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MACY’S 5015; JANUARY 1951



Destined to be overlooked in not one but two genres, Hubert Robinson was nevertheless a figure who did justice to both blues and rock.

His problem of course was that he was too bluesy and rural sounding for the younger and increasingly worldly rock audience of the early 1950’s while his musical rambunctiousness with horns blaring was too much for the blues audience to warmly embrace.

Then there’s the fact he couldn’t seem to choose between the two.

But by limiting our focus to just the rock sides – since that’s our whole reason for being at this site – we see that while he was never going to be a perfect fit around here, his willingness to cut loose on some slightly risque subjects made him enough of a rocker to never be denied entrance to the party.


The Shape You’re In
It’d be fair to call Hubert Robinson a talented journeyman, even though he didn’t actually journey very far, either from his home base of Texas or in hopping from one label to the next. Though he’s appeared under the auspices of three labels, the short-lived Eddie’s Records, then Macy’s Recordings and Jade Records, the latter was a subsidary of Macy’s and this was the end of the line for him.

Yet in terms of what he had to offer Robinson basically fit into the journeyman description… someone who was capable of reasonably good performances in more than one style, yet was incapable of ever doing much beyond just fitting the bill.

At his best he was still flawed, whether it was his voice being too weathered for wider appeal in rock, or his solid songwriting having a line or two in each song that didn’t fit and should’ve been cleaned up with another take or edited to conform to the song’s structure, Robinson was just good enough to be signed and recorded, never good enough to be a star and carry a label.

High Class Woman epitomizes that portrayal. It’s an enjoyably cockeyed rebuke of a girl who sounds a lot more responsible and desirable than the narrator and sung with admirable enthusiasm by Robinson, yet it’s devoid of the irony or humor the basic premise calls for.

Still, if journeyman rockers are your thing, you’ll be reasonably satisfied with what he has to offer yet again.


Yes, Yes, Baby, You Better Come Down
On most of his sides to date Robinson has been greatly helped by having a band behind him that could contribute to the raucous mood he was sometimes ill-equipped to project entirely on his own.

With his nasal and occasionally wheezing vocals he was lacking the lusty shouting prowess of Wynonie Harris or even Crown Prince Waterford to really sell the material in a way that would make the songs hard to forget and so having a band that could bolster his sound by charging out of the gate at full gallop and create a fairly tight sensible arrangement for these songs with the requisite exuberant breaks was an absolute necessity… the difference between a record that had good elements but still fell short and a well executed record that was modestly average.

On High Class Woman the band sets the stage with riffing horns – one slightly out of tune – slashing guitar, rolling piano and clicking drums, all of which are taken a pace that’s just above mid-tempo but not quite high speed, thereby allowing Robinson to stay within hailing distance of them as he starts to tell the story.

Judging by the way he sells this he’s being totally sincere in his complaints about this woman whom he criticizes for being a know-it-all. His insults over her lack of drinking is much funnier as written than in the way he sings it, because he’s making the fact she’s not guzzling whisky and gin to be a detriment when it sounds as if he’s been imbibing too much in the stuff. If he played that aspect up, essentially revealing himself to be the one who has more issues than her, it’d have worked better, changing the tone of the song in a way you wouldn’t have expected when starting out.

Got Your Head High In The Sky
After a very strong, squealing sax solo that sticks largely in the mid to upper register of the horn that is the obvious high point of the record, Robinson admits he still loves this woman he’s just insulted and then doubles down on his conflicted feelings by accusing her of taking his money as a result of his devotion to her.

The stop-time section that follows features a nice string bass accompaniment but as with a lot of this the lyrics seem to be making a broader point without being meticulously worked out to tell a more cohesive story. Early on he screws up a stanza with a line that sticks out like the proverbial sore thumb because it leads up to – but doesn’t deliver on – a rhyme and down the stretch of the song he’s at the end of his rope, imploring her to let him talk some sense into her without having given us any reason to think such a discussion would be any more focused or effective than his aimless ranting has been up to this point.

More than anything High Class Woman is a generic put-down of a song that substitutes a familiar, but hardly well-drawn, caricature for a three dimensional figure who’d breathe more life into the story. Yet in spite of its shortcomings as written and Robinson’s limited vocal gifts, there’s still an agreeable vibe to it all. He might not make much sense but he’s committed in his beliefs regarding this woman’s flaws and the band is picking up the slack whenever they step out in front.

It had no chance of being a big hit, especially since the title itself is never sung in full once making it hard to recall what you’re listening to, but if you happened to stumble across it you’d stick with it until the end just on its determination alone.


Heart And Soul
One of the ongoing themes of this project is the desire to establish just what an “average” rock release was for its day because once you’ve done so then it becomes easier to see how the great and the awful fit in around that basic standard of competency.

Hubert Robinson wasn’t “average” in the sense of how he sounded. In other words there weren’t a lot of artists you could throw into a hat and pull out any one of their records and find that it sounded similar to any of the others in that bunch.

But he was more or less average in his results and that makes him a reliable artist to have on your roster. High Class Woman has got just enough going for it to make it work, yet just enough holding it back from being something you’d seek out.

Robinson got by on effort more than ability, he was a grinder in a lot of ways, someone who worked hard to stay viable, yet he also had a good sense of what worked and the fact he was able to keep balancing two different approaches – the flip to this, I Love You Baby, is pure blues – and maintain consistency in each field shows he was smarter than some of his records themselves may have indicated.

Singers who hit some notable highs every so often but balanced it out with a lot of worthless sides to bring their overall output back down to average tend to be remembered longer than the guys like Robinson who never had everything really come together even once, but who rarely saw everything fall apart either.

In the end though, they’re the same. Average artists.


(Visit the Artist page of Hubert Robinson for the complete archive of his records reviewed to date)