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Having It Both Ways
Tom Robinson
Cooking Vinyl: COOK CD 097
Enhanced (CD+) format

Produced by Al Scott, recorded 1995-6 at Metway studio in Brighton with longstanding TR sideman Adam Phillips on guitar.

1. Disrespect
2. The One
3. Rum Thunderbird
4. Cold Cold Ground
5. Fool To Myself
6. Hot Dog
7. Sorry
8. Connecticut
9. Congo Blue
10. Castaway
11. The Last Word

Click on track title to listen, right-click for free download.

* Tom Robinson: piano, ac. guitar, programming
* T.V.Smith: acoustic guitar, backing vocals
* Adam Phillips: guitar, ac. guitar, backing vocals
* Jo Burt: bass, acoustic guitar, backing vocals
* Tom Fenner: drums, percussion, backing vocals

Photography by Del LaGrace Volcano
Sleeve design by Cactus
All titles composed 1995 by Robinson / Phillips / Fenner / Burt (except Disrespect: Robinson / Phillips / Fenner / Burt / Scott / Lallaman). Publishing: Duncannon Music

Extra musical contributions by
Badsha Lallaman: rap on disrespect
Mark Ramsden: sax on disrespect and castaway
Al Scott: bass on disrespect, odd bits of guitar
Henry Twinch: organ and some of the piano on disrespect
Simon Leveller: mandolin and backing vocals on rum thunderbird
Jeremy Leveller: backing vocals on rum thunderbird
Burt Leveller: backing vocals on rum thunderbird

Badsha Lallaman appears courtesy of Debt Records/Detrimental
T.V. Smith appears courtesy of Humbug Records
Members of The Levellers appear courtesy of China Records
"Disrespect" is dedicated to Vlod and "Connecticut" to Dan Hartman.

SAFER SEX information and counselling available from:
Terrence Higgins Trust
52-54 Grays Inn Rd, London, WC1X 8JU
Helpline: 0207-242-1010
Open 12 noon - 10 pm, 7 days a week
UK National AIDS Trust
and the
UK National AIDS Helpline: 0800-567-123

To understand "Having It Both Ways" you have to know your musical history. Way back in 1978, Tom Robinson released an album called "Power In The Darkness". An authentic expression of the zeitgeist of the late Seventies, it articulated the nature of the erosion of civil liberties, the proliferation of racism, the rise in unemployment and social unrest which came to the fore under the oppressive aegis of a deeply unsympathetic Margaret Thatcher-led Tory government. Famously, too, Tom Robinson was homosexual and a vociferous champion of gay rights. Power In The Darkness, an awesome document of its times, was rightly considered a classic.

To some extent, the rest of Robinson's career was eclipsed by that explosive debut. As Thatcherism started to win all the battles and oppositional forces disappeared from view, Robinson briefly hit the spotlights again when the immaculate War Baby went to number six in the singles charts in Britain, but the FM sound of the album it came from alienated many of his fans. Robinson, it seemed, was doomed to occupy that marginal ground between jazzy stubbornness and sensible AOR.

Unbelievably, however, almost two decades on, Tom Robinson has come up with the goods again. For, make no mistake, Having It Both Ways is the true successor to Power In The Darkness, as relevant to now as that debut album was to then.

To begin with, the old anger is back and it has a sharp renewed focus and drive. There's not a weak track in sight: all are as good as anything Tom Robinson has ever composed before. There's the personal politics of the reggae-like "Disrespect", that gets to the core of the loss of self-belief in all communities that have been ravished of hope and opportunity. Or the achingly sad "The One", that could be about any lonely person you've ever set eyes on whose life has passed them by.

"Cold Cold Ground" crashes and bangs around like a thunderstorm with a hangover, as Robinson hits hard at our lack of social conscience and fuels his vitriol with lines like:

Don't kid yourself that you're immune
The 21st century will be here soon
Fucked in a gutter, howling at the moon
And begging on the cold cold ground.

Having It Both Ways shimmers with intelligence and commitment. It is a superior work by an exceptional songwriter, one of those rare records that astonishes from the very first listen. If Bob Dylan, Neil Young or Bruce Springsteen released an album like this, you'd have been informed it was a solid gold masterpiece. But Tom Robinson has always had either no image at all, or one that was too ambiguous to ever court world-conquering appeal. But I guarantee you'll have to go a long way to hear a more vital record this or any other year.

©Hot Press, Dublin

  TR with toy guitar