Unexpectedly reforming 20 years after their 1983 breakup, Robin Lane and the Chartbusters pick up, literally, where they left off: most of 2003's Piece of Mind consists of new recordings of songs the Boston folk-rockers had written and demoed for their third Warner Brothers LP in 1982, before the company dropped them.
Not only does it sound like the intervening two decades had never happened, Piece of Mind actually sounds several degrees better than either Robin Lane and the Chartbusters or Imitation Life.
Freed of major label expectations and the suffocating slickness that plagued those earlier records, Piece of Mind sounds like Robin Lane and the Chartbusters were meant to sound; the jangly pop tunes are still there, but there's a rootsier feel on songs, like the country-ish "Little Bird." Lead guitarist Asa Brebner breaks out occasional rockabilly or R&B riffs, and the band's trademark three- and four-part harmonies, as well as Lane's own warm alto, sound as good as ever. Though no one song is as memorable as the group's classic first single, "When Things Go Wrong," this is their most consistently solid effort by far, and, surprisingly enough, the best Robin Lane and the Chartbusters album yet.
Ronnie Hawkins is known for many things but ballads are not one of them. Bear Family’s 2011 set proves this to be a misconception, illustrating that Hawkins is as adept with a slow burn as he is with a hopping rockabilly beat. Strictly speaking, these aren’t all ballads, at least not in the folk sense: there are plenty of those, but there are bluesy grinds, swaying slow dance crossovers, rolling progressive country, and any number of slow tunes, all of which are handled with ease by Hawkins.
Bear Family’s generous 30-track disc skips through the eras with grace, with simple early-‘60s sides sitting next to slicker ‘70s productions, but the disc never plays schizophrenically; rather, the shifting sounds reveal how Ronnie Hawkins could always deliver a song with unassuming skill.