CD review: HIDDEN POWER
By: Dan Brisebois
It’s sometimes too cliche to simply say an artist is a ‘rising star’. In Robin Brock’s case, it’s probably the understatement of the year. HIDDEN POWER, released in September 2001 is the Calgary native’s sophomore disc. Her motto is simple – – ‘She rocks !’. Sometimes simplicity is the best way to describe something. Not only does she rock, she reminds us all how it’s done. While gaining exposure in several European markets, she’s quickly become Canada’s best kept secret. She’s also had glowing reviews from magazines and websites in Australia, Japan, and in North America.
Robin’s had the benefit of some tutoring from the legendary Randy Bachman, co-writing three of the twelve tracks. But that’s only the tip of her ‘helping hands’. Keith Olsen, famed producer for such acts as Fleetwood Mac, Scorpions, Ozzy, The Grateful Dead, Pat Benatar, Heart, Santana, Jethro Tull, Bad Company, Sammy Hagar, Whitesnake, Foreigner, Journey and Loverboy – to name but a FEW has taken a lump of clay and molded it into an outstanding piece of art. She also surrounded herself with some outstanding people behind the instruments, including Tim Pierce on guitars, drummer James Kottak and Jeff Pilson (formerly of Dokken) on bass.
Though she signed with the UK’s A2 Records, she still calls herself Canadian – good news for the good guys. The power in this woman’s voice is truly a gem – absolutely outstanding. Robin’s destined to join the ranks of Darby Mills or Lee Aaron as one of the most powerful voices in Canadian rock. “I’m Doing Fine (Without You)” – one of the cuts co-written by Bachman – takes you on a quick little rock and roll journey that’ll have you coming back for seconds … and thirds … typical of the entire disc. HIDDEN POWER is definitely hard-edged, but manages to escape being trapped into a ‘category’. “These Walls” has a tender edge to it, while still maintaining what will ultimately become her trademark passion, as is the case with “I Surrender” and practically anything else on the disc.
This really is a GREAT album – by far one of the best I’ve had the pleasure of playing – – over and over again. The more it’s played, the more it grows on you. If you buy just one disc this year – make it this one. Robin Brock is a name that will become familiar to all who appreciate tight, well-written and produced rock. She rocks ! And she does it better than just about any other new artist I can think of.
Her highly anticipated third release is an early candidate for best indie record of 2010. From the opening assault on your rhythmic senses of the title track that grab you and don’t let go, MONSTERS strokes and caresses you, taking you on a 40 minute musical odyssey that defines the best of the scene, and could very well be the record that takes Robin Brock to the next level.
Cut from the same rocker chick cloth as the likes of Lee Aaron and Darby Mills, the comparisons between Robin and them are inevitable, and for good reason. Listening to several of the vocals on MONSTERS, you can’t help but imagine what a duet with either of those Canadian legends would sound like. And those images are goooood. Robin has quite simply one of the best sets of pipes on the scene today. But MONSTERS is superb on more than just that level.
She’s learned her craft well, previously working with some of the best, including Randy Bachman , and has learned patience is key to creating a record that’s alive and with staying power. MONSTERS is ten songs of pounding rhythms and changing tempos, some of the best axe riffs in recent memory.
With the title track she’s proven that she’s here to make a statement, with an album full of relatable experiences and emotions. Every song has attitude and it’s the collatorative production effort from Robin and her production team of John Capek (also co-writer of the songs), John Bailey and Phil Cafel that bring it out.
“New Addiction” was written while she was healing from a broken ankle, showcasing the personal traps that one can fall in in life. But make no mistake about it – Robin Brock is heavy. But she might very well be the most diverse rocker chick today and combined with songwriting and production this strong, there are a number of tracks which are natural fits for new rock radio. “Master and Slave” has a natural anthemic rhythm, and with its powerful acoustic intro, “Two Words” is another standout, – one of the most personal set of lyrics on the record. The way she goes about telling someone to go to hell is a gem on an album that’s her crowning achievement… so far.
Robin smoothly crosses being sultry to haunting in “Solitary Girl” and Seven Pieces,” switching moods and atmospheres. The guitar work shines on “Fuel” and “The Witching Hour” and should be on every new rock radio station in the country. The overall appeal of MONSTERS can be partially attributed to the keyboards and slick effects in tracks like “Power It Through” and “Warrior” – enough to showcase her versatility, but at the core are still examples of great writing.
There’s really not a single lull in MONSTERS, let alone a bad track. Some in fact are just plain exceptional. You’ll have your own favourites. She ended 2009 by signing a European distribution deal, and it’s no longer a case of her time is around the corner. Robin Brock is here. Get used to it, you’ll be thankful you did because she’s one of the best things going today.