Robin George Interview by Steven Reid, Fireworks magazine

Robin George
Robin George has over the years collaborated with a huge amount of respected musicians in the rock field and beyond, with the likes of John Wetton, Glenn Hughes, Robert Plant and the late great Phil Lynott being among the many, many others he has worked with at some point.

Over the last couple of years Robin has been putting those contacts to good use bycreating a project which is described as a 'sharing' album. That album 'LovePower and Peace' features over sixty amazingly talented musicians from a wide variety of musical backgrounds and will see every penny made from the project go towards three different and extremely deserving charities.

Not content with taking on such an arduous workload, Robin has also had seven albums from his vaults released over the past twelve months. Steven Reid recently caught up with Robin to discover the uplifting story behind 'LovePower and Peace' and the challenges of trying to organise a project with so many musicians, while trying not to spend any money so the donations to the charities can be maximised.

It has been an extremely busy time for you this last year, what with putting your new album together 'LovePower and Peace' and having no less than seven albums from the vaults released through Angel Air Records. Starting with 'LovePower and Peace' if I can. This is no ordinary album, with over sixty musicians contributing to what you describe as a 'sharing' album. What do you mean by that term?

The term 'sharing' is to indicate that all the album profits are shared between 3 charities, Macmillan Cancer Support, Haven House and Compton Hospice. Not one artist has taken a penny, no expenses or wages AT ALL! Which I think is fantastic. The moment I said not even expenses for me everybody matched me.

All the time and talent poured into this over the last two and a half years has been heart-warming to say the least. A few guys are even gonna buy the album! The only cost is potentially to manufacture and distribute the CDs but we are looking for sponsorship to cover these costs.

We are donating 100% of all profits, which I think is unheard of and really excellent. I won't touch the money at all; and the charities will be paid directly, so all the money goes to the right places and helps those who need it.

We did have a deal on the table and the company did help guide us through potential minefields but they were uncomfortable with some of the legal requirements. So, as of now we're looking for a deal, which shouldn't be a problem for an album of this calibre.

I believe that initially you had intended 'LovePower and Peace' to be a single. How did it evolve into an album?

Over the years I've been fortunate enough to work with many of the best musicians in the industry and it occurred to me that one song I wrote some years ago, 'LovePower and Peace', had been recorded or played live by many of those talents.

I mentioned to a friend that I was planning to mix the song featuring all those artists, and he suggested making it a sharing single. It was so obviously a great idea that my enthusiasm was shared by everyone I approached.

As I invited each artist to join LovePower, they would suggest others that they thought would love to be involved, for example Pete Thompson (Robin Trower Band) introduced Pete Haycock (Climax Blues Band) who introduced Steve Hunter, who took time out from recording Alice Cooper's new album to play some fantastic guitar, as well as a host of musicians working with Hans Zimmer in LA such as Nick Glennie Smith.

Now we have over 60 fabulously talented artists on what has grown into a 17 track CD! So this has become a labour of love power not only for me, but for all of the great artists involved. Everyone has commented that they feel honoured to be working with such fabulous musicians for such deserving causes.

Obviously I can't list them all, but with the likes of Pete Way, Chris Slade, Brian Tatler, Conny Bloom, Ken Hensley, Spike, Pino Palladino and John Wetton involved, there is no doubting the pedigree of the people who you have recorded this album with.

How on earth do you begin to piece together an album with so many contributors?

With great difficulty...thank heaven for the net.Nearly all the new recordings have been via up and downloading performances from all over the globe, which would have been impossibly expensive otherwise...a great trip though! I had to choose from 30+ tracks, not
an easy decision!

How do you decide who will play on which song, or who you want to sing which track, or part of a song?

It's not been easy...some artists were so right for songs it was obvious, but some were really complex decisions. Ruby Turner had recorded 'LovePower and Peace' with me in the eighties, and when she agreed I could use her vocals it set the standard for the album.

Jacqui Williams sang most of the backing vocals with Ruby, then to get Jaki Graham on it as well was mind blowing for me. Three of the best British soul queens on the same song is pretty cool really! Sometimes these things happen by divine intervention! I'd been trying to come up with a track I could do a multiple guitar finale on which is something I've always wanted to do when I happened to send Pete Way a spoof video of Joe Cocker's version of 'With a Little Help From My Friends'.

Pete only played the audio, not the captioned video so he only noticed what a great track it was. He phoned to say what a great idea to use 'Friends...' as an album track as this whole project is really about that ... friends working together.

The track now amazingly features; on lead Vocals - Sean Harris, Jacqui Williams and myself, backing vocals, The LovePower Rock Choir: Arthur Brown, Daniel Boone, Andy Pyke, Spike, Pete Way, Freya Copeland, Gary Copeland, Vix, me, Sean Harris, David Rotham, Jacqui Williams, Ian Harvey, Karen Ann Hunter, Debbie Bennet, Debra Derryn, Charley Charlesworth, Charlie George, Dave Martin, Geri Minelli and the Women in Music International Choir.

Then on tabla - Satnam Ramgotra, Hammond organ and piano - Morgan Fisher, Hammond organ - Nick Glennie Smith, the end string arrangement is by Daniel Obermann and finally the solos in order of appearance are guitars: Steve Hunter, Dave Martin, Conny Bloom, Dom Brown, Brian Tatler, Eddie Clarke, Darrell Bath, Pete Haycock and me, then add to that electric violin, Michael Levine sax, Mel Collins bass, Charley Charlesworth Hammond organ, Nick Glennie Smith, synth and guitar, Morgan Fisher with myself and finally on drums, Charlie Morgan.

That's an amazing list of musicians Robin; are all of the other songs new, or are there some other cover versions?

The only other covers are a bluesy version of a great old song called 'Seven Golden Daffodils' and a version of Phil Lynott's 'Kings Call'. He wrote it as a tribute to Elvis, and I did it as a tribute to Phil.

Who was involved in the writing for the album and how did you get them involved?

John Wetton and I wrote 'Wasted Time' after we did some charity gigs together in the eighties. I called him and asked him if I could use it for the album and he gave his blessing.

The same happened with the co-written Pete Goalby song, 'Mona Lisa Smile'. We recorded it in my studio, and soon after Pete got a deal with Micky Most. We re-recorded it at RAK studios, produced by Micky...a lavish production with a gospel choir, but it never was released...I don't know why. So again I asked Pete for his go-ahead to use the original and he agreed.

'Alice' was written with Pete Way for the Damage Control album which featured Spike on lead vocals. We then re-released it with me and Pete singing on the album 'Raw' so it was great to get Spike back on, sharing vocals with me. Pete's long term association with Fast Eddie Clarke from Motorhead gave me an introduction to Eddie who played lead guitar on the track which means it's a very different version.

'Tired Eyes' was co-written with David Byron who Daniel Boone introduced me to. This song wasn't used on David's 'On the Rocks' album and I thought this was a fitting tribute to David; a great friend and superb singer. David and I formed the Byron Band which is where I first worked with Mel Collins.

It took me over a year to track Mel down again to play on this album; he was more elusive than the Scarlet Pimpernel! He loved the song and played the most superb soprano sax on it and subsequently on much of the 'LovePower and Peace' album. The song 'Cocoon' was co-written with Pat Hannon when we were teenagers.

I asked Sean Harris (Diamond Head) to sing the song but when I sent it to him somehow he didn't receive all the lead vocal, so he re-wrote the tune and added a new verse, so all these years later the song has a new existence.

I wanted to use it in Pat's memory. He was a great singer and writer but never got a break, so this is his first release...I wish he was here to enjoy it. I co-wrote 'Another Lonely Night' with Daniel Boone, oddly enough covered by Alvin Stardust! It seemed like a natural choice to ask Daniel to sing lead vocals on it which he did at the Birmingham Session. It shame it's been relegated to reissue reviews!

Between some of the above albums and the likes of 'Sweet Revenge' that you worked on with Glenn Hughes that was released a couple of years back; you have been involved with a surprisingly large amount of projects that never actually saw the light of day at the time.

I know from reading the liner notes in the Notorious album that there was an element of you and Sean wanting to be 'perfectionists' and never quite being satisfied with the music. Is this something that blighted the other releases as well, or was there other factors that caused them to sit on the shelf for far too long?

I'd heard about record company politics and rumours of shelving albums but I never really believed it until that happened to Notorious which seemed destined for great things. I still don't know what really happened or why. I produced an album for Glenn Hughes which was only ever released as a low quality bootleg; not supported by Glenn or I. However, I still have the masters which sound really very good. Glenn was singing really well at the time! I hope it will be heard one day.

Is there one of the albums, or bands that you really felt was a 'missed opportunity' and you wish you could go back and change some of the decisions that were made?

To lose Phil Lynott just after he invited me to reform Thin Lizzy was a terrible tragedy for all involved. We'd been writing and recording together and the album demos were sounding fantastic.

All my work with Robert Plant promised great things that never came to fruition, however Robert was singing fantastically at the time and there are some great songs! He used 'Red for Danger' on his 'Sixty Six to Timbuktu' album which was good.

I would have loved to work more with John Wetton but the timing wasn't it's great to be back in touch with him. In fact, I believed in what I was doing at all times but those company politics screwed me again and again... still, onwards and upwards!

As a fan of your music, I was wondering if there are great recordings still lurking about that will eventually see the light of day?

I still have the original early albums, 'History' and 'Early Daze', featuring superb musicians like Pino Palladino and Mel Collins.

There's a 22 track double album of unheard, unreleased material which was meant to follow my 'Dangerous Music' album. I also have my recordings with Robert Plant and Glenn Hughes as I said, which I would never release without their blessing.

So what can we expect next from you Robin, can we expect more activity from Damage Control, more LovePower, or something completely different?

As I said, I'm already writing for and recording the new album from The LovePower Band which features Jacqui Williams as co- lead singer with me, Pete Haycock slide guitar, Charlie Morgan drums, Mel Collins sax and Charley Charlesworth bass. It's sounding you'd expect from musicians of this calibre.

We can't wait to get out on the road.

I'm sure that everyone reading this magazine will agree that Robin's LovePower project is a fantastic and extremely generous gesture not only from Robin, but from every single person who has helped make it possible.

I know that I will be supporting the cause by buying the both the single and the album and I urge everyone else to do the same. Not only because of the three great charities involved, but because the music on the album is fantastic and the musicians involved are of the highest possible calibre.

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Interview © 2011 Steven Reid/Fireworks magazine. Reproduced with permission.
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