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Every so often an album comes along that seems like the perfect album from an artist that you may have quite liked or admired from a far but not been a fan of. That album that you consider to be the best of their career, Often long after their heyday. One such artist who this applies to for me is Robbie Robertson. "The Band" was what made him famous as their lead singer and guitarist. The highly rated guitarist had released several albums with Bob Dylan & The Band between 1966 and 1975.
**How to Become Clairvoyant**
Having mentioned in my introduction about the kind of album that this is, I should add that many of these great records in the latter stages of someones career have been very heavily influenced by the collaborations. For instance Jeff Beck & Herbie Hancock have been recording some of the best music of their careers in recent years with many collaborations with often younger stars. How to Become Clairvoyant was released on 5th April 2011. The album is star studded with appearances from Pino Palladino, Steve Winwood & Robert Randolph as well as Eric Clapton who appears on several tracks.
1.) Straight Down the Line
This is a catchy opener which has a Blues Rock feel with some nice guitar licks and melodies. The female backing vocals are well performed and Robertson's vocals are well performed. There's some excellent guitar work throughout the song which adds something to the overall feel. Robert Randolph's passionate slide guitar adds a great touch to the sound too. It's an excellent opener to the album.
2.) When the Night Was Young
A change of pace here, This is a lovely mellow ballad with sweet female backing vocals and Robertson's distinctive relaxed tone. There's some lovely keys in the background, the way the song moves along is excellent and Robertson's guitar work works very well indeed, The subtle playing works so well with the simple drum beat and the sweet female backing vocals. This is one of the best tracks on the album.
3.) He Don't Live Here No More
This is the first of several collaborations with Eric Clapton on the album. It's an energetic Blues Rock track with a catchy drum beat and some catchy hooks. Robertson's vocals come in first and he's backed well by Clapton's silky guitar licks. This is one of the more drum laden tracks on the album and has a great sound which benefits from the excellent guitar work from both Robertson and Clapton as they both let loose on different solos.
4.) The Right Mistake
A fine slice of Blues Rock here. There's some fantastic organ from Steve Winwood which backs up the guitar and other instruments very well. Robertson's relaxed vocals shine alongside the backing vocals. I really like the way that Robertson and Clapton trade guitar licks on this one. It's a very polished track which showcases the talents of many.
5.) This Is Where I Get Off
This is my favourite song on the album. It's a dreamy Blues Rock ballad with a slow opening and just a lovely build up. Robertson's relaxed vocals are extremely emotive and the gentle guitar work from Robertson and Clapton is superb. I love the way the song builds and then comes to a fabulous climax with some fine guitar work. It's perhaps the best example of an album that is very well recorded. The solo is terrific and the build up makes it worthwhile. It's a beautiful song.
6.) Fear of Falling
This is a catchy mid tempo track which features Eric Clapton taking more of a presence vocally. There's some excellent guitar work on show from both Robbie Robertson and Clapton but the overall feel is not quite as good as the best work on the album despite it still being a strong track, It's just not a stand out track in the way that some of them are.
7.) She's not mine
This is one of the weaker tracks on the album, It still has some great musicianship but just doesn't stand out like some of the others. It's a mid tempo track, Robertson's vocals aren't as interested as they sound in other songs and whilst there is some excellent guitar work from both Robertson and Clapton the song doesn't quite fully redeem itself. Not bad though.
8.) Madame X
This is a beautiful moment which sounds very Claptonesque. It could sit happily on Clapton's "Reptile" album. It's a lovely instrumental track with some lovely guitar licks and interestingly features Trent Reznor providing "textures". This is one of the best tracks on the album and a nice instrumental change of pace to much of the album.
This is a catchy Blues Rock track which features some great guitar work from Robbie Robertson. Pino Palladino's bass playing on the track is excellent and really helps bring it to another level. This track features some of Robertson's best guitar playing on the album. It backs up Robertson's #59 placing on Rolling Stone's Top 100 guitarists of all time list.
10.) Won't be back
This track opens with a gentle guitar tone and some gentle keys. It's the final collaboration with Eric Clapton on the album. It's a relaxed ballad with a fairly long intro. Robertson's vocals are detailed and emotive. I like the way the song builds with a subtle change in sound around the middle of the song. This is a very decent collaboration.
11.) How to become Clairvoyant
This is the excellent title track of the album. It has a fairly taut beat and a mid tempo pace. The vocals are well performed and the guitar work is excellent. It's another track which builds well and is topped off well by some excellent guitar work. This is the longest song on the album at nearly six and a half minutes but it uses every second to good effect. I love when the guitar work comes in backed by the heavy keys.
12.) Tango for Django
Following on from the longest song on the album we have the shortest, the only track on the album which is less than four minutes. This is a nice instrumental track with dark strings and some lovely emotive acoustic playing. There's soft percussion which adds a nice sound and all the instrumentation goes together to create a fine sound. Good end to the album.
This is a strong album from Robbie Robertson, It's certainly the best work I've heard from him and that is thanks in no small part to the collaborations with the likes of Eric Clapton, Robert Randolph and Steve Winwood. It's not quite a flawless album though and for me there are a couple, maybe three tracks that whilst good don't quite live up to the best work on the album. How to Become Clairvoyant is a very good album that may bring Robbie Robertson's music to a new younger audience. Give it a listen and see what you think? Ideal if you're a fan of Eric Clapton.
Disc #1 Tracklisting
1 Straight Down The Line - (Robertson)
2 When The Night Was Young - (Robertson)
3 He Don't Live Here No More - (Robertson)
4 The Right Mistake - (Robertson)
5 This Is Where I Get Off - (Robertson)
6 Fear of Falling - (Robertson/Clapton)
7 She's Not Mine - (Robertson)
8 Madame X - (Robertson/Clapton)
9 Axman - (Robertson)
10 Won't Be Back - (Robertson/Clapton)
11 How To Become Clairvoyant - (Robertson)
12 Tango for Django - (Robertson/De Vries)
Disc #2 Tracklisting
1 The Right Mistake (Demo)
2 He Don't Live Here No (Demo)
3 Fear of Falling (Demo)
4 This Is Where I Got Off (Demo)
5 Madame X(Demo)
6 Houdini (Unreleased track)