Only the Now Tom Robinson Castaway Northwest
There is a pang of recognition in store for those familiar with the Tom Robinson Band’s oeuvre from the late 1970s on Home in the Morning, the opening track on the singer-songwriter’s first solo album in two decades or so. Back in the day, whatever Robinson lacked in the vocal department he made up for with attitude, chutzpah and his sharp sensors for topical concerns. Glad to be Gay was a hit, without any radio play, back when it was still largely considered impolitic openly to discuss homosexuality, and TRB’s excellent album Power in the Darkness enabled the band to headline gigs with the Clash in a supporting role. Robinson subsequently pursued a solo career that sometimes veered towards folkishness, with occasional successes, but in recent decades has been better known as a BBC radio DJ. He still has a way with words, though, and his only marginally more ragged vocals stand up well in this long overdue outing, as do his still radical opinions on matters ranging from the inequities of the British judicial system ( The Mighty Sword of Justice) and youth suicide ( Don’t Jump Don’t Fall) to organised religion ( Merciful God, as well as the hilarious Holy Smoke). The wealth of collaborators testifies to Robinson’s crossgenerational popularity: thespians Ian McKellen and Colin Firth to Martin Carthy (who lends folk cred to a cover of In My Life), Billy Bragg, Lisa Knapp, Nitin Sawhney and Swami Baracus. He signs off with the wonderfully wistful title track, and hopefully will be back with more well before another 20 years go by.