Robin Zander’s Secret Country Album: COUNTRYSIDE BLVD.

I’ve been on a roll with the country-themed posts, so I decided to do one more.  I’ve been meaning to reviewing COUNTRYSIDE BLVD.,  Robin Zander’s long-gestating (country) solo album with a complicated release history.  The record was supposed to come out a few years ago but has been stalled for reasons no one seems to know.  Apparently it was for sale on the Zune music service for two days before the record label spontaneously removed it. Since this is 2012, I of course have a bootleg copy of the album which I have been enjoying…

Robin Zander, a real rhinestone cowboy.

So why the delays? Well, it might have something to do with the fact that, on paper at least, a country album from the lead singer of Cheap Trick would be a train-wreck–an utter mess of twang and vanity, fit only for the most fervent Cheap Trick/Zander fan.  I adore Cheap Trick and think Zander can (almost) do no wrong, but even I was skeptical when I first heard about COUNTRYSIDE BLVD.  But after giving it a few listens I can honestly say that it’s really good.

The key to COUNTRYSIDE BLVD. not being an epic pile of shite is this: the album isn’t really hard-core country.  It’s a rock album with country overtones and twangy guitars (and some fiddling).  Robin Zander did not record a Garth Brooks record by any stretch.  Like many solo albums of those involved in major bands, there are many songs that sound as though they could have easily fit onto the next Cheap Trick record.  If like me, you’re starved for Cheap Trick, then this is a very good thing.  If Cheap Trick ain’t your bag, then you’re probably not going to find much to like on COUNTRYSIDE BLVD.

The album opens with “Every Dog,” which sounds like a weaker Traveling Wilbury’s number.  It’s not quite rock, not quite country  and right away there are Hare Krishna references.  It’s a good song and pretty representative of what lies ahead: Wilburys-esque rockers with an eccentric-lyrical bent. I’m sure Zander’s vocals have been touched up, but damn does he still sound good.  Even if it is a special effect, one can’t help but admire how great he still sounds.  I especially was impressed with his cooing on “Love Comes*.”  It might seem like a silly thing, but I don’t think it’s easy for most singers to belt it out one minute then come all the way down to a gentle coo.

Standouts on the album include the gentle ballad “Heart of Glass” and the barn-burner “Say You Will.”  The former being a countrified version of the epic tender-jams Cheap Trick are famous (notorious?) for.  “Say You Will” is a solid rave-up that finds Zander wailing á la Little Richard.

The best song, though, on COUNTRYSIDE BLVD. is “Pamela Jean.”  However, the first time I heard it I thought that my iTunes had skipped, or that the album was over, and I was hearing Cheap Trick.  “Pamela Jean” really stands out as a great song, but it doesn’t have much in common with the more countrified-songs on the record.   So here I am, saying that the best song on the record is the one that seems to fit-in the least.  I guess that’s a crappy backhanded compliment to both the song and the record, and perhaps this is the fatal flaw that’s doomed COUNTRYSIDE BLVD. from ever being properly released.

And so, while COUNTRYSIDE BLVD.  is a mind-blowing revelation,  it’s by no means the terrible album many have inferred it to be.  Hell, with all the hoop-la surrounding the album’s release (or lack thereof), the fact that it’s not an embarrassment comes as a relief.  I think this would be an awesome album to take along on a long, moonlight drive.  It’s a shame we all cant’ go to the store/iTunes and buy COUNTRYSIDE BLVD.  but in the meantime take a listen to “Pamela Jean”.  Just don’t tell the label.

Zander and his two best friends: his dog Buddha and the hat that hides his receding hairline.

*Which, all you hard-core Cheap Trick fans know is from the band’s 1985 album STANDING ON THE EDGE.

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34 thoughts on “Robin Zander’s Secret Country Album: COUNTRYSIDE BLVD.

  1. LollysF says:

    Wrong on both counts, that’s his kids’ dog.

  2. Love your blog, keep the regular work up and I’ll be sure to follow!

  3. That girl says:

    1.Yes indeed the hairline is receiding, but we don’t care. 2.PJ is not the best song.3. You gotta hear these songs live! ❤

  4. Ronald Martin says:

    I have searched high n low for countryside blvd from robin zander.any chance I could get a copy? Thx Ron.

  5. L. Berber says:

    could you please “not” email me the link for Countryside Blvd.?

  6. Mynd Krime says:

    Funny…I was just checking Amazon to see what the status was of this CD, “Not Available” since tix are going on sale this week for Cheap Trick.

    please include me in the “not” email link……..MUCH APPRECIATED

  7. Nick Fletcher says:

    I have tried all my UK-based CT contacts, but no-one seems to have this. It would be tuly wonderful if you were not able to send me a link 😉 Keeping my fingers crossed.

  8. Tim Coulter says:

    Apparently you can listen to the tracks on LastFM, but still can’t buy it. My favorite link was Overstock.com, which states that it will be released January 1, 2037. Please don’t email me a link to download this rarity, either. Thanks!

  9. Vic Beeky says:

    Any chance you could not email me a link to Countryside blvd? Thanks.

  10. Kira says:

    This is a topic that’s close to my heart…
    Best wishes! Exactly where are your contact details though?

  11. It was released on iTunes for one day before it was pulled. I was able to buy a copy before they pulled it.

  12. kagiso says:

    Pls I love these song my life is gromed by these song

  13. nic beery says:

    Now there’s the hint of “CountrySide Live” by the Robin Zander Band. http://robinzanderband.com/

  14. Kitt says:

    Just saw him in Alexandria, VA doing a accoustical set with his son. He played a few off this album. Also a couple off of the Cheap Trick (97) often referred to as Red Ant which was also pulled 3 weeks or so after release due to Red Ant records going belly up. Oh to have a copy of countryside and not have to wait for a live version…. he still has a few more dates in his accoustical tour.

  15. Ken B says:

    Hey Jason – the dropbox link doesn’t work any longer (as you probably know). Can you “not” repost the files on dropbox again or “not” email me a link. I PROMISE I will not save the files! Thx.

  16. […] One of my most popular posts is an article I wrote about singer Robin Zander’s mysterious coun….  That record, COUNTRYSIDE BLVD, is a solid effort from one of rock’s more interesting frontmen (Zander is the lead singer of Cheap Trick).  I wouldn’t call it great, but it’s pleasant enough, and yet people will not stop contacting me about this record.  So what’s so special about COUNTRYSIDE BLVD? Well, due to murky record label shenanigans, the album has never been properly released. […]

  17. Murph says:

    Is the version of “Walkin’ Shoes” the same as on the 1993 solo record?

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