversible. The British music press, notorious for savaging bands they once championed when the chips were down, smelled blood. Having two years to hone their initial effort, they now had four months. They hype had died down and the group now had to deal simultaneously with managers, label EMI, publicists, publishers, and a crew depending on them for their next paycheck. In the lyrics to the first single from the new album, "Bully For You," a co-write with Peter Gabriel, you get the feeling that he knew what was coming. Only placing at #68, the next two singles, the album's lead track "All Night, All Right" and "Never Gonna Fall In Love (Again)," a co-write with Elton John, didn't even make a dent. The latter is NOT included on this set, but is available on Elton John's 21 at 33. In hindsight 'TRB TWO' contains some decent tunes, but is let down by Rundgren's overly slick production, losing the ragged edges of the debut. Parker and Morgan are talented musicians but lack the raw energy of their predecessors and even Kustow's dependable guitar seems flattened in the mix. The album's highlights are two funk-rockers; "Black Angel" a soulful burner replete with female backing and "Crossing Over The Road" a melodic body mover that has hit written all over it. Another Peel Session was laid done around the time of the record's release, with the band taking it on the road soon after. A eleven track sample awaits on Disc Three. When guitarist Kustow decided to quit afterward, Robinson decided to hang up the band for good......

Disc Three documents both line-ups in concert recorded by the BBC. The original band is heard performing material from their singles and album on March 4, 1978 at the Golders Green Hippodrome for the BBC's Sight & Sound program. Unfortunately their cover of Lou Reed/The Velvet Underground's "I'm Waiting For My Man" is inexplicably missing in action.The second line-up perform an eleven track mixture from both albums for BBC's In Concert on January 1, 1979 at Wycombe Town Hall. The 1978 concert benefits from the band's hunger, sometimes teetering on the edge, which makes the excitement even more palpable. The second line-up prove they're no slouches either, and their concert material is a revelation. Compared to the somewhat sedate performances on 'TRB TWO' you'd swear it was different musicians. The songs from 'TRB TWO' benefit from the live setting, from the first bars of opener "All Right, All Night" the band revs like a finely tuned racer with a rollicking guitar and synth duel. They really hit their stride on Track 3, the funky rockin' "Black Angel." Ian Parker's electric piano solo is brilliant and drives the song to even funkier heights. Parker and drummer Morgan's strong backing vocals rival the original's session singers' and make a strong contribution on other cuts. When Robinson mentions that the concert is being recorded the already energetic audience takes it up a few notches, and becomes a defacto choir on "Blue Murder." Parker gives another strong performance on piano and swirling Hammond organ, along with a great Gilmour-ish solo from Danny Kustow. The guitarist is on fire throughout the show, on the next track, an unreleased burner titled "Getting Together" his dynamic solo is reminiscent of STEELY DAN's Jeff "Skunk" Baxter. The excitement doesn't let up until an intense "Right On Sister" ends the night. Right on indeed!

The DVD is a nice addition, with video that evidences what a dynamic live act they could be. It begins with the Granada TV documentary "Too Good To Be True?" a mixture of interviews, live performances and vignettes of the band in different settings, including a meeting of their fan club and Robinson's volunteer gig on a gay info hotline. Wisely, the six live performances of material from the debut album and singles are uninterrupted. Robinson and Kustow have any easy camaraderie and the whole group seem like guys you'd meet in the pub that just happen to be dynamite musicians. From their first TV appearances we get versions of "2-4-6-8 Motorway" and "Glad To Be Gay" on The London Weekend Show. A live EMI demo film of "Winter Of '79" and three music videos, the last two featuring the final line-up round out the program......

Co-produced and remastered by Robinson the set sounds great and the full-color booklet contains a forward by him as well. There are many photos of the group, various releases and promotional items. If you're a fan of the album you really get value for your money, and video footage of any great group live in action is a definite plus. The only problem with the set is the sadness you feel knowing they had so much potential, but burned out so quickly......

TRACKLIST (with selected discography):
from the single released 7 October 1977:
1. 2-4-6-8 Motorway (EMI 2715-A)
2. I Shall Be Released (EMI 2715-B)
from the BBC Radio One "John Peel Session" 1st November 1977:
3. Don't Take No For An Answer
4. Up Against The Wall
5. Long Hot Summer
6. Ain't Gonna Take It
from the Rising Free 7" E.P. released February 1978 (EMI 2749):
7. Don't Take No For An Answer (Live At Sussex University, Brighton, December 1977) (A1)
8. (Sing If You're) Glad To Be Gay (Live At The London Lyceum, December 1977) (A2) (Harvest 4568-B, USA)
9. Martin (Live At The London Lyceum, December 1977) (B1)
10. Right On Sister (Live At The Town Hall, High Wycombe, November 1977) (B2) (Harvest 4568-A, USA)
the B-side to "Up Against The Wall" (EMI 2787-A) released May 1978:
11. I'm All RIght Jack (EMI 2787-B)
from the LP "Power In The Darkness" released May 1978 (EMI EMC-3226):
12. Up Against The Wall
13. Grey Cortina
14. Too Good To Be True (edited version, EMI 2847-A)
15. Ain't Gonna Take It
16. Long Hot Summer (EMI ‎EMR-20482-B, Japan)
17. The Winter Of '79
18. Man You Never Saw
19. Better Decide Which Side You're On
20. You Gotta Survive
21. Power In The Darkness (edited version, EMI 2847-B) (EMI ‎EMR-20482-A, Japan)
Demo for the "TRB Two" Album, August 1978:
1. Suits Me, Suits You
recorded Live At The Old Waldorf, San Francisco, June 1978:
2. Elgin Avenue
from the LP "TRB Two" released March 1979 (EMI EMC-3296):
3. All Right All Night
4. Why Should I Might
5. Black Angel
6. Let My People Be
7. Blue Murder
8. Bully For You (EMI 2916-A)
9. Crossing Over The Road
10. Sorry Mr. Harris
11. Law & Order (Lead Vocal – Ian Parker)
12. Days Of Rage
13. Hold Out
from the BBC Radio One "John Peel Session" 5 March 1979:
14. Black Angel
15. Blue Murder
16. All Right All Night
17. Crossing Over The Road
the B-side to "Never Gonna Fall In Love" (as "Tom Robinson & The Voice Squad" EMI 2967-A) released August 1979:
18. Getting Tighter (as "Tom Robinson Band" EMI 2967-B)
recorded live for BBC Sight & Sound, Live At Golders Green Hippodrome, London, 4th March 1978
Tracks 1,2, 4-7 originally released on the a-side of the BBC Transcription Service LP "Tom Robinson Band / Be Bop Deluxe ‎– In Concert-177" (BBCTS CN 3118/S):
1. 2-4-6-8 Motorway
2. Grey Cortina
3. (Sing If You're) Glad To Be Gay
4. Ain't Gonna Take It
5. Martin
6. Up Against The Wall
7. Don't Take No For An Answer
recorded live for BBC Radio One In Concert, Town Hall, High Wycombe, 4th April 1979:
8. All Right All Night
9. The Winter Of '79
10. Black Angel
11. Blue Murder
12. Getting Tighter
13. Too Good To Be True
14. Sorry Mr. Harris
15. Bully For You
16. Ain't Gonna Take It
17. 2-4-6-8 Motorway
18. Right On Sister (Encore)
1. "Too Good To Be True?" Granada TV Documentary, 1978
Includes these tracks performed Live At Oxford New Theatre, 23rd October
I. Up Against The Wall
II. Martin
III. (Sing If You're) Glad To Be Gay
IV. Power In The Darkness
V. You Turn Me On
VI. 2-4-6-8 Motorway
Bonus Clips:
from "The London Weekend Show" LWT, July 1977:
2. 2-4-6-8 Motorway (Live) Edit
3. (Sing If You're) Glad To Be Gay (Live)
EMI International Live Promotional Film, 1977:
4. The Winter Of '79
Single Promotional Films, 1977-1979
5. Don't Take No For An Answer
6. Black Angel
7. Bully For You
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