MILESAGO - Recommended Listening

John Robinson

Blackfeather Music Productions
Released August 2004
RRP: AU$29.95



It's been a long time between drinks, album-wise, for the great John Robinson. Renowned and revered as one of Australia's original rock guitar heroes, John first emerged as the guitarist with highly regarded Sydney pop band The Dave Miller Set. After they split in late 1969 he formed a new band, the legendary Blackfeather, and they scored a significant hit with the single Seasons Of Change (which was equally successful for their mates Fraternity.

The first version of the group held together long enough to record one of the landmark LPs of the period, At The Mountains Of Madness, but the group split shortly after that, with singer Neale Johns forming a totally new version of the group and John learning to his cost that he was not the legal owner of the name of the group he had founded.

His next few album projects are highly regarded and much sought-after, but each was only released in small quantities and so they have become major rarities. He cut an album of quality rock covers with the supergroup Duck in 1972. This was followed by his first solo album Pity For The Victim in 1974, and in 1975 he joined in a brilliant collaboration with former Sirius bassist Jackie Orzacsky on the equally rare and wonderful LP Morning In Beramiada.

From that point on, John largely retired from performing and concentrated on guitar teaching, and for the last 20-odd years he's been one of Australia's most sought-after teachers, with former pupils including Mondo Rock's Eric McCusker and The Wiggles' Murray Cook.

It's hard to believe that it's been thirty years since John's last solo release, but he has been busy all the while, writing, arranging and recording a swag of original material. It's an continuing indictment of the local music industry that major labels are not prepared to get behind artists like John anymore, and listening to this wonderful compilation you will be left wondering "What's wrong with these people?".

"Hot" brings together some of the best tracks from John's considerable store of original material. I've been fortunate to hear a lot of it, and I can assure that if you enjoy this record -- as I'm sure anyone will, who likes great contemporary music, well played and well made -- there's plenty more where that came from.

There is really something for everyone on this record and it's a great sampler of John's ability to write and perform music that covers just about every genre. There's a very cinemtic quality about much of John's music and one can only hope that TV and film people will get to hear this music and give it the wider exposure it deserves. Just about all of his music would be perfect for soundtrack use, but it's also rare to hear instrumental music that can obviously fit into such niches while also providing a rewarding listening experience in its own right.

The CD kicks off with the surging guitar and synth rock instrumental Jungle Book that also showcases John's enormous arranging and production skills. It's followed by the truly gorgeous Amelia, a masterpiece that features an achingly beautiful acoustic guitar melody, highlighted by soaring electric lead. This piece won me over from first hearing and has become one of my all-time faves. Like Track 7, Mother's Day, you'd have to have a heart and ears of stone not to be moved by them. I have no doubt that if either of these tracks were to be played on an appropriate media outlet and given a modicum of proper promotion, there would be a veritable stampede to record shops to get them.

If you want the kind of killer rock lead playing that John is well-known for, then you need look no further than his scorching instrumental tribute to one of his own guitar heroes, Requiem: SRV, dedicated to Stevie Ray Vaughan. This ROCKS.

Broken Hearts is the only vocal track on the album; it's a dreamy samba-style piece with an ethereal female vocal which amply demonstrates that John has lost none of his songwriting skills. The great pity about this track -- like just about all of the music on this CD -- is that Australian commercial radio has become so segmented and so heavily tied to formatted programming, that it would be all but impossible to get this played.

Midday On Blue Cay is another great cruisey guitar piece, definitely one to take with you and whack on while you're lazing on the beach or cruising up/down the coast this summer; you can almost smell the ocean on this one. Straits Of Magella continues the nautical feel, but with a darker edge and an intense, driving arrangement.

Mother's Day as noted above, is a wistful acoustic ode to John's (and everyone's) mum. All I can do is exhort you to listen to it -- it's just beautiful. Pop this on the stereo next Mother's Day morning as you bring mum her brekky in bed and I guarantee there won't be a dry eye in the house!

If you like your guitar with that smoky, late-night, jazz-blues sound and feel, Fat-back Blues will really hit the spot. It segues into Snakes & Ladders, a fast paced piece with some frenetic synthesiser work; it might not be the kind of piece you'd expect from John but it shows that he's not stuck back in the Seventies, and it's a fine example of a piece written in the techno/hip-hop idiom that isn't moronic or lacking in meaningful musical content or structure.

Manco's Theme revisits one of the standout tracks from At The Mountains Of Madness, a piece that was inspired in part by John's discovery of the music of Ennio Morricone. On the Blackfeather LP this was basically a guitar trio workout, augmented with strings. The new version still shows off John's awesome guitar chops to the full but its updated with a much clearer sound and full and dazzling synthetic orchestration.

The CD closes with the aptly Antidote, a cool jazz-funk instrumental that provides the perfect conterpoint to the drama of the previous track. This is a really great track with a cool dancey feel and some tasty guitar, and it fades out with a truly "phat" drum break. A great car-cruising piece.

This not a welcome return to form; John Robinson never lost his form -- he just lost the support of the local record industry, like so many other great Australian talents. The good thing is that computer technology has advanced so far, so fast, that John is now able to do it all for himself.

He's already made the hard yards in writing, arranging and recording this very fine CD of all-original Australian music. All that remains is for us in the general public to put our money where our mouths are and support local artists by buying their music.

If you woudl like to buy a copy of HOT, you can contact John by email at:

or by mail at:

1a Carilla St, Burwood, NSW, 2134 AUSTRALIA

"HOT" is available from:

Blackfeather Music Productions

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