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CD REVIEW: Robin Kelly - "Silk and Knives"
By David Lockeretz - 08/16/2002 - 10:19 PM EDT

Artist: Robin Kelly
Album: "Silk and Knives"
CD Review: With a high, lyrical voice, Robin Kelly would seem the classic Irish tenor, were he not from New Zealand. This fourteen song CD shows Kelly as a singer/songwriter with a good chance of putting his country on the musical map, but some work needs to be done to get there.

The vast majority of the songs are ballads. I love a well-done ballad; any musician will tell you that they are harder to pull off than the faster songs. If you don't agree with me, that's fine; I'm sure the line to get Yngwie Malmsteen's autograph at the state fair won't be too long. And in fact, it's the uptempo material on this album--the amusing but rather shallow "A Lot Like You" and the naive "Take a Break"-- that falls far short of the depth of expression that Kelly's best material reaches.

If Kelly is trying to establish himself in the adult contemporary market, great--he's there. But if he's going for a more mainstream sound, he needs to have more uptempo and energetic material. Not that he needs to juxtapose his beautiful voice over a Metallica-like rhythm section, but even little things, such as substituting acoustic guitar for piano, go a long way toward modernizing his sound.

Thus, it's not surprising that two of the best songs, "Who Will Rescue Leon?" and "Transformed" both feature the acoustic guitar. Another strong piece is "Images of Ali", in which the exploits of the boxing legend are told over a surprising pastoral musical backdrop. The final song on this CD, "Last Night At The Ball" has a clever, old-fashioned storyline and some good comic acting from "Higginbottom"; you will like it in spite of yourself.

I think Robin Kelly has a lot to say and for the most part does a good job telling his stories. He is a living argument for the power of understatement. Maybe just a touch more juice is needed.

You can contact Robin Kelly at robin@acupil.co.nz.


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