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Robert Jackson
Personal Jesus
AIF Records

Robert Jackson seems destined to offend someone, but he's going to do it with a smile on his face. This gifted songwriter takes pot shots at religion, social class and politics while varying the tone from tongue-in-cheek to down right morose. I can't quite figure out which works better for this album though, the serious or the not so serious. Both add so much to this album, which is already a solid and nicely drawn up venture, that it might be a draw.

Robert Jackson's songwriting skills are the true gem of this album, helping to turn out multiple singles, each varying from the next. He has a definite skill in picking out the catchiest vocal lines, and more impressive, not sticking to any predefined notion of vocal rhythm compared to song style. An example of the latter would be "Knockin' on the door", where the song maintains a nice beat, but the singing just elevates the emphasis. I loved that song.

The more somber songs here just increase my opinion of the songwriter, showing that he is not just a one-note man. "Gunfire in the distance" and "Blood on their hands" show that Jackson is capable of feeling and expressing depth and pathos, yet not shoving it down your throat. "Lonesome town" takes melancholic ramblings and places them in an up-beat environment, to create a very surprising take on love. Take all of the above and you have an album that is more than it seems, and has a lot to say.

Overall though, the album lacks a little in the production arena. Sound quality, while not technically wrong, is not as inspired as it could be, making the sound come off as bland in certain areas. Almost every instrument suffers from a lack of forethought in sound processing. Better effects across the board could make this album awesome, without them, it doesn't necessarily detract, but it doesn't exactly add to the songs either. Along the same vein, Robert Jackson is a decent singer, with an appropriate voice for the songs he sings, but he has a very distinctive sound, such that some people may find his singing annoying. I didn't, but I did feel like his songs blended together because of his voice, even though the songs themselves could not be written any more different from each other.

Robert Jackson is talented, period. He just needs to get noticed for what he is doing to secure some top-notch production for his next venture; otherwise, I fear he may be relegated to that void of good songwriters who just don't make it. I'm hoping he makes it.

- bishop

Track Listings:

1) Personal Jesus
2) Knockin' on the door
3) Dead Yuppies on the highway
4) Jamie says
5) Gunfire in the distance
6) Blood on their hands
7) You don't care no more
8) Alice Linz
9) Lonesome town
10) Dreams that can't be found

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