The five albums released by the revived label component of Ardent Studios in the early 1970s were almost exclusively acts that called Memphis home at the time, including Big Star, The Hot Dogs and Oklahoma natives Cargoe. The one outlier is a very atypical sort of album for either Ardent and its distributor Stax/Volt: Wringing Applause by online bio, he also hosted music shows for BBC radio and television and even did some acting during the first half of the '80s.
By mid-decade, though, Robertson had mostly abandoned his solo career to focus on behind-the-scenes work in pop music and film/television scoring. He struck up a long-term writing partnership with Genesis guitarist Mike Rutherford, resulting in quite a bit more success on this side of the ocean. Robertson co-wrote the Mike and the Mechanics songs "Silent Running" and "The Living Years," both huge U.S. hits, and continued to write with the group and play keyboard on most of their albums. Further perusal of his bio proves that he's remained very prolific since those hits, and while his name may not necessarily be very familiar much of his work in the past couple decades actually is.
But what of his debut album? Well, it does sound like a man with a future in writing music to match visuals. Wringing Applause is a sort of song cycle about performers and performing, from music to theater to carnivals to cowboy movie stars. But ultimately most of the songs dwell on the lonely side of fame, or the inevitable obsolescence of the particular talent enjoyed by the songs' subjects. Its tired grandeur is unusual fare for a young man's debut album, but Robertson has the wry, sideways sense of humor -- without the casually brutal edge -- of Randy Newman, who's followed a similar career path but with much more public renown.
It's easy to see why this album has been neglected in the Ardent discography, because many fans of the label's other releases aren't likely to be too interested in a Scottish version of David Ackles or Randy Newman. Big Beat's recent CD compilation chronicling Ardent, Thank You Friends, completely bypasses any tracks from or mention of the album. It doesn't appear that Wringing Applause was just something the label licensed, however; Ardent mainstay Terry Manning was involved in recording part of the album at the studio, and it's the last disc that gets the label's lavish laminated cover treatment, this time with a gatefold. Considering the number of promo copies that turn up, Ardent must have promoted the album fairly extensively. Robertson's biography states that the album received "modest critical acclaim" and garnered a year-end best of nomination in jazz magazine DownBeat.
Despite its apparently rapid disappearing act on initial release, and somewhat mysterious lack of even a cult record collector following due to being an Ardent disc, Wringing Applause is well worth checking out for fans of singer-songwriters with a unique voice. (Ardent, 1973)