Robin Zander is a talented man and one hell of a rock vocalist.
Robin Zander, on the other hand, is not a very good album.
It’s easy to be confused by this — Lord knows many Zander/Cheap Trick fans were when they listened to Robin Zander for the first time — but really, whenever possible, we should strive to hate the song, and not the singer. (Notable exception: Post-”Love Touch” Rod Stewart.) It isn’t easy, and some of us aren’t all the way there yet, but it’s possible to forgive Robin Zander for this album. That’s the wonderful/painful thing about Cheap Trick fans, actually; they’re forever trying to put the band’s last disappointing album behind them in anticipation of the next one. Call it optimism, stupidity, or short-term memory loss, but it’s a condition suffered by thousands of your fellow men.
I should know — I groaned my way through Zander’s solo album when it was released fourteen years ago, but when I sat down to listen to it for this piece, I clung foolishly to the notion that maybe it didn’t suck as badly as I’d remembered. And the album played along for a little while, too — “Reactionary Girl” (download) is good ‘n’ catchy, “I’ve Always Got You” (download) is a perfectly pleasant midtempo number, and “Show Me Heaven” (download) is tolerable, in an “if they’d made Top Gun II, this would have been on the soundtrack” sort of way.
And then it goes shooting right off a cliff. As I said before, Robin Zander is a talented man, and one who has contributed more than his share to the rock lexicon; this, however, in no way excuses the terrible things he does here to Harry Nilsson’s classic “Jump Into the Fire” (download), or Neil Young’s “I Believe in You” (download).
Those are two of the most obnoxious examples of what’s wrong with this album, but they’re far from the only ones; the whole thing is stuffed with limp MOR drivel like “Time Will Let You Know” and “Everlasting Love.” When the best things about your album’s second half are an uninspired duet with the DiVinyl’s Christina Amphlett and a slight, scuffling rocker like “Tell It to the World” (download), you’ve chosen your material unwisely.
This column often functions as a forum for bemoaning a recording’s out-of-print status, but in Robin Zander’s case, justice was served. Albums like this are what cutout bins were made for.