“Diamonds and Dirt” – Brian Robertson

4 stars (out of 5)

2

Picture of - Brian Robertson Diamonds & DirtOne thing you can say about Robbo is that he doesn’t waste any time. After all, it’s only 33 years since he parted company with Thin Lizzy and he’s just released his first solo album. Okay, he had his own band, Wild Horses, and worked with Frankie Miller and Motorhead, but this is his first solo outing since departing from Lizzy at the height of their fame. The album happened as a result of Robbo’s friend Soren listening to some old demo cassettes and suggesting that Robbo should record them as a solo project.

The songs that made the final cut are a mixed bag; some Robertson originals, some Phil Lynott songs, some Frankie Miller songs and some collaborations with Lynott and Miller. Some have been released before and some haven’t. The only element common to all the songs is Robbo himself and the band (Ian Haughland, Nalley Pahlsson, Leif Sundin and Liny Wood) put together for the album.

The album opens with 2 Robbo compositions, the title track, and “Passion” which wouldn’t sound out of place on an 80s Don Henley album and runs through various permutations of Robertson, Miller and Lynott compositions, finishing on the Frankie Miller classic “Ain’t Got No Money”. The poppiest song ever written by Phil Lynott, “Running Back” from the “Jailbreak” album, appears in 2 versions here, a slow blues version and a mid-tempo rocker which works well apart from the jarring piano solo.

It’s obvious, even on the first listen, that Robbo is still a great guitar player. His growling and howling Les Paul/Marshall sound is as distinctive as ever and his solos still show great technique and melodic invention. Even the vocals are good and the rhythm section and production are excellent. Which tells you that there’s a big “but” on the way.

Although Robbo plays virtually everything except drums on this album, he isn’t a one-man-band. He has a talent which only functions properly with a collaborator strong enough to encourage the greatness and to know when to apply the brakes. Apart from the Celtic soul brothers Frankie Miller and Phil Lynott, and perhaps Jimmy Bain (also Scottish), Robbo hasn’t worked with anyone strong enough to bring out the best of his abilities live or on record. The best material on the album is written either by or with Lynott or Miller apart from, possibly, “Texas Wind”.

Robbo’s musical versatility also works against him at times. He’s known mainly as a melodic rock lead guitar player but he grew up playing with a band (Dream Police) which later formed the core of the Average White Band and also played on a live Graham Parker version of “Hold Back the Night”. Most fans like their heroes to stick to one predictable style and Robbo is just too good for that, which is one of the reasons why he always polarises opinion in the rock fraternity.

Brian Robertson, November 1978 (Photo by Allan McKay)

“Diamonds and Dirt” is patchy because the songs are written by a variety of people over a relatively long period of time and some songs don’t wear too well. The one constant throughout the album is the great playing which we expect from a rock hero. If you set aside the rock sectarianism and listen to this album with an open mind, it’s actually really good.