Album Review of Robb Roy: Well, There You Have It (Pure Recordings)
This is the fifth studio release by Detroit area alternative rockers Robb Roy. After an extended hiatus, to say it has been highly anticipated would be somewhat of an understatement. This dynamic and well-versed quartet always maintained a fervent fan base, and this new release should certainly satiate the faithful. This album features six new songs and four previously unreleased ones from their heralded past. While it is one of their strongest efforts to date, it was produced with a heavy heart in light of the passing of long-time guitarist Michael Kudreiko in 2016. But, make no mistake, Mike’s presence is all over this record, and it is a shining swansong by him, as well as a fitting tribute, indeed!
At the helm for well over 30 years, lead vocalist and frontman Graham Strachan is in fine voice and partners most ably with fellow RR regulars John Cottos on bass, additional guitars, and backup vocals as well as the mighty Duane Huff on drums.
The album begins with what sounds like the crackle of a turntable needle on a phonograph record. Strachan has all the charisma and poise of a rock ‘n roll preacher as he spins a tale of “The Cure”’s musical baptism and salvation. “I can’t be saved till I’m cured,” he sings and, with that, begins a new chapter in the storied Robb Roy saga. That’s followed by a rousing tribute to a musician’s life, with “Stayin’ Up All Night.” This has a rough and tumble blues feel that kind of recalls early Peter Green-influenced Fleetwood Mac mixed with a smattering of Bad Company.
The songwriting is diverse and multi-layered and this is never more evident than on the lovely “Let Love Show You the Way Home.” Strachan is joined by guest vocalist Gia Warner, and their interplay is magical. There is a great sing-along chorus that will resonate with you for a long time.
“Safety” is a song that had been sitting on the shelf for a while and was revived with new lyrics by Strachan and production assistance from veteran producer Chuck Alkazian. It is a ballad dedicated to Kudreiko’s family and features a sense of poetry and emotion rarely touched on in contemporary pop anymore.
“Half of a Broken Heart” is atmospheric and epic in sound and substance. It’s a great tale by Strachan about true love and connection—romantic or otherwise. “Hopelessly With Her” is yet another love song for grownups. Strachan challenges the various games people play in the ways in which they deal with each other. Questioning their ulterior motives he asks “If this is love then why do we make each other cry? If this is love shouldn’t we be happier?” Warner again joins in and makes this song a standout.
“Song 86” follows and is a rally cry in the spirit of classic bands like The Alarm or Big Country, and “Brand New Day” keeps that up tempo vibe going, with an urge to making changes and adopting new ideas.
With, perhaps, a page from the U2 play book, Strachan crafts a like-minded anthem in “Never Change.” It is dynamic, with Huff’s metronomic precision underpinning a plea to hold onto innocence, civility, and, it appears, a sense of the past. The album concludes on an odd and mysterious note, with a track called “Skunk Hollow.” This is kind of a strange and surreal trip chock full of voodoo energy and ominous visions.
In addition to the core members of Robb Roy, producer Alkazian plays keyboards as do Kid Rock’s piano man Jimmie Bones and organist Pat Brennan. Ultimately, Robb Roy is a band that has weathered many changes and challenges in its 30-plus year existence. From the richness and articulation of Strachan’s delivery to the impeccable playing and sterling production, this is a veteran band that proves, despite some hard knocks, they still remain steadfast and committed to their values and collective vision. Well… there you have it!