Friday, April 10, 2015

Jon & Robin - Elastic Event (1967)



The male-female duo Jon & Robin are thought of as a one-hit wonder for their playful 1967 Top 20 hit "Do It Again a Little Bit Slower." Actually, however, they recorded quite a bit in the mid-to-late '60s, with an engaging if somewhat lightweight style craftily mixing AM radio mid-'60s pop/rock with a little psychedelia and Southern soul. "Do It Again a Little Bit Slower" was certainly the best of their discs, with its likable male-female vocal tradeoffs, a "Cool Jerk"-like soul piano riff at strategic points, and an effective fadeout that languorously stretched out the suggestive title phrase. But their two LPs and a bunch of 1965-1969 singles included some enjoyable material as well, devised with help from some fine songwriters and some of the best production and backup musician talent in their Dallas base.

The male half of the duo, Jon Abdnor, had recorded some solo singles for his millionaire father's Abnak label before hooking up with teenage singer Javonne Braga, who was billed as "Robin" on the records the pair made together. Their one national hit, "Do It Again a Little Bit Slower" came from the pen of Wayne Carson Thompson, most famous for writing the Boxtops' "The Letter." The duo also recorded several other Thompson compositions, including the fairly gritty soul-popper "Dr. Jon (The Medicine Man)," which was a big hit in Texas, although it didn't break nationally. Jon & Robin themselves wrote little original material, although they did benefit from production by ex-rockabilly star Dale Hawkins and Mike Rabon of the Five Americans, a fellow Abnak act. Indeed, several of the Five Americans played on some Jon & Robin sessions, and another Abnak artist, soul singer Bobby Patterson, also helped out with some of their recordings. By the end of the 1960s, however, Jon & Robin had split, though Jon Abdnor did put out a 1969 solo LP, Intro to Change, billed to John Howard Abdnor & the Involvement.


Given their somewhat limited potential, it's surprising to see that Jon & Robin cut two LPs in 1967. On the other hand, given that Jon's father owned the label they recorded on, it's also not surprising that they were permitted this indulgence. For their second go-round of 1967, they pumped up the wattage a bit and aimed for a harder, trippier sound, less steeped in soul than an odd mix of country/folk and pop-psychedelia influences -- though how they execute this is a little odd, the trippy fuzz-laden "I Want Some More" working a quote from "Twelfth Street Rag" into its break; and then there's the Southern-tinged single "Dr. Jon (The Medicine Man)," which charted at number 87; and "Honey Bee" works what sounds like a recorder flute somewhere into a countrified ballad. It's different from the preceding album, and has fewer obviously predictable moments; and there's even an unexpected folk-rock excursion in "Like I Know You Do," with a guitar sound that (very) distantly recalls moments of mid-'60s Bob Dylan. The Monkees of the same period mixed these sounds together more successfully as good, solid pop/rock, but this was still an improvement over Jon & Robin's first album. As with that album, some of the best moments here have been included on Sundazed's Best of Jon & Robin, but this time out the rest is kind of worth hearing in context.

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