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Pop - Released January 1, 1987 | Geffen Records

Robbie Robertson was once asked why he waited 11 years after the breakup of the Band to release a solo project, and he replied, "I wasn't so sure I had something to say." One can hear a bit of this thinking in Robertson's self-titled solo debut; it's obvious that he didn't care to revisit the country- and blues-flavored roots rock that had been his bread and butter with the Band, and at the same time Robertson seemed determined to make an album that had something important to say, and could stand alongside his legendary earlier work. Looking for a moody and atmospheric sound, Robertson teamed up with producer Daniel Lanois, who had previously worked with U2 and Peter Gabriel, two artists whose work obviously influenced Robertson's musical thinking while he was making the album (they both appear on the album as well). As a result, Robbie Robertson is an album that represents both a clear break from his past, and an ambitious attempt to take his fascination with American culture and music in a new and contemporary direction. It's highly ambitious stuff, and the album's ambitions sometimes prove to be its Achilles' heel. Robertson's collaboration with U2, "Sweet Fire of Love," sounds like a rather unremarkable outtake from The Joshua Tree, with the group's aural bombast subsuming the ostensive leader of the session, while "Fallen Angel," "American Roulette," and "Somewhere Down the Crazy River" find Robertson exploring the same iconography of the Band's best work, but without the same grace or subtle wit. And it doesn't take long to realize why Robbie only took two lead vocals during his tenure with the Band; his dry, reedy voice isn't bad, but it lacks the force and authority to communicate the big themes Robertson wants to bring across. Despite all this, Robbie Robertson does have its share of pearly moments, especially on the bitter "Hell's Half Acre," "Sonny Got Caught in the Moonlight," and "Broken Arrow" (a performance more subtle and effective than Rod Stewart's better-known cover). Robbie Robertson isn't the masterpiece its creator was obviously striving towards, but it's an intelligent and often compelling set from an inarguably important artist, and it comes a good bit closer to capturing what made the Band's work so memorable than the latter-day efforts from Levon Helm and company. ~ Mark Deming
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Rock - Released January 1, 2006 | Capitol Records

Robbie Robertson never had hits as a solo artist. Sure, some tracks from his 1987 debut got some college play, but they weren't hits, and by the time he was making exploratory, neo-electronica, neo-Americana, atmospheric albums for Capitol (they're mood pieces, but don't you dare call them new age -- this is the guy who wrote "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down!"), he was completely off the radar, at least as far as pop goes. So, compiling a collection of hits from the Capitol years is kind of a non-starter, since not only did he not have hits from this era, he made albums that were mood pieces, intended to be taken that way. So, selecting highlights from those records winds up being not bad, but not necessary, either. If you wanted a sampling of these records, without hearing the full albums, this does a good job of selecting highlights; if you want a couple of rarities, there are some new mixes and remixes scattered among these 13 songs. Overall, though, this shouldn't be seen as a hits collection, or even as representative overview of his solo career. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine
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Rock - Released January 1, 2011 | Savoy

How to Become Clairvoyant is Robbie Robertson's first album since 1998's Contact from the Underworld of Red Boy. In the interim, he served as musical director for some Martin Scorsese films, produced soundtracks, and worked as an A&R man for Dreamworks. Co-produced by Robertson and Marius de Vries, the 12-song set boasts an impressive guest list. Eric Clapton makes seven appearances on guitar, duets on "Fear of Falling," co-wrote three tunes, and contributed an instrumental ("Madame X," which is minimally but beautifully textured by Trent Reznor). Steve Winwood, Robert Randolph, Angela McCluskey, and Tom Morello also appear. Bassist Pino Palladino, drummer Ian Thomas, and pianist Martin Pradler are the house band on a Robertson album typically saturated in rich, warm production, sonic flourishes, and ambient atmospheres. Despite a preponderance of guitars, this isn't a cooking session, but an uncharacteristically autobiographical song cycle that addresses not only Robertson's life and experiences, but those of his friends, heroes, and collaborators. It opens promisingly enough with the rootsy "Straight Down the Line," with rocking steel guitar solos by Randolph. Its lyrics deal with what attracted Robertson to the musican's calling. The meld of nocturnal guitars, synthetically funky beats, and taut yet off-kilter melody create the musical backing for "He Don't Live Here Anymore," a song that frankly discusses substance abuse and addiction. "When the Night Was Young" is a signature Robertson ballad. Though it commences with his trademark guitar sound, it tells his version of his generation's story in a laid-back way. Its lilting hook relies on country and blues; paired with 21st century production tropes, the music creates an emotional palette of longing. That said, even though romances with historical and archetypal pasts have been strong suits in his songwriting, these lyrics are self-indulgent, nostalgic, sappy. "This I Where I Get Off" addresses for the first time -- in song anyway -- his reason for breaking up the Band, and features fine guitar interplay between Robertson and Clapton. "She's Not Mine" is a nakedly honest love song. Despite its near-cinematic production, where the guitars are all but buried, its emotional content comes through via fine intuitive organ work by Winwood. "Axman," a tribute to Robertson's guitar heroes, is a star-studded name-check list that's embarrassing; even Morello's excellent guitar work can't redeem it. The angular, funky, nocturnal, funky R&B in the title track is among the more subtle highlights here; it contains a head-scratcher of a melody with the best lyrics on the set, and excellent exchanges between Randolph and Robertson. The instrumental "Tango for Django" closes with another over-the-top production that employs nuevo tango as artifice. Robertson's gut-string guitar and keyboards are backed by cello, violin, accordion, bass, and drums, all highlighted by an orchestra. It's a fitting conclusion, even if it is gratuitous. How to Become Clairvoyant is a sometimes compelling record, but it's a flawed one, too, with moments of beauty countered by bloated lyrical and production excesses. Ultimately, it feels as much like an exercise in self-justification as it does in personal revelation. ~ Thom Jurek
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Rock - Released January 1, 2011 | Savoy

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Rock - Released January 1, 1991 | Geffen Records

Robbie Robertson's 1987 solo debut was an ambitious but only intermittently successful attempt to chart a new musical direction for himself 11 years after the Band had publicly called it quits. Four years later, Robertson's second solo set, Storyville, found him in much more familiar musical territory, as he steeped himself in both the music and the lore of New Orleans, the birthplace of jazz and home to many of the R&B masters who had been a primal influence on Robertson and the other members of the Band. Anyone hoping for a blowing session with Robbie Robertson leading a team of the Big Easy's finest through the Huey "Piano" Smith and Professor Longhair songbooks will have to keep on dreaming; noted perfectionist Robertson polished these sessions to a high gloss (with the help of co-producers Stephen Hague and Gary Gersh), and the funk and good humor of Crescent City R&B generally takes a back burner to more sophisticated lyrical conceits (moody character-based narratives and meditations on the hard edges of love dominate) and gracefully moody musical structures not entirely unlike the sophisticated melodies of his first album. But the material on Storyville does have a lighter step and a freer swing than the songs on Robertson's debut, and his vocals are in far better shape this time out, boasting a lot more body and nuance than the sometimes fragile rasp that dominated his first time at bat. And Robertson had the good sense to bring Art Neville, his brother Aaron, Ziggyboo Modeleste, and Chief Bo Dollis on board; if the New Orleans presence in these songs is more often felt than heard, it still snakes powerfully through the music and honors the spirits that helped influence this music. If Robbie Robertson was about taking his music to a new and different place, Storyville found him taking his music back home and still finding new room to move within it, and if it's a more subtle album, in many ways it's also more satisfying. ~ Mark Deming
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Rock - Released January 1, 2011 | 429 Records

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Rock - Released January 1, 2005 | Hip-O Select

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Pop - Released January 12, 2018 | Screen Edge

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Rock - Released January 1, 2011 | 429 Records

Pop/Rock - Released June 21, 2011 | 429 Records

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