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A fitting title for the final pairing between The Robins and Johnny Otis, a record that was cut months earlier before their fallout over Otis trying to cop a measly fifty bucks from them and thus ending a partnership that was advantageous for both parties.

Without The Robins in tow Otis lost a key component to ensure the widest diversity of sounds possible and his commercial fortunes would soon start to taper off compared to the ridiculously high peaks he’d reached throughout 1950 with them as vital contributors. Meanwhile without their primary songwriter and experienced bandleader to shape their material in the studio The Robins themselves would be creatively adrift for a few years until finding equally skilled people to fill those roles.

These no-win situations are never pleasant to encounter and so maybe to ease our sense of loss they give us a more modest track as their parting gift so we don’t get too worked up over their failure to stay the course together.


I Tried So Hard To Please
This record has slightly more of a pop bent to it than most of The Robins output, though with Bobby Nunn’s deep tones he’s always going to sound a little suggestive no matter what he’s singing.

With its lurching pace and absence of any real rhythm I’m Through walks a tightrope between wimpy and soulful, often leaning one way or the other based entirely on how he and the other Robins choose to frame each line. When they hold their notes too long it comes across as an appeal to the classier venues, but when they’re given actual lyrics to sing there are moments – brief though they may be – where they manage to shine in spite of the song’s rather modest aims.

The primary problem is the song just isn’t a great fit for what they do well. Nunn has a voice meant for more lively affairs than this despondent farewell to a partner and the others are hardly the type to just ”Ooh” like a nameless, faceless studio choir even though they can do that quite well.

Though the melody is fairly nice its lethargic pace leaves too much to chance and that’s where The Robins show their uncertainty. Nunn’s breath control in these passages isn’t nearly as strong as you’d like, he’s forced to undersell the gravity of his voice so as to be able to make it to the end of the longer lines. Because the others aren’t given enough to do they can’t offset that with something to take the focus off him and as a result the song gets stretched too thin.

But the concept of it is definitely workable. In fact you can fast forward five years and hear how this sounds like a rough prototype of what The Clovers would do with their treatment of Blue Velvet. Now granted that’s a better song and better performance, but that’s largely because it wasn’t forcing that group too far out of their comfort zone and was just slightly faster paced than this which is where The Robins have their weaknesses revealed.


Love Me Better Than You
Even though the song’s concept is pretty basic – a guy ending a fizzled relationship with some regret – the story is pretty well-rounded for the limited amount of details we get. The lyrics (presumably their own since they received co-writing credit for it) paint a picture of someone who felt this relationship was the one, tried his best, but the girl wasn’t reciprocal, maybe going too far in teasing him because she knew he was devoted to her and thus didn’t feel that him leaving her would be an option for him.

It’s important to note that he’s not angry with her, just disappointed and I’m Through is serving as his farewell message to her, tinged with sadness even though he knows there’s no other way this could’ve played out if she was going to treat him cold. The most interesting thing to ponder isn’t what specific act may have pushed him over the line, for we can guess he put up with a lot of minor slights along the way that he let pass, but rather whether his claim that he’s found a new girl is actually true or just a way to save face and inject a measure of jealousy into her before he goes.

I suppose it doesn’t matter, if there IS a girl waiting for him it’ll cushion his fall, but if not he doesn’t sound as if he’s hoping the threat of a better relationship will get his ex to change her ways and beg him to stay, but either way it gives us a fairly good look at Nunn’s emotional state as he ends this chapter of his life.

The band clearly sympathizes with his situation as they’re laying back for the most part, letting Johnny’s vibes provide the most prominent instrumental flourishes which are subdued and kept mostly in between the cracks. There’s no horns, minimal drums, a stately plucked bass, some intermittent fills on piano and every so often a guitar swimming in echo chipping in with a few chords to re-orient the other musicians.

It’s slightly haunting, but most unobtrusive, which means The Robins have nowhere to hide when they meet up with a passage they aren’t equipped to handle.

There’s nothing bad about any of this, but also nothing particularly noteworthy, making it rather subdued climax to a great run with Otis.


Found Somebody New
There ARE a few questions this final release on Savoy raises though. They had a handful of tracks still left in the vaults so their choice as to which to release become a little more interesting. Some of them were clear re-workings of better songs in their catalog, as I Found Out My Troubles essentially recycled If It’s So Baby which explains why it was left on the shelf.

But then again you could say that I’m Through was in a style that was done much better a few months earlier on Our Romance Is Gone so I guess they just flipped a coin between those two sides to see which would get put out.

The other song was Lover’s Lane Boogie, a pretty good duet with Little Esther which didn’t see the light of day for years which is particularly surprising since Savoy wouldn’t even have to credit them on the label necessarily.

All of these were pretty equal in quality, average releases (5) for the era but hardly hit material, but they obviously didn’t gain anything by sitting on them so it’s a shame they didn’t get issued at the time just to clear the decks of their material.

As mentioned in past reviews Johnny Otis would never find a vocal group to replace them, leaving a fairly sizable hole in his retinue. The Robins already did a brief stopover at Recorded In Hollywood before winding up with the Bihari Brothers at RPM and Modern where they were mostly asked to replicate their duets with different female singers, notably Mickey Champion, in Little Ether’s role, thereby not allowing the group to advance beyond what they’d already done until landing with major label RCA and slowly getting back on track.

But those are stories for another day, for now we close the book on The Robins with Johnny Otis and though this record is hardly the best way to bid them adieu, there’s never a good way to say goodbye when you wish someone wouldn’t leave.


(Visit the Artist page of The Robins for the complete archive of their records reviewed to date)