- The Washington Times - Monday, June 28, 2004

Chris Robinson

This Magnificent Distance

Vector Recordings

When singer Chris Robinson went solo two years ago, he found a Brit collaborator, Paul Stacey, who was perhaps better suited to the ex-Black Crowe’s voice and songwriting inclinations than was his younger brother, Rich Robinson.

Rich’s god-hammer riffing and busy song arrangements, as invigorating as they often were, tended to crowd out space for unhurried vocal nuance.

Mr. Stacey, who co-produced and played an attic-full of guitars and keyboards on 2002’s “New Earth Mud,” is a specialist of space and tonality. He’s like a pointillist painter with a knack for choosing just-right musical dots and details.

Mr. Robinson and Mr. Stacey pair again for “This Magnificent Distance,” an even more fully realized and satisfying pastiche of the classic rock canon than the softer, mellower “Mud.”

In short, Mr. Robinson proves he still can work up a head of steam, as on the stomping opening cut “40 Days” and the howling choruses of “When the Cold Wind Blows at the Dark Edge of Night” and “Sea of Love.”

Some of the material here, including “Train Robbers” and “Mother of Stone,” were written before “Mud’s” release. I heard the latter done acoustically at the 9:30 Club; it has since been partially transformed into Santana-esque psychedelia.

Mr. Robinson’s lyrics are often lost in a pot haze of hippie mysticism, as on “Like a Tumbleweed in Eden,” a song that bears an unfortunate harmonic resemblance to the ‘70s folk band America.

The countercultural celebration that is “…If You See California” may sound a little disingenuous coming from a guy who lives with a Hollywood starlet in Malibu, but its easy country pace succeeds in evoking a clear-sky drive on the PCH.

Mr. Robinson is more effective when he engages the real world. “Surgical Glove” and “Piece of Wind” take on, respectively, the subjects of an aging, hollowed-out rock star and American consumer society.

And they’re built on mighty guitar riffs that render brother Rich all but obsolete.

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