Tad Robinson – Back in Style (Severn Records) CD review
There ain’t nothing like classic 70’s soul: that music had a positive energy unrivaled by any other genre. Since its peak, many have tried to copy the sound and failed miserably. Part of the problem lies in all the digital technology out there, tempting us to cut corners with synthesizers or electronic drums. But, the fact is, classic soul music has nothing to do with computers. Now that we’ve established how hard it is to replicate, prepare to be surprised at how a white guy from Indiana manages to pull it off.
For Back in Style, singer Tad Robinson doesn’t just copy the classic soul sound, he lives and breathes it All the ingredients are here, from Hammond organ to slinky guitar and upfront drums. But, it’s Robinson’s voice that elevates this from good to spectacular; he’s got the versatility to be gritty as on “Full Attention Blues,” and then turn the falsetto on in “You Name it I’ve Had It.” There are echoes of other soul greats in some of the tracks; “Sunday Morning Woman” recalls some of Tyrone Davis’ best work, while “Half Smile” has the same mood as Marvin Gaye’s “Inner City Blues.”
Another standout is “Get Back to Love,” where Robinson sings in a lower register – it sounds so different, you might think someone else is handling the vocals. On that track, he shows a gruff delivery not unlike Teddy Pendergrass. It doesn’t hurt that Robinson has roped in Wayne Jackson of the original Memphis Horns (who played on so many of those great Stax singles) to arrange the horn parts. A good example of his input is the descending horn line in “I’m In Good.” In Back in Style, Tad Robinson has created a soul record worthy of sitting right next to the classics. – Tony Peters