Robyn Hitchcock & the Egyptians

Respect

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Many of Robyn Hitchcock's fans were less than enchanted with his 1991 album Perspex Island, with the glossy production usually cited as its crippling flaw, but the disc's real problem was that the surface sheen tended to emphasize the fact that the songs weren't up to Hitchcock's usual standards. Thankfully, Hitchcock's next set, 1993's Respect, was a noticeable improvement on all fronts. Most of the album was recorded in Hitchcock's home using a mobile recording truck, and while the results hardly sound homemade (producer John Leckie knew when and where to add needed embellishments, and the recording has a firm but spacious sound), they lack the excess aural gingerbread of Perspex Island and the sessions have a warmer, more organic sound. The arrangements also offer a bit more adventure, from the Beefheart-ian a cappella strangeness of "Wafflehead" to the percussive synthesizers of "The Yip Song" and the epochal horns and strings of "The Wreck of the Arthur Lee." And with the accompaniment for the most part stripped back to Hitchcock, Andy Metcalfe, and Morris Windsor, Respect offers a tighter focus that serves the songs well; Hitchcock's surrealism has a more human dimension on this set than one usually expects, and "The Arms of Love" and "Serpent at the Gates of Wisdom" possess a warmth that's engaging and moving. And while saying "Believe in love and I'll believe in you" may simply be a bad pun in a song called "The Wreck of the Arthur Lee," in context Hitchcock makes it sound as if he means a good bit more, and it's a lovely moment on one of Robyn Hitchcock's more unappreciated albums.

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