How to Become Clairvoyant

How to Become Clairvoyant

by Robbie Robertson



How to Become Clairvoyant is Robbie Robertson's first album since 1998's Contact from the Underworld of Red Boy. In the interim, he served as musical director for some Martin Scorsese films, produced soundtracks, and worked as an A&R man for Dreamworks. Co-produced by Robertson and Marius de Vries, the 12-song set boasts an impressive guest list. Eric Clapton makes seven appearances on guitar, duets on "Fear of Falling," co-wrote three tunes, and contributed an instrumental ("Madame X," which is minimally but beautifully textured by Trent Reznor). Steve Winwood, Robert Randolph, Angela McCluskey, and Tom Morello also appear. Bassist Pino Palladino, drummer Ian Thomas, and pianist Martin Pradler are the house band on a Robertson album typically saturated in rich, warm production, sonic flourishes, and ambient atmospheres. Despite a preponderance of guitars, this isn't a cooking session, but an uncharacteristically autobiographical song cycle that addresses not only Robertson's life and experiences, but those of his friends, heroes, and collaborators. It opens promisingly enough with the rootsy "Straight Down the Line," with rocking steel guitar solos by Randolph. Its lyrics deal with what attracted Robertson to the musican's calling. The meld of nocturnal guitars, synthetically funky beats, and taut yet off-kilter melody create the musical backing for "He Don't Live Here Anymore," a song that frankly discusses substance abuse and addiction. "When the Night Was Young" is a signature Robertson ballad. Though it commences with his trademark guitar sound, it tells his version of his generation's story in a laid-back way. Its lilting hook relies on country and blues; paired with 21st century production tropes, the music creates an emotional palette of longing. That said, even though romances with historical and archetypal pasts have been strong suits in his songwriting, these lyrics are self-indulgent, nostalgic, sappy. "This I Where I Get Off" addresses for the first time -- in song anyway -- his reason for breaking up the Band, and features fine guitar interplay between Robertson and Clapton. "She's Not Mine" is a nakedly honest love song. Despite its near-cinematic production, where the guitars are all but buried, its emotional content comes through via fine intuitive organ work by Winwood. "Axman," a tribute to Robertson's guitar heroes, is a star-studded name-check list that's embarrassing; even Morello's excellent guitar work can't redeem it. The angular, funky, nocturnal, funky R&B in the title track is among the more subtle highlights here; it contains a head-scratcher of a melody with the best lyrics on the set, and excellent exchanges between Randolph and Robertson. The instrumental "Tango for Django" closes with another over-the-top production that employs nuevo tango as artifice. Robertson's gut-string guitar and keyboards are backed by cello, violin, accordion, bass, and drums, all highlighted by an orchestra. It's a fitting conclusion, even if it is gratuitous. How to Become Clairvoyant is a sometimes compelling record, but it's a flawed one, too, with moments of beauty countered by bloated lyrical and production excesses. Ultimately, it feels as much like an exercise in self-justification as it does in personal revelation.

Product Details

Release Date: 04/05/2011
Label: 429 Records
UPC: 0795041782120
catalogNumber: 17821

Album Credits

Performance Credits

Robbie Robertson   Primary Artist,Guitar,Electric Guitar,Keyboards,Vocals,Gut String Guitar,Soloist
Steve Winwood   Organ
Frank Marocco   Accordion
Jim Keltner   Drums
Eric Clapton   Acoustic Guitar,Electric Guitar,Vocals,Background Vocals,Slide Guitar,Gut String Guitar,Soloist,Vocal Harmony
Marius de Vries   Piano,Keyboards
Bill Dillon   Guitar,Guitorgan
Tom Morello   Guitar,Soloist
Pino Palladino   Bass
Sharon White   Background Vocals
Angela McCluskey   Vocals
Jimi Englund   Percussion
Dana Glover   Background Vocals
Robert Randolph   Soloist
Eldad Guetta   Horn
Ann Marie Calhoun   Violin
Natalie Mendoza   Background Vocals
Rocco Deluca   Dobro,Background Vocals
Taylor Goldsmith   Background Vocals
Darryl Johnson   Background Vocals
Tina Guo   Cello
Daryl Johnson   Background Vocals
Michelle John   Background Vocals
Angelyna Boyd   Background Vocals
Ian Thomas   Drums

Technical Credits

Robbie Robertson   Composer,Producer
Eric Clapton   Composer
Marius de Vries   Composer,Programming,Orchestral Arrangements
Lee Dickson   Guitar Techician
Eldad Guetta   Programming,Orchestral Arrangements
Paul Ackling   Guitar Techician
Ghian Wright   Engineer
Jason Boshoff   Programming
Nolan Sipe   Engineer
Tom Bailey   Engineer
Matt Robertson   Programming
Rem   Guitar Techician
David Emmery   Engineer

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How to Become Clairvoyant 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
As always, Robbie Robertson is awesome!! One of his best!