Rob Grill

Uprooted

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"Rock Sugar" opens side two of this 1979 release by the former lead singer of the Grass Roots. The song was written by keyboard player Dennis Provisor and features three-fifths of the most famous Fleetwood Mac, all the guys. That's the problem: There's no Stevie Nicks, no Christine McVie, a thin production, and a weak song. Add to this Rob Grill's vocals, which don't have the staying power present of his '60s hits -- he accumulated 14 of them in the five- to six-year span beginning in 1966 with "Where Were You When I Needed You," and you start asking yourself, where's Sloan and Barri when Grill needed them! An almost acoustic version of that splendid composition, "Where Were You When I Needed You," concludes this disc, and the arrangement is marvelous. Remember when Burton Cummings did his parody of "You Ain't Seen Nothing Yet," the cabaret version on his first solo album? Well, the little magic on this album is in the re-arrangement of the classic first hit by the Grass Roots. The problem is that Grill's voice cracks. And where it doesn't misfire, it just doesn't have it. Nor does the transparent production by Robbie Buchanan and Grill have it either. In 1975, the Grass Roots had a "reunion" album, of sorts. It was Rob Grill with producers Dennis Lambert, Brian Potter, and arranger Michael Omartian, along with Dennis Provisor; from this debacle Uprooted emerged four years later in 1979, the height of Fleetwood Mac mania. A song like "Feel the Heat" appears like it is a burden; "God Help the Man" is in the same league. Evoked here are memories of that Plasmatics album when producer Jimmy Miller tracked the musicians in separate rooms, not allowing them to listen to each other while performing, something the Plasmatics manager probably pushed on Miller. The result was chaos. This album feels like the drummer is playing in one dimension, while the vocals are somewhere else. Absolutely no groove. But it is the Dennis Provisor tune which is so disappointing. The one tune produced by John McVie, and he should've known better. It's called "Rock Sugar" (no relation to "Brown Sugar") and begins with typical Lindsey Buckingham guitar notes, almost like his hit "Trouble," but it quickly falls apart from there. What a dream to go from what was essentially a studio band to having vital members of Fleetwood Mac backing you up. But if you're looking for the great lost Fleetwood Mac tune, well, it's not here. "Have Mercy" is an appropriate title for a song on this album, but by the time you get to it, one would hope Grill would have mercy on the listeners. There are some wonderful musical passages in the song, but it, and the rest of this album, are trying too hard. After all the years recording, didn't Rob learn anything from P.F. Sloane and Steve Barri? That you let the tape machine roll to catch a groove and have some fun, and hopefully, the audience gets it!? "Rocking on the Road Again" is misdirected and bad Bad Company; however, the cover of M. Chapman and N. Chin's "Strangers" has a strange blend of Ian Gomm meets Atlanta Rhythm Section/King Harvest, which might've helped had it been employed most everywhere else. Obviously, no one played John McVie the Rare Earth albums produced by the Bee Gees because this is a very disappointing record. Maybe Rob Grill should hunt down Rod Evans from the original Deep Purple, and these ex-singers from '60s bands can have a support group to figure it all out. Extraordinary guitarists like Steve Hunter and Lindsey Buckingham deserve better music to perform on.

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