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Rockie Robbins: Good Life

Reviewed by Ismo Tenkanen

Rating: 8/ 10

Soul Express CD of the Season - Q3/2019

US Expansion CD, 2019
Buy the CD from our CD Shop

1) Good Life
2) Let Me Be the One
3) A Night to Remember
4) Love Me Tonight
5) Drives Me Out of My Mind
6) Hang on
7) Let's Groove
8) Rock Steady
9) Stay
10) You Go Where I Go
11) Since I Fell for You
12) For All We Know
Bonus Tracks:
13) Good Life (Minneapolis Mix)
14) Good Life (Extended Version)

Rockie Robbins is a Minneapolis born singer-songwriter, who moved to Los Angeles when he managed to sign a record deal with A&M label in 1979. Rockie has worked with soul heroes such as Leon Ware, Skip Scarpborough, Bobby Martin and Jerry Peters, and his biggest hits are You and Me - recently covered by Glenn Jones - Time to Think and I Believe in Love. As a vocalist, he might be compared to Peabo Bryson.

Very little had been heard from Rockie since his 4th album Rockie Robbins on MCA in 1985, and a brand new album from Rockie after a long hiatus was a great surprise, when Expansion released this set of (mostly) new material in 2019. Only one song Hang on was previously released on the Expansion compilation Soul Sauce, Vol. 1 from 1992. It was one of the best quality soul compilations of all times, simply full of shining gems, and maybe Rockie's smooth but stylish mid-ballad was not the most breathtaking moment of that CD, but a decent and soulful soul song anyway.

As a matter of fact, it is outshined again by stronger tunes on display here. Tracks like Drives Me out of My Mind and Let Me Be the One have been ideal pickings for our own Quality Time Cream Cuts chart in recent months, as they simply ooze with class, both with their mellow jazz-tinged backings full of saxophone and their excellent compositions with Rockie's warm interpretations. Both tracks certainly belong to the best new soul tracks released in 2019.

The producer here is the smooth jazz veteran Ricky Peterson who has worked with George Benson, Chaka Khan, Oleta Adams, David Sanborn and Vaneese Thomas, amongst others. Ricky Peterson has also brought his musical siblings with him, as Jason Peterson plays the sax, Billy Peterson plays the bass, Paul Peterson plays the guitar and sister Patty sings background vocals. The overall musical setting is like taken straight from a major-label smooth jazz recording.

Between the smoothing ballads and mid-pacers, we are also offered a couple of uptempo tunes. The title track Good Life is clearly aimed as the single pick, with its easy-going radio-friendly atmosphere and catchy melody. Two alternative mixes of this song added as a bonus. More to my personal taste, though, is the Tower of Power-influenced funky mover Rock Steady, actually a cover of a Aretha classic, but modernised to the Tower of Power style arrangement.

Back to Rockie's own territory, smooth soul ballads, Love Me Tonight is another stylish track that is destined to our esteemed Quality Time chart, whereas Stay is already getting a bit too dreamy. The album closes with a couple of cover tunes, Since I Fell for You (earlier recorded by Laura Lee and many others) and the jazz standard For All We Know, of which we all have heard stronger versions. But the soul tracks on this album were much better than I ever expected. Highly recommended for soul devotees.

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