Rev. Cleophus Robinson & the Robinson Family

Live in St. Louis

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Live in St. Louis sounds like a "give me my flowers while I'm still here to smell them" tribute to the lengthy gospel career of Rev. Cleophus Robinson, one marking the 40th anniversary of his tenure at the Greater Bethlehem Missionary Baptist Church. It's a family testimonial and valentine to the congregation all wrapped in one package, but it's hard to imagine that those who haven't closely followed his career will find much to interest them here. The compositions are mostly Robinson's own, with a couple of classics by James Cleveland and Alex Bradford, with backing by a largely family band and home church choir. Robinson has a thin voice but often goes for shouter effects -- "My Dying Bed" suggests he may have been a decent church rouser in his day -- but his voice is mixed below the band. It's a mixed bag of old-school styles with lots of organ swells, and "When the Gates Swing Open" gives a good sense of the minister-congregation interplay, the in-church atmosphere, and the need for the players to improvise with bluesy fills following Robinson's lead. "If the Lord Be With Me" starts with a bass riff close to Stanley Clarke's "School Days" and gets a storming trad groove working, goes into a bluesy slowdown, and then shifts to a gospel jump-up at the fade. "Jesus Can Fix Every Situation" has seriously funky thumb-pop bass and wicked wah-wah guitar, plus a drop-in by Dorothy Norwood, and it's a happening track that fades only when (or because?) the bass player starts feinting toward "Super Freak." "There's Only One Bridge" is just solid, bluesy gospel -- choir kicks in, organ soars, hands clap; it's compact and hard to argue with on any level. But that's pretty much it -- son Shadrach Robinson's "He's Coming Back" is more in the modern choral vein (and much better once the choir kicks in) and "It Don't Matter" is just bland contemporary gospel, too. The synth-organ combination on "Sweet Home" is plenty overbearing, most of the others are anonymous, and the constant fadeouts are consistently irritating. Glad Cleophus Robinson got this memento in his lifetime, but there's not enough music here for anyone outside the fold.

Track Listing

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
1 3:09
2 4:20
3 3:20
4 7:40
5 2:45
6 6:45
7 2:07
8 4:45
9 4:00
10 3:03
11 4:30
12 3:20
13 4:45
14 5:45
15 3:30
16 3:45
17 2:08
18 3:05
blue highlight denotes track pick