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MACY’S 5010; AUGUST 1950



In all three prior reviews for Hubert Robinson we used the word “crude”, or some variation of it, to describe his musical style.

But at this juncture of his career the question has to be raised if crudity has any real commercial value… after all, what goes over great at a crowded club full of drunken revelers on a Friday night might not have enough appeal for those same people, presumably now sober, to pay for a record to listen to without the accompanying debauchery of the live environment.

Does this mean Robinson may be re-assessing his approach to try for a more rewarding career as a recording artist or is it folly to ask a tiger to change his stripes?

Well, he hasn’t suddenly gotten any more sophisticated if that’s what you were wondering.


Can’t Get Nothin’
To start off by giving him a little credit, this song has a solid concept at its core – musically, thematically and in regards to a lyrical hook. Beyond that however there’s not much here but ragged enthusiasm to keep you interested… admirable in a way, yet almost sounding misplaced, as if we’re hearing only pieces of what a much more wild jam session.

It starts with a call and response horn riff before the piano establishes the boogie and Robinson starts to (loosely) frame the story giving it the overall feel of a live cut, which is surely what Macy’s Recordings, Hubert Robinson and whoever was producing the track was aiming for.

That’s what he did well, but it’s also where he falls short.

For one thing beyond that sketch outline of a plot there’s nothing in Room And Board Boogie for us to latch onto. Robinson is complaining about buying his woman a car (a Caddy no less!) and a home but for some reason he never explains to us he’s now leaving her BECAUSE of that, saying he now has barely enough money left to pay his rent.

Umm, why not stay in the house you bought her? Or if you’re hellbent on leaving take the damn car rather than walking down the street like an aimless drifter. I’m sure if you had enough dough to pay for those rather costly items your credit is probably still good at any reputable bank so you could even go get a loan so you won’t have to stay in the shabby boarding house you’re headed to on the outskirts of town.

We wait patiently for an explanation but instead get one rough hewn solo after another while Robinson sits out for a minute and twenty seconds… of a 2:30 record!

When he does return for a brief coda he just repeats what we’ve already heard, one good line but one that nevertheless keeps us in the dark about the story we tuned in for.

Whatever his issue is with her, whether personal or financial, it needs to be elaborated on. I’m not saying we have to see invoices laid out in front of us and have an accountant come in and go through their tax returns to find out who’s at fault for this rift between them, but we at least need a plausible accusation to be made to try and figure out if we should be siding with Robinson in this split or telling him it’s his own fault for trying to buy his way into her heart in the first place.

Instead of a story we get a blurb and are expected to think that will suffice.


Leaving You Baby
With no deeper investment in the subject matter – and barely any time to soak in Robinson’s somewhat nasal vocal delivery – we’re left with just the instrumental performances to give us some connection to this record.

Here too, though they have their charm, they’re the kind of thing that needs to be worked up to rather than thrown at us in the midst of an abbreviated tale of indeterminate origins.

The guitar solo that kicks off the break is fairly economical, sticking to a very deliberate progression that serves as the slow fuse for the sax solo that follows. It’s a fairly standard approach, unwinding from the first squeals and getting progressively more unhinged as it goes along, even throwing in an unexpected melodic interlude before peeling the paint off the studio walls with some intense screeching, all of which sounds fine, but slightly out of place without more raucous accompaniment to justify its inclusion.

Lastly we get the piano chiming in with a solo of its own, somewhat brief and certainly without the same intensity we just heard, but reasonably effective in getting us back to the ground in one piece before Room And Board Boogie wraps up with Robinson back in the driver’s seat.

Each of those parts taken individually are perfectly alright and that part of the arrangement in isolation makes sense. Start slow, build up, ease off. Basic stuff.

But it’d work better in a different context, one where the vocals and lyrics surrounding it lend itself to the histrionics rather than make them seem alien to one another. Here they’re almost acting as standalone pieces to a larger puzzle we don’t see. It’s still good enough to admire from a playing standpoint, but not enough to overcome the record’s deficiencies elsewhere.

What’chu Going To Do?
Everything about this record points to one simple conclusion – Hubert Robinson was an act best appreciated in a setting other than the one we get to hear him in.

On stage songs can be stretched, bent and obliterated on a regular basis, as artists and bands take the familiar framework of a song and play with it so that you get something more than simply a basic recreation of a studio cut with only a little added energy to set it apart.

But in a studio you need material that follows a basic story arc and a vocalist who maintains focus throughout his performance while the band adheres to a more tightly structured arrangement.

We criticize him for these shortcomings even while understanding that Robinson was probably earning the majority of his income on stage where this sort of thing could be worked out to much greater effect. Even if they still skimped on the story they’d have more room for everybody to stretch out, turning the wild break into a marathon rather than a quick sprint.

But knowing they didn’t have that option on record they needed to shore up Room And Board Boogie with something to give it some direction. It’s a short enough record where you could add a second stanza before that break and answer the obvious question the song seems to pose and let us know if she was a gold-digger or merely ungrateful for his largess and then having settled that and maybe tossing in another example to satisfy the gossips in the audience speculating on such things, the musicians could go to town with impunity and leave everybody happy.

Without that though we’re left with the sense we should be whooping it up when they start to cut loose without having the faintest idea why.


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