Chris Robison And His Many Hand Band
Chris Robison And His Many Hand Band, released privately in 1973 and reissued now on CD for the first time, was one of the world's first records by an openly gay songwriter. Coming just a few years after the Stonewall Riots of 1969, Many Hand Band is a dazzling feat of musical daring. But Chris Robison is not just a pioneering gay musician, he has been an all-pervasive presence in New York rock from the late-'60s onwards, having played with everyone from Elephant's Memory and Steam to Kiss, the New York Dolls, John Phillips and Bob Dylan. Not only that, Many Hand Band is a totally freewheeling and unique album, coalescing all the sensory overload of downtown New York City life in the early-'70s. It touches on folk, psychedelic rock, Latin funk and more, all filtered through Robison's sly and cheeky personality. There is no "woe is me" self-pity here, just an uplifting sense of fun and natural self-expression. Recorded almost totally by Chris himself late at night in a cut-rate studio, Many Hand Band is one of the few remaining undiscovered classics from the period, gay or otherwise. It's difficult to appreciate now, more than 35 years later, how daring and how groundbreaking songs like "Looking For A Boy Tonight" and "Italian Boy" were upon their release. In the album's comprehensive liner notes, filled with rare photos and a frank interview with Chris, he talks of RCA records turning him down because they didn't want another "faggot" on their roster (aside from Lou Reed and David Bowie). Meanwhile, he became a poster boy for the burgeoning gay lib movement, playing Washington Square Park with Bette Midler in front of thousands in 1973. Chris would go on to play with pre-Kiss group Wicked Lester, as well as join the New York Dolls for their Japanese tour of 1975. His later band Stumblebunny toured Europe supporting the Hollies and wrote their later hit "Stormy Waters." Bonus tracks come from a rare single released in 1974 on Buddah Records, featuring the all-time shoulda-beena classic "I'm Gonna Stay With My Baby Tonight," subsequently covered by Ronnie Spector and George McCrae. It's a wild and fascinating story, but Many Hand Band contains the seeds of it all -- all the hedonism, passion and beauty of Chris Robison's life condensed into one incredible record.