Based in Boston, Robin Lane and the Chartbusters boasted a pedigree of sorts: she appeared on Neil Young’s Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere; guitarist Leroy Radcliffe was a former Modern Lover; other band members were veterans of the New England music scene.
The chiming guitars that kick off “When Things Go Wrong,” the first track on the band’s debut, immediately identified Lane as a godsend to oft-neglected folk-rock fans. Throughout the LP, they mix the stylistic grace of the Byrds with the folksy directness of early Fairport Convention. Where many kindred spirits fall into a poised monotony, Lane varies the mood from track to track. “Waitin’ in Line” mixes blues with 12-string licks, while “Many Years Ago” and “Don’t Wait Till Tomorrow” builds up a head of steam that lends special urgency to Lane’s middle-range vocals.
5 Live is what the title says: five live tracks. Since the Chartbusters were much more ragged onstage than in the studio, this one is strictly for the faithful.
Imitation Life ups the ante considerably, creating an atmosphere of tension so heavy it’s almost tangible. The band plays more roughly, especially drummer Tim Jackson, and Lane sings like a driven woman, whether the subject is lust (“No Control”) or her deepening Christianity (“Solid Rock”). Producer Gary Lyons makes the sound sizzle without resorting to gimmickry. Rather than life, the LP imitates a bomb about to explode.