Q - 12/94, p.1693 Stars
- Good - "...Even (producer Todd Rundgren) could not diminish 'Bully For You,' a collaboration with Peter Gabriel and among both parties' best work. That it wasn't a hit beggars belief..."
Tom Robinson Band: Tom Robinson (bass, vocals); Danny Kustow (guitar, background vocals); Ian "Quince" Parker (keyboards, background vocals), Preston Heyman (drums, triangle, background vocals); Kasim Sulton, Carol Grimes, Barry St. John, Niamh Chambers (background vocals).
Recorded at Pye Studios, London, England on December 13-19, 1978. Includes liner notes by Jimmy Guterman.
All songs written or co-written by Tom Robinson.
Personnel: Tom Robinson (vocals); Danny Kustow (vocals, guitar); Preston Heyman (vocals, keyboards, drums, triangle, background vocals); Ian Parker (vocals, keyboards); Niamh Chambers, Kasim Sulton, Barry St. John, Carol Grimes (vocals); Dolphin Taylor (drums).
Audio Mixer: Todd Rundgren.
Recording information: 12/13/1978-12/19/1978.
The Tom Robinson Band's potential seemed unlimited after its classic debut, Power in the Darkness, but an uncertain period followed after founding keyboardist Mark Ambler and drummer Brian "Dolphin" Taylor quit the fold. Taylor's departure over what he considered to be weak material inspired one of the album's few real highlights, "Bully for You," a savage dig in the tradition of "How Do You Sleep?" Unfortunately, Taylor was right; hired guns like Kate Bush session drummer Preston Heyman and keyboardist Ian "Quince" Parker pushed matters in a more mainstream direction, which isn't really an improvement (and not the fault of unlikely production choice Todd Rundgren). TRB Two studiously echoes its predecessor's style and tone, but without the sound and fury that made Power in the Darkness so compelling. "All Night, All Right" and "Why Should I Mind" are rousing, in the best TRB fist-waving tradition, but a cause-of-the-week fervor dogs such obviously titled fare as "Let My People Go" and "Days of Rage." The band treads a perilously thin line between angry young men and angry young bores, depending on the material they're tackling. Robinson later admitted that his creative drive had gotten sidetracked by music biz expectations. The most glaring example is the retread of "Blue Murder," a searing indictment of a suspect's death in police custody on "Sorry Mr. Harris," and "Law & Order"'s campy music hall rooty-toot-toot -- which even the debut album's live "Martin" executed to better effect. The folky, acoustic "Hold Out" closes the album on an uplifting note, but arrives too late to fix the damage. Remaining founding members Tom Robinson and Danny Kustow signaled their discontent by disbanding just four months after TRB Two's release. Well produced and played, this album ranks among punk's better-known letdowns. ~ Ralph Heibutzki