|Satisfied Mind, Robert Gordon
Jungle Records, TCB2222CD
Robert Gordon: Then and Now (by Richard Connolly)
I remember the first time I heard Robert Gordon's song "The Catman," his tribute to Gene Vincent. The song begins with Gordon's deep, baritone voice speaking:
"Hey man, I can hear you...
As a kid growing up in the suburbs of Hew York City, I first heard Gene Vincent's recording of "Be Bop A Lula" on the radio in 1956. I was 11 years old teen, and Vincent's voice "still echoes through me" almost 50 years later. "The Catman" was recorded to 1978 and released on Rock Billy Boogie In 1979. When I heard the album, I remember thinking that Gordon's singing, with its powerful tones and its intense feelings, was true to the music I remembered as a kid - the music of Gene Vincent; the early Elvis Presley records; the gospel, rockabilly, blues, doo-wop, and rhythm & blues records that radio DJs played late at night on stations across the country.
On "Satisfied Mind" Gordon's voice still resonates with the tones and with the feelings of his early recordings. In addition, his singing is now more mature and more informed by the experience of middle age. Beginning with a playful Elvis-Presley-like version of "Dear One," first recorded by Larry Finneran in 1962, and endinf with an equally playful version of "These Boots Are Made for Walkin'," the Lee Hazlewood song made famous by Nancy Sinatra in 1966, Gordon's singing is at its very bast.
There's an interesting variety in the 14 songs on "Satisfied Mind" - songs originally recorded by Johnny Burnette, Don Gibson, The Hollies, Jerry Reed, Bobby Darin and Brenda Lee, among others. Each song is produced and arranged with knowing sense of the original recordings. And, each song reveals different aspects of Gordon's skills as a producer and as a singer.
Gordon produced "Satisfied Mind" in Nashville in late 2003, and his arrangements are more keyboard-oriented than on his earlier reeordings. Johnny Neel's piano and organ playing, combined with Eddie Angel's guitar, Jimmy Lester's drums (both from Los Straitjackets) and Dave Roe on bass, complimnet the vocals on every song. And Fats Kaplan's on steel guitar and fiddle, along with Dennis Taylor's sax playing, add interesting touches to Gordon's excellent arrangements.
From J. Ripley's "Your Angel Steps Out ofHeaven," Sleepy LaBeef's "I Ain't Gonna Take It No More," and Wayne Walker's "Little Boy Sad," to Doc Pomus' and Mort Schuman's "Turn Me Loose" to O. Jessie and S. Claybourn's "Do You Love Me," each song Is produced, arranged and performed to perfection.
In characteristic Robert Gordon fashion, each song on Satisfied Mind is between two and three minutes long. With the precision of a fine craftsman, he's created wonderful works of art in the form of popular songs. Using elements from rockabilly, country, rook 'n' roll, soul, rhythm & blues, and pop, he's created work that reflects his unique musical sensibilities.
When he was a schoolboy living in Bethesda, Maryland, in the 1950s, Gordon listened to the radio incessantly and his thirst was insatiable. He listened to doo-wop, pop and early rock & roll. He heard hillbilly music and country music. He listened to gospel and rhythm & blues. By the 1960s, Gordon was leading his own band. He played around Washington D.C., and the suburbs of Maryland. He attended rhythm & blues and soul shows at the Howard Theater - the D.C. equivalent of the Apollo to New York City. And by the 1970s, he'd moved to New York, where he was the lead singer to the Tuff Darts, an early New York punk band. As it turned out, he had little sympathy for punk rock, and Gordon exited in the early '70s.
In 1976, he started singing again, and this time he decided to push in the direction that he wanted - toward the sounds that he loved. He lived and breathed these sounds in his performances, and the result was a pair of albums on Private Stock, Robert Gordon With Link Wray and Fresh Fish Special. The association with Link Wray ended to 1978, and Wray was replaced by British guitarist Chris Spedding. With the recording of Rock Billy Boogie, his third album, Gordon was signed to RCA. He released two subsequent albums on RCA - Bad Boy and Are You Gonna Be The One - the latter featuring D.C. guitar legend Danny Gatton.
For more than 30 years, Gordon has been one of the defining musical influences of his generation. Delivering his vocals with power and intensity, he's created a unique rock & roll attitude - driven by love, hurt, sadness, and absolute conviction. He's an authentic American voice, singing authentic American rock 'n' roll music.
In the context of his musical career, Gordon's recording of Jack Rhodes' and Joe Hayes' "A Satisfied Mind" is especially poignant. In his interpretation of this timeless lyric, we hear Gordon singing the song Porter Wagoner recorded in 1955. In his version of "A Satisfied Mind", recorded nearly 50 years later, Robert Gordon's life and his music have come full circle. Then and now, and now and then are one.
Liner notes of "Satisfied Mind" by Richard Gonnolly, March 2004
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