Blog | The Soundtrack of Life – Robby Valentine
As much as the soundtrack of my life is interlaced with memories and memoirs, it occasionally gets shaken up by memorable new music. Songs that convey their message strongly and land right in the heart and soul. Songs that resonate for a specific reason, either musically or lyrically. Once both are aligned to empower one another, these songs strike like lightning and grip the gut.
Only rarely a song grips this much upon its maiden spin, but when it does….
Rolling back my sleeves I sit myself down behind my computer to run through the new album of Dutch multi-instrumentalist Robby Valentine. The keyboardist impressed with his first recording efforts in Line (,,Restless Hearts” and ,,Solitary Nite” singles), and even more so with the immaculate release of AOR-sters 1st Avenue `Tears and Triumph’. Putting his mark on the instrumentation and song writing, Robert Kempe soon enough broke free to bring his music to the masses, landing his first number 1 hit with his debuting single ,,Over and Over Again”. Robby struck gold and saw his star rising, especially in the east.
Ever since those very first days the extravagant maestro impressed me with his keen ear for melody and drama, interlaced with pompous instrumentation and striking melodies. Often reminiscent to Queen, he soon got noticed by Brian May himself. I witnessed how Brian May halted recording for Veronica’s annual Muziek Dag (Music Day) to shake hands with Robby and sit back for a brief chat.
MUSICAL VARIETY AND INTEGRITY
Reckoned for his impeccable musical skills and talents, Robby Valentine gradually build his career manoeuvring through the ever-changing musical landscape, loyal to his style, recording a collection of melodic classics and Queen tribute albums. Every single record blend musical variety and integrity with the recognizable wide array of influences of Mr. Valentine, cherished by his devoted fans and followers. `Embrace the Unknown’ however, soon proves to be much more than an album…
From its maiden spin I was stoked. Blending the charismatic appeal and extravagance of Rob he poured into his heart and soul into this record channelling his deepest emotions. `Embrace the Unknown’ is Robby’s magnum opus, revealing how Rob is affected by his declining eye-sight (only 2%) emotionally and mentally. How he struggles, how he fights, how he is challenged and how he rises. Shifting back and forth this emotional rollercoaster captures his deepest emotions, perfectly conveyed by the musical mastery outlining and emphasizing the swing of moods and emotions. Almost conceptual in its musical essence, `Embrace the Unknown’ hits all highs and lows in life, captured in a musical journey that strikes down deep in the gut.
EMOTIONAL ROAD TRIP
Absolutely gutted on first spin I am caught by the emotional road trip Robby took me onto, all leading to the emotional outpour on the Grande Finale, the album’s title track. A rip-roaring track that opens with agonizing piano strokes full of drama and Robby displaying his insecurity and regret.
Calling out “I should have been a father like my father been for me…” he instantly paints the picture of his agony. How he can’t be there for his own daughter Eleanor like his father was there supporting him. How his own dad took him anywhere over the course of his career, “…like a driver and a roadie”. The metaphorical discharge of the lyrical message carries much further. Guild crashes onto me immediately, crushing my gut. The way Rob sings this straight into your heart, is awing.
Robby continues to repent; “I should have been a husband one you can depend upon, but I’m helpless like a baby, now the cloud has blocked my sun”, turning to his wife addressing how the tables have turned now losing is sight, laying more pressure on her. The stride internally is felt throughout his lyrics and vocal delivery, with the last section as pressing wordplay of his inability to see, neither the sun nor the suns in his life. Losing vision, waves of emotions roll onto the shores with his piano darkening. Swirling his keystrokes are gracious, highlighting the love expressed through his music.
THE AMAZING SKILLS OF ROBBY VALENTINE
“A burned down bridge, no way to return” he sings as a statement with the piano echoing hollow; “embrace this gift of lessons to learn” he echoes. Low toned ominous strokes, he soothes his voice embracing the situation.
Loosening the foot pedal higher the notes start whirling in higher pitch gripping the song’s first melody, with Robby calling out “why is this happening to me?”. The (piano) melody is briefly reminiscent to Marillion’s recurring theme on ,,Misplaced Childhood”, making it instantly land. This mere short bliss is followed by intensifying playing with Valentine displaying his amazing skills.
“I must let it go” he whispers before the song starts to densify instrumentation. From this moment onward, the fight is on with drums laying down a solid groove and subtle hooks and time changes. Pulsating bass rules on the low end and jagged riff breaks are intensifying with the song impacting more and more as it progresses. Breaks follow the melodic wonder. Short guitar licks and pitches, and Robby Valentine adding his dramatic outpour of emotions. Stride, agony and despair radiate through. Not the world class vocalist, Robby however brings across his emotions very precise. The melodic theme is pumped up, raising the dramatic levels of the song halfway in.
BRIAN MAY MEETS DAVID GILMOUR
Music deepening, the guitar solo is highly melodic, with loads of stretches reverbing notes, backed by layers of strings and piano, boosting the atmosphere. Brian May meets David Gilmour. Multiple vocal layers add to the lush but dense pompous atmosphere that is powerful and glorious. Light shines. Ominous piano strokes echo deep with Robby returning to the front, gripping deep in his vocal registers, traversing his despair now weld onto a fighting spirit. It gels well even though it grips so intensely deep, and Valentine belts out his agony questioning why this is happening.
The glorious musical outline contradicts with Rob belting out with agony “I can’t let it go…. But I must let it go…. And Embrace the Unknown” before the choral “uhs” and “ahs” return to the fold with intense instrumentation raising the glorious accolades sky high. The drama unloaded is enormous and, in the dying, notes the angelic children’s voice whispers to us after which the song abruptly ends.
AN INFINITE LOOP OF MUSICAL WONDER
The song stuck inside my head since its maiden spin and landed so deep, it has become one of my most played tracks in my current playlist, often rolled back to in repeat. ,,Embrace the Unknown’’ is a song that channels a wide array of emotions with Robby questioning his state of being while addressing his loved ones. There’s a glorious conclusion spiraling towards the end before the child’s whisper echoes dark on the edge of the song’s sinister last notes, before it harshly dies out. Much like the light fades and darkness becomes part of you, the album comes to an end with Robby bringing to life his fear with almost prophetic musical stance.
And with every spin of the disc and song, the album goes back to repeat itself. An infinite loop of musical wonder that warps me back rolling up my sleeves to sit myself down for that review, over and over again.
Photos by Dirk van den Heuvel of DCH Photography
Robby Valentine [born Robert Kempe) is a Dutch singer and Multi-instrumentalist who started his professional career in the 80s and is the frontman of his band Valentine. He is also a songwriter and producer and worldwide known for his top 5 hit ,,Over And Over Again''. Valentine also performs frequently as `A Tribute To Queen'.
Melodic, Rock, Symphonic, Stadium Rock