Steve Roberts has one of rock & roll's most underrated and essentially unknown voices. Although the soulful singer/songwriter is recognized in his hometown of Liverpool, England, mass exposure is something he has yet to achieve. Like his friend Peter Coyle of the Lotus Eaters, Roberts is an example of a critic's favorite who is perhaps too subtle and soft-spoken to be heard above the din of commercial rubbish. He began his musical career in 1981, posting an ad on a notice board, in search of a band that shared his Jam and Kinks influences. Through it, he was introduced to bassist Tony Elliott. The two became friends and attempted to form a group called Total Action. However, the buddies weren't able to find new members. Elliott then joined Sebastian's Men while Roberts was added to In Dangerous Rhythm. Neither band was successful, and Roberts and Elliott met again in 1984. They started rehearsing at the Ministry in Liverpool as 16 Tambourines, named after the album by Three O'Clock. Through 16 Tambourines Roberts found a vehicle for his smooth, unpretentious vocals. From 1985 to 1986, Roberts sang at over 100 16 Tambourines gigs, which were gaining positive word of mouth. The group was eventually signed to Arista Records and released one LP, How Green Is Your Valley?, in 1990. 16 Tambourines were compared to other Liverpool acts such as the Christians and Black, but they were really without peer, open to unfashionable cocktail jazz and blue-eyed soul touches that created a timeless feel. However, their label didn't see a future with the band and abruptly dumped them. Suddenly orphaned, 16 Tambourines collapsed, leaving Roberts and Elliott to keep the torch burning with the Tambourines. After the Tambourines broke up, Roberts decided to go solo. He created the Acoustic Engine for likeminded musicians like Coyle and Ian McNabb of the Icicle Works to perform in and released It Just Is in 2001, receiving a Mercury Award nomination. In 2004, he formed another group, the Bank of England.
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