Al Robinson - Sho 'Bout To Drive Me Wild (PULSAR 2408)
Sho 'Bout To Drive Me Wild
What Can I say? Alvin "Shine" Robinson was just about the coolest guy to ever rise up out of Sugar Town! I mean, check out this rockin' record - arranged by Harold Battiste, with writing credit being shared with none other than Mac Rebennack, Jessie Hill, and King Floyd (who I'm sure are playing on here as well...)! It must be jelly 'cuz jam don't shake like dat! It was released in 1969 as the B side of "Empty Talk", a Ray Charles styled R&B groaner that didn't do much in the charts.
Robinson's first singles came out on Imperial in the early 60s. Once Lew Chudd sold out to Liberty Records and left New Orleans in 1963, he began working with Battiste and the rest of the krewe over at AFO. When THEY folded the following year, Alvin jumped in Joe Jones' legendary station wagon and headed to New York City. It was there he would hook up with Jerry Lieber and Mike Stoller and record his best sides (for an overview of this period, check out Larry Grogan's excellent article in his Funky 16 Corners webzine). When Lieber and Stoller sold their labels, Robinson tried one more single with Joe Jones ("Whatever You Had You Ain't Got No More", an answer record to the great "Something You Got" that borrows heavily on it's groove...) before pulling up stakes and heading for the west coast.
It was here in L.A. that he rejoined the expatriate AFO gang from NOLA. Battiste had made a name for himself as the arranger on Sonny & Cher's string of gold records for ATCO, and could pretty much call his own shots. This guaranteed Alvin work as a session musician and got him a single released on ATCO in 1968 ("Let Me Down Easy" b/w "Baby Don't You Do It", the Holland-Dozier-Holland gem that Allen Toussaint and The Band reworked on their Rock Of Ages LP a few years later). Two PULSAR releases (this one and "Soulful Woman") followed in '69. They were to be his last solo efforts.
He became a member of Dr. John's touring outfit, and appeared on a number of his albums during the 1970s. It was his friendship with Rebennack that got him down with the Tropicana Motel crowd, appearing on such cool records as Tom Waits' "Blue Valentine" in 1978 and Chuck E. Weiss' "The Other Side Of Town" in 1981.
After a 1984 album with Big Joe Turner, Alvin Robinson finally returned home to New Orleans. His last recorded work was on Chuck Carbo's killer B side of B sides, "Meet Me With Your Black Drawers On", released as a single on 504 records in time for Mardi Gras in 1989. By Jazz Fest, Alvin was dead.
The amazing thing to me is that nobody ever asked him to SING! I mean, don't get me wrong, I love his guitar playing and all, but that VOICE!
An album of Robinson's early sides was released by CHARLY in the UK in 1988, but is now, sadly, out of print. His unreleased material from the AFO days is now available on the excellent Gumbo Stew series. The Red Bird and Blue Cat recordings show up on various import compilations from time to time... but, basically, if you do a search for 'Alvin Robinson' at Amazon you get 'no results found'. THAT is a crime.
"Shine on Alvin, Shine on!" - John Broven