CD Review of Time and Tide by Robbie Dupree
Recommended if you like
Michael Franks, Donald Fagen, Stephen Bishop
Label
Robbie Dupree
Robbie Dupree:
Time and Tide

Reviewed by Jeff Giles

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A
little over six years ago, President George W. Bush was sitting on top of historic approval ratings, with a global tide of goodwill at his back, and what looked for all the world like a decisive military victory against the most hated terrorist network in American history. Sure, he had his detractors, but few of them – especially those with singing careers – were taking the opportunity to air their grievances publicly.

Cut to 2008, and “Mystery World,” the second track on Robbie Dupree’s latest solo album, Time and Tide. Here’s the third verse: “Storm clouds over New Orleans / Brought the people down to their knees / President said it won’t take long / Then he turned his back and now the money’s all gone.” From having his way with Congress to enduring barbs from the guy who was nominated for (and lost) the 1981 Best New Artist Grammy – how’s that for falling fast?

Robbie Dupree knows a thing or two about reversals of fortune, too – since scoring a huge leadoff hit with “Steal Away,” from his 1980 self-titled debut, Dupree has been consigned to the periphery; Elektra dropped him before he could finish his third album, and he spent the rest of the ‘80s in silence. He found his niche in the ‘90s, focusing on the quiet storm market that kept guys like Bobby Caldwell and Michael Franks from selling insurance, but still, given all the promise his career started with, it’s always been hard not to see Robbie Dupree as a guy who had his ticket punched and showed up at the docks on time, only to watch his ship sail away without him.

If any of this troubles Dupree, you won’t find any trace of it on Time and Tide, his sixth studio release (and first in over a decade). The press kit describes the album as Dupree’s “first foray into smooth jazz,” but if you remember the keyboard-heavy, fern bar-ready sounds of Robbie Dupree, you won’t hear any real surprises here; Time and Tide has a smooth jazz frosting, like a Donald Fagen solo record, but it’s really nothing more or less than a solidly crafted singer/songwriter record – albeit one that’s been as sanded down and polished as you’d expect from the guy who nicked a Michael McDonald piano riff for his biggest hit.

The arrangements do have some teeth – cuts such as “Judgment Day” boast the sort of casually impeccable musicianship you used to hear all the time on Top 40 radio, courtesy of studio cats like David Foster’s crew and the members of Toto – but you don’t need to have a real appreciation for chord changes in order to listen to the album; Dupree’s occasional foray into political territory notwithstanding, Time and Tide is meant to go down easy, played in the background while sipping white wine or – dare we say it? – yachting.

It almost goes without saying that if you’re allergic to the smoother stylings of Dupree-ish artists such as Franks and Stephen Bishop, Time and Tide is certainly not your cup of Chablis. If, on the other hand, you miss the glory days of Christopher Cross and Ambrosia, you’ll certainly want to order up a copy – the performances are tight, the songs have their share of poppy hooks, and he remains in fine vocal form. If you’ve been waiting for a new Robbie Dupree album, it’s hard to imagine how you’ll be disappointed.

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