Chris Robinson Brotherhood
The Magic Door
BluesWax Rating: 7 out of 10
Bring Out Your Dead
With roots rockers the Black Crowes going into an indefinite hiatus, vocalist/frontman Chris Robinson gets to live out his tie-dyed dream of wishing to sing with the Grateful Dead.
No doubt the late Jerry Garcia’s guitar work seems to leave an imprint in guitarist Neal Casal’s work. Consisting of only seven songs, The Magic Door still manages to encompass almost an hour of listening time. While not on a par with the Crowes’ eclectic take on rock, Robinson uses the Chris Robinson Brotherhood as a springboard for attracting fans that never got a chance to see the Dead perform simply because they weren’t old enough or they got on the bus too late.
Unfurling a good dose of hippie rockers laced with country and psychedelia are the keys Robinson has in attracting a generation who wish they were alive when the Acid Tests took place. Robinson remakes “Appaloosa” taken from the Crowes’ Before the Frost album into the airy acid-country flavor of patchouli and incense. These influences were finding their way into the Crowes’ last couple of albums, which, not surprisingly, puzzled longtime fans who longed for the Stones and Humble Pie reference points that marked their earlier albums. If there is ever a tune to get the twirlers dancing, then “Someday Past The Sunset” will be an afterglow in itself as it proves to be a good roots rocker.
Yet sometimes you can overdo a good thing. If “Vibration and Light Suite” is Robinson’s idea of reaching for the cosmos, then he is truly getting his wish. Opening with a sunrise setting, the tune gets off to a good start with Casals’ Garcia-like notes sprinkling effervescent sounds while the rest of the band locks in to jam with a building crescendo that Robinson uses to build another song. Adam MacDougall (who also plays in the Crowes) never sounded more confident on the keys as he does now. You can imagine Robinson is in his element as his boys are capable of stretching things to a breaking point. It’s just that they forget the Acid Tests are over and people with short attention spans fail to see anything enlightening in this. At this juncture you can lose interest when there is doodling as opposed to playing. Robinson goes back to the Crowes’ Cabin Fever days and gets back to the good rocking country in “Little Lizzie Mae,” which is New Riders seeds found in homegrown dirt.
Robinson could have done worse coming out with this release. On the other hand it is not entirely unexpected. This is far from being a blues release although hints of it lie buried under the homegrown dirt of musical soil Robinson wants to reap. It’s mainly a laid-back Sunday affair to listen to when one wants to absorb sounds in an easy listening sense. Breaking away from his other band’s Seventies rock approach, he relishes the position of being his own man to immerse himself in an artistic vision that seeks to attract a listener with a growing sense of adventure.
Gary Weeks is a contributing writer at BluesWax.
About the Author: