When trying define the tone and character and even the genre of Robin Beck’s new album, Love is Coming, melodic rock would seem to fit the bill. But it’s not wholly accurate. Album Oriented Rock may suffice, but AOR as it used to be termed, doesn’t really exist as a definable category anymore. The best way to delineate Beck’s new collection of songs is to add the word ‘emotional’ or ‘passionate’ in front of the words melodic rock.
Because this is an album steeped in emotional depth and passionate thoughts, feelings and deeds. Love is Coming is the creation of a woman who is not only an accomplished creative artist and vocalist, but has been composed from the point of view of a woman who has lived a life – not a spotless life, not an always happy life – but who is happy and content now in her life. It is the work of an artist who has worked hard and earned both the joys and the scars of life. Beck has loved and lost and loved again; she has had desires and disappointments and joy. She is a fast friend and committed to those she cares about, but if you cross her – she will kick your ass.
“I want the people listening to these songs to feel connected to themselves and connected to me. It’s a very emotionally charged album. Whether it’s a love song, or it’s a hate song, it has a deep emotional connection for me, personally. And I hope the listener finds the mirror in the song, so that they can adapt their lives and what they’re going through to the music and get something out of it,” she said of the songs on Love is Coming, which is set to be released worldwide by Frontiers Music on Oct. 13.
“When I am doing an album like this, and it’s the same for all the albums that I do, I am always setting out to hit that bullseye in terms of emotion. I don’t want to sing a song that nobody feels, whether it’s up-tempo or mid-tempo, a flat out blues song or a ballad. I want them to feel something. That’s the most important thing to me.”
The title track is emblematic of this approach and was crafted to not only hit the heart, soul and mind of listeners in their personal lives, but also to reflect the tumult of today’s world.
“To me it’s a little bit on the spiritual side, even though it doesn’t read that way lyrically. It’s time has come, love’s time has come and everybody’s time is going to come where they’re going to have the love and peacefulness that they need inside. Also, it’s about not judging people and letting things climax in a natural way so that there ends up being more positivity than negativity,” Beck explained.
“The way the world is today, we need that desperately. So the reason that I chose that song to kind of represent the album is because the message in it is very simple and strong. It’s saying you can anticipate a lot of bad things happening, because people live in fear most of their lives. But you have to try to anticipate that love is coming – I think that’s a better message to tell yourself.”
Beck has been a professional singer and recording artist since the late 1970s, recording some of her first tracks as a backup and session singer during the disco era. She worked steadily and was an in demand voice doing sessions across a wide spectrum of genres and for a time in the mid and late 1980s worked in a jingle house. Her first album, Sweet Talk, was released on Mercury Records in 1979, and featured backing vocals by a couple of then unknown artists by the name of Irene Cara and Luther Vandross. It was a more soul and R&B type album and it would be her last full-length release for almost a decade under her own name, although she continued to be extremely busy.
It was while doing that work that she almost accidently stumbled upon her first hit. She recorded a jingle for Coca Cola to be played in the United Kingston and parts of Europe only in 1988. The song didn’t really have a name at the time, but soon radio stations in the U.K. were flooded with requests for the name of the song and especially the artist. Beck was the voice that was drawing such praise and clamour, but the song didn’t exist as a single per se.
“It was a commercial turned into a song called First Time, and it was created after it was a hit commercial. Calls kept coming into the BBC Radio One requesting the song; mostly asking about the singer and where people could get her stuff. So they came back and asked if we could elongate and make a song out of it. And it was really just for fun, to be honest. From my position it was just a jingle and how could that ever be a proper song? Are they kidding? But the flattering thing was they weren’t so much going after the song, they were going after the artist initially behind the song. Then it just so happened that the song turned out pretty darn good, and sounded very much like a Heart song of that era,” Beck said.
“It wasn’t released in America right away as a commercial. It was just an order that came into this jingle company from the U.K. for Coca Cola. Jingle houses like that get job orders from all over the world. I even did stuff for Germany and I sang it in German. So it wasn’t even a puzzlement for me to have something come in from the U.K. And having it be a hit in the U.K. was pretty surprising because they are very picky about what they would consider to be a number one hit. At the time you had artists like Rick Astley and Enya and that sort of thing and I didn’t feel that I fit anywhere near that. So I was very surprised – shocked in fact.”
The single was a bona fide hit topping the charts in the U.K., West Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Norway and Sweden and making the top five in France and even charted in the top 50 all the way in New Zealand, even though the commercial never aired there. The success led to the recording of her second full-length album, Trouble Or Nothin’, which was produced by music industry heavyweight Desmond Child and features collaborations with Child, Diane Warren, and Holly Knight among other Grammy-winning songwriting talents.
Beck was a star in central Europe and released two more albums there in the 1990s, Human Instinct in 1992 and Can’t Get Off in 1994. In the 2000s, she returned from a solo hiatus to record her first album in nine years, Wonderland in 2003, followed by Do You Miss Me in 2005 and Living’ On A Dream in 2007. In 2009 she formed her own label, Her Majesty’s Music Room with distribution by Sony, and re-recorded her Trouble or Nothin’ album adding four brand new tracks. The albums The Great Escape (2011) and Underneath followed in 2013.
Beck said she is always writing, sometimes with her husband, sometimes with other collaborators, including more recently Clif Magness, who co-produced the new album alongside Christian, and is known for his hit-making song crafting skills for the likes of Avril Lavigne and Steve Perry.
Beck has been married to House of Lords founder, frontman and primary songwriter James Christian for more than 20 years, and the two collaborate as much creatively as they do in the rest of their lives. Christian played an important role as both a co-writer and producer on Love is Coming, and Beck said there is something uniquely special about working on music with your life partner.
“It is definitely different than working with someone that you don’t wake up with every morning. The best thing about working with James is that it allows me to be who I am. He produces not the person, because there’s a difference in that approach; some producers try to produce the person and make them into something different. That’s opposed to being a producer that brings out the best of what you already are. He doesn’t have to fabricate me. And I guess the main rule of our time in the studio, from James’ point of view, is you’d better kick ass. You’d better mean it. You’d better get down to what you really feel because if you don’t feel it, I won’t. That’s the basic rule,” she explained.
“An outside person would never know me as well as he does. I would never let an outside producer get away things or listen as well to advice from them. See, that’s the thing, there would be a trust problem there, and that’s something I don’t have with James.”
The creative couple met in 1996 and were set up by mutual friends while both were living near Los Angeles. Both were coming out of shattered relationships and neither was particular on the prowl for a new partner.
“I had been married before and was kind of hanging out at my house in Malibu at the time. And my friends didn’t like seeing me there all by myself. James had recently gotten out of a relationship and he was just home writing and doing whatever a House of Lords guy does and they invited him over at the same time they invited me over – neither one of us knowing the other one was going to be there. He said, ‘I’m not into this’ and I said the same thing, but then we started talking and it what happened next was just like what happens in the movies – sparks really did fly. And I was like, ‘oh shit, he’s cute.’ And he said I was not what he expected,” Beck said.
“The secret to our relationship is to play fair, fight fair and live fair. We have a daughter together, Olivia; she is 20 and very talented and we’re going through that phase of our lives now as parents who want to make sure that she is happy and following her dreams. She is so interested in the entertainment business. She has agents and she just landed a big gig that I am not allowed to talk about yet. She is interested in movies, she does studio sessions as a singer and she also plays live. She’s young so she’s all over the place, but we’re excited to see where she will land.”
On the subject of touring in support of Love is Coming, Beck said she is willing, but it needs to make sense logistically and financially.
“It’s a little bit tricky getting out there right now, because for some reason there are so many bands out there. My main venue is the European market and there are so many bands out there competing for stage time in the clubs. There are things available to me, but they have to happen properly because it’s a lot of effort and energy and risk coming over from the States,” she said.
“It’s really important that the venue and the promoter are both 100 per cent behind the shows in terms of promoting it and making sure that people know where to go and how much it’s going to cost them, because things are tight over there. So I am planning on touring. I did have one run in October that I had to move more into the future because it didn’t feel right. I didn’t feel that venues were right and I didn’t feel that the promoters were going to take the bull by the horns. So the plan is there and it will happen when it’s supposed to happen.”
For more information on Robin Beck and Love is Coming, visit http://www.robinbeckrocks.com.
- Jim Barber is a veteran award-winning journalist and author based in Napanee, ON, who has been writing about music and musicians for a quarter of a century. Besides his journalistic endeavours, he now works as a communications and marketing specialist. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.