Sunday, June 2, 2013

The Robbs - The Robbs (1967)

The Robbs — oldest brother Dee Robb (guitar, vocals), Joe Robb (guitar, vocals), and youngest brother Bruce Robb (keyboards, vocals) — began their lengthy careers in their hometown of Oconomowoc, WI (near Milwaukee) as a teen-center pop group calling themselves Dee Robb & the Robbins. As Robby & the Robins, they recorded "Surfer's Life" for the Todd label, which has since appeared on numerous surf compilations. During a summer tour, their guitarist was facing the draft board, so the band had to shuffle the lineup and bring in their cousin, Craig Robb (real name Craig Krampf) as a replacement on drums. The band then changed names to the Robbs and soldiered on, playing soft rock harmony drenched pop in the vein of the Cowsills, the Monkees, or Paul Revere & the Raiders. Krampf and the three Robb brothers performed all across the Midwest, appearing as the opening act on bills with the top acts of the day. They were eventually discovered by music impresario Dick Clark, who had them perform at his Teen World's Fair in Chicago. Soon thereafter, the Robbs were signed to Mercury Records (the label that had, by then, signed the four Cowsill brothers before dropping the group after two singles) and recorded their first record, which was released in 1967. They appeared on TV's Where the Action Is and, along with Buffalo Springfield, opened for the Turtles. Clark later invited the Robbs to be regulars on his TV show, so the band moved to California. There they became the backing group for Del Shannon, Gene Pitney, Bobby Vinton, and others. The Robbs signed with Atlantic for a few singles. Then — with Shannon's help — signed with ABC's Dunhill Records and changed their name to Cherokee in the early '70s. As a country-rock outfit, they issued one album, produced by Steve Barri, which featured additional guest performances by former Byrds Chris Hillman and Sneaky Pete Kleinow. Each member of the original Robbs lineup ultimately left the group until only Krampf remained. He found continual and steady employ as a session drummer, while Dee, Joe, and Bruce Robb, meanwhile, turned to engineering and producing. They have since become quite successful as the owner/operators of their own Cherokee Studios, in West Hollywood, CA, and Cherokee Ranch Studios, which was located next to the Spahn Ranch in the '60s, before moving to Chatsworth, CA. The Robbs are award-winning producers/engineers of countless platinum artists, including Rod Stewart, John Cougar Mellencamp, Alice Cooper, and Steely Dan, to name a few.

1. Violets of Dawn
2. Race With the Wind
3. Cynthia Loves
4. Next Time You See Me
5. Girls, Girls
6. Bittersweet
7. See Jane Run
8. In a Funny Sort of Way
9. Rapid Transit
10. Jolly Miller 

Although the Robbs quartet was founded by three siblings, none of them was named Robb. They were actually David Donaldson, Robert Donaldson, and George Donaldson. Prior to garnering the attention of teen music mogul Dick Clark, the trio added percussionist Craig Krampf. Under Clark's supervision, the Robbs were featured in a few high-profile television appearances and secured a short-lived deal with Mercury Records.This initially yielded a handful of 45s in 1966, which were slightly augmented and issued as their self-titled (and only) long-player. The Robbs' sound centered around lighter affairs such as the nimble "Cynthia Loves" and tightly packed Hollies-esque vocal harmonies on "Next Time You See Me." Similarly, "Girls, Girls" is a slice of carefree sunshine pop, hinting at the Association and the Turtles, while the pensive "Rapid Transit" is reminiscent of the Left Banke and the Strawberry Alarm Clock's more Baroque approach. The Robbs also show off a penchant for folk-rock on a superior reading of Eric Andersen's "Violets of Dawn," the original composition "Race With the Wind," and an adaptation of "Jolly Miller," the latter adopting a garage feel thanks to the propulsive bassline and omnipresent timekeeping tambourine. The album's initial release barely made it into the Top 200, which may have had something to do with the fact that all but two of the selections had already been available as 7" singles. [In 2004, Collectors' Choice Music re-released The Robbs on CD after several decades relegated to cutout bins and online auctions.] 

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