Robin Greenstein Music Plus
216 W. 89th Street, Apt. 10C
New York, NY 10024
A review written for the Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange
by David Schultz (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Robin Greenstein's "Slow Burn" has an interesting history. It was originally released on vinyl in 1989 by Windy Records. In 1992, the Swiss label Brambus released it on CD with four bonus tracks, and, in 1997, it was finally released in the U.S. with new cover art on the now defunct Seattle-based label, Band Together Records. Frankly, with the talent that I've heard on "Slow Burn," I'm surprised a bigger label hasn't picked Robin Greenstein up by now.
The liner notes, by venerated WUMB DJ Dave Palmater, note that "I was intrigued [by Slow Burn] because, although her songs can be categorized as contemporary folk, the [original] album's cover photo had a banjo tucked away in the background." In fact, I would argue that the label "contemporary folk" is too restrictive. The immediate impression one gets from listening to this album is of a great pop album; one that Whitney Houston or Linda Ronstadt would be more than proud to release. Greenstein produced this album herself and the quality of the production and richness of the instrumentation indicate the talent and insight that she had. That's not to say that the album is overproduced---Robin's sweet vocals are complemented nicely by a smart pop sensibility.
The press packet for
Slow Burn declares "Music to Relax to, Music to Cry by, Music to Make Out to." This is a pretty accurate assessment of the music found on this CD, but I would also include a fourth category: "Music to Groove by." The best example of this category is the album opener, New York Blues, in which the listener is assaulted with a sweet sax solo played over a jazz shuffle featuring rich background harmonies. This opening track makes you seriously consider whether you've put the right CD into the player, especially one billed as a contemporary folk album! An upbeat blues frolic, a la Bonnie Raitt, characterizes "Catch You If I Can" with the gutsy bridge:
|Women's faults are many, men have just two: |
Everything they say and everything they do.
Can't Help Thinking About You is reminiscent of Karla Bonoff's great pop songs of the early 80s.
In contrast, the songs that fit into the "Music to Relax to" category do not seem out of place on an Adult Contemporary station alongside Clapton's r&b tinged Pilgrimalbum, or Celine Dion. Greenstein describes A Long Ride, featuring guitar solo by Mark Shulman (Suzanne Vega, Patty Larkin, Dar Williams), as a Bruce Hornsby-esque love song. You can imagine the 80s pop-group Debarge crooning Living Your Life Alone in a little jazzy nightclub.
The "Music to Cry To" category features Greenstein's signature song, the title track, Slow Burn. This song describes the lessons that Robin's mother taught her before she died suddenly of cancer at the age of 56. Robin compares the lament of her mother laying in bed saying, "I'd rather be anywhere but here, languishing, in a slow burn" to the "slow burn" of hot tears on her own face.
Robin has spent a lot of time touring Europe and that experience pays off in the epitome of the "Music To Make Out To" category: The Magic of Paris. With the backdrop of Paris, Greenstein's lyrics, played overtop a rolling pop melody, describe the sights of Paris and the feeling of love as seen through the eyes of two lovers.
Slow Burn features all Greenstein originals except Someone to Watch Over Me" and Bye Bye Blackbird, both given the fingerpicking acoustic-guitar treatment. Except the fact that both of these songs are standards, they seem to be the purest folk songs on the album. For the many times Someone to Watch Over Me has been recorded, this has to be the freshest, folkiest, yet swingin', version around. This performance is worth the price of the album alone!
The sound quality and mastering is excellent. As previously mentioned, contemporary folk would be an inappropriate label for Slow Burn. A more accurate appraisal would be a magnificent pop album. That label, however, should not detract from those who want to buy this terrific album.
Edited by Rona Edwards