Robbie Robertson: How to Become Clairvoyant
An old master modestly hides the kitchen sink
Robbie Robertson’s first solo effort in 10 years doesn’t sound like it’s stacked with the likes of Trent Reznor and Tom Morello alongside less shocking cameos from Clapton, Winwood, Robert Randolph and others. On one level, his legion of admirers will appreciate the restraint — there are no campy covers with let’s-take-turns guitar solos, no forced genre exercises, no bizarre musical stray dogs in a vain attempt to modernize. Still, Clairvoyant feels a bit underpowered when you consider the sheer tonnage of talent surrounding it.It is, for better or worse, about exactly what you might cynically expect from a latter day classic rocker record — a legend rasping in soft lyrical generalities over impeccable but slightly plastic slick musical grooves. Tasteful for sure, but with small exceptions — a wonderful back-handed keyboard vamp in “When The Night Was Young” or the dueling rolling outro of “He Don’t Live Here No More” — surprisingly unremarkable and, on the title track in particular, sometimes well out of touch. With Peter Wolf and Robert Plant out making records that push the needle in the revered oldster lane, Robertson and his famous friends could easily have taken more names.