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Robin Zander’s Solo Albums and The Lessons Learned

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In August of 2011, Robin Zander of Cheap Trick kind of released his second solo album.  For a few hours, Countryside Blvdwas available online and then it quickly disappeared.  It became the perfect set up line for the old joke, “That album wasn’t released, it escaped!”  However, as these things generally happen, Countryside has been quietly (surreptitiously?) posted as an online download.  Before we get to his latest non-release, let’s look at Zander’s previous solo outings.

Zander inauspiciously debuted as a solo act in 1986 with his MICHAEL JACKSON duet…oh, wait…it wasn’t Michael.  His JANET Jackson duet….no, no.  Not Tito, not La Toya.  OK, his freelance meteorologist duet ballad with REBBIE Jackson on “Send the Rain Away” made it to #50 on the r&b chart in early 1987.  In 1987, the bombastic “In This Country” was part of a Sylvester Stallone movie soundtrack.  In 1988, Cheap Trick returned to the pop charts in a big way with “The Flame” and “Don’t Be Cruel.”  Zander then scored a Top Ten duet in 1989 with Heart’s Ann Wilson on the power ballad “Surrender to Me.”  Written by Richard Marx and Ross Vanelli, “Surrender to Me” primarily serves as a reminder of how overbearing radio programmers were in the ‘80s.

 

After Epic Records dropped Cheap Trick in the early 1990s, Zander recorded his first solo album, creatively titled Robin Zander.  Featuring five different producers, a stream of song doctors, and over forty studio musicians, it’s an uneven affair at best.  Zander paid homage to early influences Harry Nilsson and Neil Young with covers of “Jump into the Fire” and “I Believe in You.”  “I’ve Always Got You,” written with J.D. Souther and Mike Campbell, received some AOR airplay.  “Tell It to the World” was a nice ELO rip and “Time Will Let You Know” was a grand ballad in the manner of “I Want to Know What Love Is.”  Otherwise, the album is bloated and forgettable.  In a generous mood, I’d give it a B-.  A really generous mood.

 

The Countryside Blvd album (not available for free download at http://somewhereeelseandbeyond.blogspot.com/2014/01/robin.html), as the title suggests, features country instrumentation, but it’s not far from familiar Zander territory.  Reflecting the paucity of ideas, “Walkin’ Shoes” is recycled from his first solo album and “Love Comes” is recycled from Cheap Trick’s 1985 Standing on the Edge album.  Countryside isn’t a real attempt to cross into country musically or thematically; it’s simply an unimaginative pop record with pedal steel icing.  The best efforts on the album, “Every Dog” and “Pamela Jean,” have been rated by the scientific Rock NYC pop culture grading machine as “passable.” Really, this album should not have been released.  It’s a dog.

Which leads us to our lessons learned.  Robin Zander, who has made his living as a singer for decades, has been given two opportunities to release solo records.  Both have decisively proven that he has absolutely NOTHING TO SAY as an artist.  He could just as easily be singing about cheese whiz or donkey baseball and it would be as meaningful to him as these collections of trite love songs.  And the indirect lesson is that, to obtain fame, Robin Zander needed Rick Nielsen as much or more than Nielsen needed him. 

 

Regarding this article, Bun E. Carlos could not be reached for comment.

1 Comment

  1. Vinnie Chicanootz on July 2, 2022 at 10:53 pm

    Smarmy analysis.

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