Edward W. Robbins, Jr., better known as Rockie Robbins, released his last album “Good Life” in 2019 on Expansion Records. The label, founded by Richard Tee, has released a ton of in-demand classic soul albums over the years and also specializes in quality new soul, often by artists who were successful and prolific in the 80s. The label also has this series called “Two Classic Albums On One CD” and all four Rockie Robbins albums from 1979, 1980, 1981, and 1985, have just been released on two CDs. Rockie’s first two albums, “Rockie Robbins” (1979) and “You And Me” (1980) are both essential soul albums, not only because of Rockie’s inimitable and ultra soulful voice, but also because of the production and engineering work which is of the highest order and also because of the musicianship. After moving from Minneapolis to LA, he was caught by A&M Records and recorded his first album with legendary musicians such as Ricky Peterson, Denzil Miller, James Gadson, Paulinho Da Costa, Snooky Young, Jerome Richardson, and so many more. Among the highlights of his first album, where he wrote most of the tracks, are smooth midtempo breezing soul cuts like “If I Ever Lose You” and “Sho’ Is Bad” and a brilliant cover of Earth, Wind & Fire’s “Be Ever Wonderful”.
On his second album “You And Me”, Rockie had songs written by Sam Dees, Leon Ware, and Allee Willis. The title track is my favorite Robbins tune and actually is one of my all-time favorite songs by any artist. Originally written by J.P. Pennington of the group Exile for their 1978 LP “Mixed Emotions” (which also featured their Number 1 hit “Kiss You All Over”), Rockie’s version is simply sublime. His absolutely stunning vocals, combined with excellent arrangement work on strings and backing vocals and a superb production by Bobby Martin, all add up to this heavenly piece. And the Sam Dees/Rockie Robbins combination works exquisitely well on “After Loving You”, a wonderful string-laden soul ballad with backing vocals by The Waters, Jean Terrell, Clydine Jackson, and more. Sam also worked together with Larry Graham on the incredibly sexy “Girl I’m Gonna Get Ya” with a vocal arrangement to die for. And I almost forgot how voluptuous he sounds on the sensual “Together”. And “Point Of View” by Leon Ware and Zane Grey? Totally formidable.
“I Believe In Love” from 1981 was produced by Skip Scarborough and ranks among the most sophisticated productions of its time, right there in Quincy Jones territory. Rockie worked with top-notch musicians again like Patrice Rushen, Harvey Mason, Ricky Peterson, Tom Scott, and sultry backing vocalists like Jim Gilstrap, John Lehman, Stephanie Spruill, Gwen Matthews, and more. “Time To Think” is one of his classic soul masterpieces. He also recorded “My Old Friend” for the album, which was later covered by Al Jarreau. And he suavely tackles the Average White Band piece “For You, For Love” in a timeless way.
Rockie recorded an album in 1983 which has not been released up to this day so we skip to his 1985 album “Rockie Robbins”, his first and only album for MCA and the last album he cut before he returned 34 years later. His 1985 LP was produced by Leon Sylvers and Co. and by Richard Evans. The album has that typical Sylvers sound which was popular at the time with The Whispers or Dynasty or Shalamar. And it still works today with classic pieces like “I’ve Got Your Number”, Caught In The Act”, or the standout track “You Finally Found The One”, my absolute favorite from this record. Rockie still sounds amazing on this album. I’m happy to have all four albums in my vinyl collection.