New England Music Scrapbook
Robin Lane & the Chartbusters|
Piece of Mind (CD, Windjam, )
There's something familiar about that cover girl.
Cambridge folkie Robin Lane was transformed into a rocker when she heard Johnny Rotten of the Sex Pistols. Then she heard Asa Brebner's group. Together with him and bass player Scott Baerenwald, she formed Robin Lane and the Chartbusters. Leroy Radcliffe played guitar and Tim Jackson was on drums. Speaking of the new band's early performances, Lane said, "I was trying to obliterate
Robin Lane and the Chartbusters got much airplay with a local single, "When Things Go Wrong" b/w "Why Do You Tell Lies" and "The Letter" (7" EP, Deli Platters, n.d. ); and it started bringing them attention which resulted in a recording contract with Warner Bros.
It was quite an event when Warners issued the group's debut album, Robin Lane and the Chartbusters (LP, Warner Bros., 1980), with its fine collection of Lane's songs. Outstanding tracks include "When Things Go Wrong," "Without You," "Why Do You Tell Lies," and "Be Mine Tonite" (which I liked most). In his Calendar review in the April 10, 1980, issue of the Boston Globe, Steve Morse took a critical view of the record's production, particularly the lack of prominence of the guitars. For my own part, I've always wondered why it is that Robin Lane's voice sounds better on most of her independent and small-label releases. It seems that Warner Bros. may not have paid enough attention to technical matters.
5 Live (12" EP, Warner Bros., 1980) followed. It added little to the band's reputation, though I've always liked this concert performance of "When Things Go Wrong" and especially the band's cover of "Shakin' All Over."
Imitation Life (LP, Warner Bros., 1981) was much more interesting. It featured fine performances, such as "For You," "Say Goodbye," and a re-recording of "Rather Be Blind." "Send Me an Angel" is a particular favorite. In order for Robin Lane and the Chartbusters to have a dependable slot on the Warner Bros. artist roster, it would have been necessary for Imitation Life to outsell the debut album. It didn't happen. The sound, though quite intriguing, was darker; and that may have affected sales.
Warner Bros. decided not to renew the Chartbusters' contract; and not much later, Robin Lane notified her musicians that she was breaking up the band. They gave their last concert at Tyngsboro on Sunday, August 9, 1981. Tim Jackson reported that the split was "definitely amiable," and members of the Chartbusters have reunited several times.
-- Alan Lewis, revised November 22, 2002
From the Robin Lane Newsletter :
The new Robin Lane and The Chartbusters CD is here!
After what seems like an eternity of waiting, the new Robin Lane and The Chartbusters CD is here, all pressed, with artwork, in jewel cases, shrinkwrapped, and ready for distribution. It is currently being distributed to industry types (radio stations and press), and will be available to the public on the official release date of February 15, coinciding with the release party. (I suggested that perhaps we could make it available sooner to those on the mailing list, and that is being considered. More on that when I have an answer.) In the meantime, you can see cover scans and the track listing in the Discography section of the web site. Oh, and the CD is called Piece of Mind.
The Chartbusters CD-release party is starting to look like a sure sellout, and we recommend making arrangements early. We understand that the Boston Globe, Herald, and Phoenix all plan to report on the band, the new album, and/or the Middle East show (downstairs, February 15). Our Robin Lane and the Chartbusters profile is our fourth most-visited page, and I'm expecting a flood of visits as concert day nears. Have you heard the aptly titled Piece of Mind (CD, Windjam, )? The album's sound crosses vintage Chartbusters with Robin Lane's Catbird Seat (CD, Ocean Music, 1995). Most songs are new, though "The Letter" goes back to the band's early indie days. Highlights include the lead-off "All Fall Down" (classic Chartbusters sound), "She Wants You Back," a re-recording of "Idiot" (originally on Catbird Seat), and the unlisted track 10, "Caught in the Act," which must have been written with Asa Brebner, or at least inspired by his sense of humor. We're hoping this leads to more Chartbuster discs.
-- Alan Lewis, January 30, 2003
THE BAND, ROBIN LANE AND THE CHARTBUSTERS, was hot when it recorded its debut album for Warner Bros. The compact disc reissue, Robin Lane and the Chartbusters (CD, Collectors' Choice CCM 308, 2002), is an essential item in the New England Music Scrapbook basic library of this region's rock 'n' roll. We already know that these are great songs and we know, too, that this is a capable band with an engaging style that at times is reminiscent, instrumentally, of the Byrds. My concern, then, was with the disc's technical sound. The original LP showed some curious production choices. Having had an opportunity to hear the album once again with good fidelity, I'm reminded that Steve Morse was right--the guitars are too low in the mix and the cymbals, in particular, are surprisingly out front. But the clarity and crispness that come with the compact disc format help the guitars ring a bit truer. Lane's voice, too, sounds better on the CD. In a few passages, it comes through a lot better. This disc has the warmth and density that was present on many LPs. So while it's not like a modern compact disc, the sonics are quite good enough. And now we can feast again on this wonderful material and these great performances. I'm sure you have your favorites, and I've got mine--"When Things Go Wrong," "Be Mine Tonite," "Why Do You Tell Lies," and especially "Without You." 2002 has produced some particularly welcome reissues, and Robin Lane and the Chartbusters is high among them. The Collectors' Choice Music site is located at www.ccmusic.com. While checking the address (12/6/2002), I noticed that the Chartbusters disc has risen in the Collectors Choice chart from the 10th to the 8th position--not bad when one considers it's competing against the usual fare as well as against the label's Christmas titles.
After I "finished" researching Robin Lane and the Chartbusters (there's lots more!), I found significant other material in an article about Asa Brebner. Since then--and as recently as yesterday--I've found a number of other short items. So I'm a bit reluctant to write a full profile until I have a greater sense of closure. What I've done here is pull together a short profile which I hope to revise later.
This early article surfaced long after I posted the first part of our Robin Lane profile.
-- Alan Lewis, September 25, 2001
Robin Lane still lives in Cambridge, but she's apparently hung up her folk tidings for rock 'n' roll. Last year's moody chanteuse is this year's dervish. Her new band includes Asa Brebner and Leroy Radcliffe, both formerly of the Modern Lovers, on guitars; Scott Baerenwald, formerly of Reddy Teddy, plays bass; and Tim Jackson is the drummer. The guitarists (Lane plays electric and acoustic) rifle the songs with qurky, electric nuances and some seeds of hard rock. Her recent layoff from live performing has left her contralto slightly thin in the upper register, but she sings best from the belt--huskily and long-winded. The rock format will give her more chance to exercise this skill. Currently packing such Cambridge clubs as Jonathan Swift's and Inn Square Men's Bar, the band may appear in the Boston rock clubs soon.
-- Thomas Sabulis, Boston Globe, February 22, 1979
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