In 2002, Rich Robinson and his brother Chris were already very well known for The Black Crowes, as well as for fighting a great deal of the time. The band went on one of its many hiatuses, and Rich decided it was time to make his own solo album, just the way he liked it. He went into a studio with some friends in New York’s meatpacking district, and knocked out Paper. It came out in 2004, to mixed reviews.
The master tapes were stored in Robinson’s storage facility in New Jersey, along with his gear. Years later, they were damaged but not destroyed by Hurricane Sandy. When Eagle Rock Entertainment proposed a project to re-release Paper as part of a series of reissues from Robinson’s catalog, he undertook the restoration of the tapes and took control of every part of the project, remixing, resequencing, and adding completely new vocals. He even painted the cover! The new version was released in late February of this year.
While the new vocals and remixing do allow Robinson’s vocals to be heard better than on the original recording, they are still sometimes nearly swallowed by the layer upon layer of guitar and the psychedelic effects added to the songs. It still sounds like what it is: the debut album by a man who had been constrained by a band sound and suddenly could do whatever he wanted. And what he wanted was to overdub and add as much guitar as he could and push that guitar to the front. It certainly allowed him to show off his considerable skills, and some people loved it then and no doubt will now.
For others, however, including this writer, the sound just gets muddy much of the time. In addition, the album seems to ramble along with no particular purpose or direction. Also, Robinson would have benefited from an additional vocalist to sing along with him or by hiring an alternative vocalist to sing sometimes. He has a fine voice but it is not strong enough for the extravagant sound which surrounds him.
Paper is not bad, but it is entirely too excessive for this reviewer. Less overdubs and effects and more just playing and singing would have made a more satisfactory album. Robinson wanted to do something that would not sound like The Black Crowes, and he did that, but in trying so hard to be different, he lost his focus.