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Robert Gordon

I'm Coming Home – 2014 (Lanark)

Reviewed by Lee Zimmerman

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CDs by Robert Gordon

It was clear at the outset that Robert Gordon belonged to one particular age and era, specifically, the late '50s and early '60s when rockabilly was all the rage and retro was in full flourish way before the term was ever imagined. Admittedly though, it's hard to fashion an entire career on such a singular sound, especially when it's considered something of a novelty to begin with. So credit Gordon with pursuing his niche as far as he did, particularly during his heyday in the late '70s and early '80s when his mile-high pompadour and air of authenticity brought him a fine fit with the post punk crowd.

From then on, however, Gordon's career seemed to flounder. The last couple of decades have found his output sporadic at best, with his last studio set, "Now Or Never," signaling what appeared to be his swan song back in 2007. Consequently, it's gratifying to find Gordon attempting what could be construed as a comeback, looking a little paunchier around the mid-section and boasting a hair style that's thinned considerably while still suitably greased and stylish. Nevertheless, the leather jacket and rolled up jeans he sports on the cover indicate he's still the teddy boy he once was, even if at age 67 he's now as old as the revered masters he was once so eager to emulate.

The happiest revelation of all may be the fact that while he's still prone to pursue those oldies objective, he's managing now to vary his stance and amplify his sound well beyond only a single style. As a result, "I'm Coming Home" lives up to its title, not only through its variety of genres - rockabilly (of course), country, honky tonk, a bit of boogie and even some sugary doowop - but in the way he allows himself to give special credence to the songs. As a result, he appears at his best when he's imitating others... Johnny Cash on "Walk Hard" (the cornball title track from John C. Reilly's cinematic faux country star send-up), Buddy Holly with "It's Only Love," and Elvis - natch - on the album's big ballad, "Heaven."

Ultimately, "I'm Coming Home" comes across like another all too frequent tribute album, where every song's a standard and the singer imagines himself an idealized icon of some earlier age. The difference is, with Gordon, that transformation was effected quite early on.