Robyn Hitchcock

Robyn Sings

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Robyn Sings Review

by Brian Downing

Robyn Hitchcock has covered a multitude of artists throughout his career, wowing concert audiences with his ability to spontaneously recall obscure songs and a penchant for making such numbers seem like his own. While his voice and songcraft have usually led to quick comparisons with Syd Barrett and the Beatles, his surreal lyrics and acoustic bent are both the exclusive offspring of Bob Dylan's mid-'60s work. Robyn Sings is a two-disc tribute to this influence, albeit with much more melody aboard than one would normally associate with Dylan's material. As mentioned, the first disc is the keeper of the two and includes live versions of some of Dylan's most well-known acoustic songs, recorded on tour at various American locales in 1999 and 2000. Without sounding sacrilegious, Hitchcock's voice is more pleasing than Dylan's and his acoustic guitar playing is also better, making his versions, much like the Byrds' and Jimi Hendrix's before him, arguably superior to the Dylan takes. Hitchcock calls "Visions of Johanna" his favorite song, and it's easy to imagine this cut, or "Desolation Row," seamlessly nestled on one of his own albums. "It's All Over Now, Baby Blue" can also be seen as a definitive cover, successfully mixing the moods of Hitchcock's own "Wide Open Star" and "Chinese Bones." Hitchcock already released a similar album entitled Royal Queen Albert & Beautiful Homer that captured a 30th anniversary tribute to Dylan's famous Royal Albert Hall concert, and the second disc of Robyn Sings simply reprises that release. This disc isn't as essential, as it contains a DAT-sourced audience recording of Hitchcock and his band recreating the concert in competent but unnecessary fashion. The sound quality aside, that event was truly too unique to be repeated and isn't as conducive to replication as the material from the fist disc. Hitchcock has released more than a half dozen "specialty" releases since he became a solo troubadour of sorts, after he and the Egyptians parted ways in 1994. Some may view this onslaught of rarities, alternate mixes, demos, live recordings, and cover albums as a sign of a dwindling muse, but on the contrary, it actually shows Hitchcock's talent to be just too abundant and varied to be contained on mere studio efforts.

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