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Robin Trower originally became famous as guitar player for Procol Harum, but after leaving the band in 1971 he set off on his own solo career that had nothing to do with Procol Harum any more. In fact, Trower represents that rare case of an artist who's achieved fame and success not just twice - in a band and solo - which is normal, if we look at other examples like Paul McCartney or Peter Gabriel, but among crucially different audiences. The funny thing is that not too many Trower fans speak highly of his Procol Harum period, and not too many Procol Harum fans are particularly interested in checking out Trower's post-Procol career. Some, in fact, go as far as to prefer post-Trower Procol Harum to Trower's Procol Harum, even if the majority of that band's most renowned work dates to Trower's period in the band, and he was an obvious asset, contributing highly to the band's overall sound.This is in fact why I preferred to put Trower on a solo page rather than slapping him in the Procol Harum appendices (well, another reason is that his output is way too large to form nothing more than an appendix). The fact is, Trower's musical preferences and stylistics always differed a lot from the one of his Procol colleagues. Trower was essentially an R&B guitarist; his stylistic connection with Hendrix is well-documented and a matter of fact, although many people seem to be displeased with the comparison. I don't, however, see any problem in the term "Hendrix disciple" - on the other hand, it's an obvious compliment. And being a Hendrix disciple, arming himself with cool guitar tones, distortion, fuzz, wah-wah and an impressive playing technique that relied very heavily on tricky electric effects, Trower did indeed stand at odds with Procol's classically influenced sound. I always found the striking contrast between the unharnessed roar of Robin's six-string and the beautiful solemnity of Brooker and Fisher's keyboards a unique distinction of Procol Harum and an impressive stylistic gimmick that always worked in the band's favour. But apparently many band fans don't think so, limiting themselves to enjoying the keyboards, and apparently the band itself ceased to think so at some point, as Trower left in 1971, which was very surprising considering that the band's later albums (Home, Broken Barricades) were very seriously Trower-dominated. Since then, Robin has been steadily pumping out solo albums, most of them just as steadily in the R&B/soul/funk tradition. He hasn't got a good singing voice, so most of the singing is usually relegated to other band members - his most lengthy and fruitful association has been with bassist/vocalist James Dewar, a powerful but somewhat generic R&B crooner who dominates Robin's records during almost all of his 'classical' period. Free of the band's obligations, Robin took the time to unleash his talent, and created his own unique style of Seventies' hard rock, heavily drawing on Hendrix and his predecessors and keeping raw R&B live before the eyes of his contemporaries in its 'unprofanated' form. Many of Trower's solo albums can be heavily recommended for beginning (and advanced) guitar players, since he, for one, never suffered from a "guitar hero" complex like Jeff Beck or Eric Clapton, and his records are always chockfull of vintage riffage (although Trower's approach to riffage differs highly from standard Seventies' riffage - Hendrix legacy again) and awesome soloing, even if I doubt if any beginning player will be able to figure out the way Trower handles those 'bends and wobbles'. There is just one serious problem with Trower that I, however, find extremely painful. Trower is a guitar player - and nothing more. Nothing. All the great guitar players I'm aware of had at least a few other advantages in addition to their finger-flashing talents: Hendrix was a music revolutionary, Clapton was (yes, was) a decent, if not spectacular, singer and songwriter, Jeff Beck was a bold experimentalist, etc. Trower is just a guitar player. His songwriting is extremely second-rate - for all his classic period, it seems like he's rewriting the same record over and over, and moreover, most of the melodies are generic hookless R&B. His innovations are next to none - after working out his style once and for always, he's stuck to it ever since. And I already said that he doesn't sing at all. Therefore, listening to a Trower solo record means one and only one thing: listen to these solos, bow in awe to these riffs, dig in these bends and worship these wobbles. That's exactly what I did for a long time, but over that long time it really wears one out, to a point where I actually begin speaking heresy and noticing that Trower actually has a limited amount of 'elements' in his repertoire and his later solos are not at all different from his earlier ones. Well, that was only to be expected. This is why I can't give Robin more than an overall rating of D - which still does not mean that I don't respect the man or anything. Robin is undoubtedly a guitar genius, a man seeing whom live is most certainly an unforgettable experience and hearing whom on record, especially in headphones turned up loud, can be ecstatic. The problem is, paraphrasing Paul McCartney (quotation taken from one of the better songs off one of his worst records), 'with all these guitar geniuses listening in, I don't know where I ought to begin'. I still think Trower's finest hour was in Procol Harum - when his immaculate guitar technique and climactic solos were not taken as a value in itself, but were intricately woven into the sound of a band whose other members knew how to write great innovative melodies and make the best out of its playing potential. Unfortunately, ambitions are ambitions. Special note: most of Trower's early albums were released on CD as 2-fers, at least, his entire catalog of 1973-80 has definitely been, since I have four CDs with his eight records from these years (Twice Removed From Yesterday/Bridge Of Sighs, For Earth Below/Live, Long Misty Days/In City Dreams, Caravan To Midnight/Victims Of The Fury). In print or out of print, it is recommendable to look for these, because, well, such a stylistically narrow guy as Trower should have his catalog treated that way.
Listenability: 3/5. These
aren't the best of hooks, but the power and energy occasionally compensates.
Resonance: 3/5. Strong and emotive, marred by some guitar-hero self-indulgence.
Originality: 1/5. Some of the guitar techniques, yes, but the overall style hasn't changed much since Hendrix.
Adequacy: 2/5. Eeeh... I like James Dewar individually, but the music is still way too often blown out of proportion.
Diversity: 2/5. Sort of something like that. Blues-rock, a dose of funk, a dose of soul. Yep.
Overall: 2.2 = D on the rating scale.
READER COMMENTS SECTION
Year Of Release: 1973
Record rating = 9
Overall rating = 11
Trower's debut - pretty much the guitar blueprint for everything that follows.Best song: I CAN'T WAIT MUCH LONGER
Track listing: 1) I Can't Wait Much Longer; 2) Daydream; 3) Hannah; 4) Man Of The World; 5) I Can't Stand It; 6) Rock Me Baby; 7) Twice Removed From Yesterday; 8) Sinner's Song; 9) Ballerina.
The liner notes to this CD (I have the edition paired with Bridge Of Sighs, which makes up for the best Trower collection ever, and probably the only one you'll ever neeed) actually say: "Robin Trower is: Reg Isidore (drums), James Dewar (bass and vocals), Robin Trower (guitar)". Which is supposed to mean that "Robin Trower" was a band? Like "Argent" or "Alice Cooper"? Whatever. Well, that's up to the purists to figure out. What's much more necessary to stress is that Trower's debut LP, if not tremendously groundbreaking, still presents him in a light quite different from his usual Procol Harum stylistics, and establishes a distinct subgenre of "Trower-rock" that he would carry on for years without any particular development, for better or for worse.James Dewar is quite a decent vocalist and stands up as a songwriter (all of the compositions here are co-written with Trower, sometimes with further collaboration with the drummer). But it's clear that this time around Trower is going to dominate everything, and he does; no more half-measures, as with Procol Harum's Broken Barricades. Trower's guitar sound is 'Gargantuan' in its stature - this is a further bit of Hendrix heritage: the guitar must overshadow everything, including the rhythm section, and be estimated as an absolute value. Everything else is just like that, pro forma; GUITAR SOUND is what matters. So Robin distorts his poor instrument, lays on tons of echo and tremolo effects, picks up the fuzzbox and the wah-wah, abuses vibratos and staccato solos, and ultimately succeeds: when the record's over, all you remember is POWER. Not even the melodies - just POWER, pure POWER. As every self-assured debut album, this one sounds fresh and quite convincing; it's said to be overlooked, but that's often the fate of Album number One. Many of the numbers are winners, and Trower seems to pull out every ace out of his sleeve already on the first three tracks, all minor classics. 'I Can't Wait Much Longer' welcomes the listener with a dreamy, majestic sound - the song's spacey riff that seems to be coming from deep down under the earth is among Trower's very best, and, in fact, he's often imitated it since, repeating the same trick with minor variations on such tracks as 'Bridge Of Sighs' and others. How the hell he actually managed to procure such a fantastic guitar tone, not to mention reproducing it in concert, is way beyond the understanding of mortals. 'Daydream', on the other hand, is far softer, with much less distortion but the same type of sound overall: overwhelming and keeping one in deep awe. This is the "philosophic" aspect of Trower's playing style - playing minimalistic, economic guitar lines with lots of vibratos (in the solo parts, I mean) to produce the required stately effect. I do consider the song slightly overlong, though. Finally, "Hannah" returns us to the 'gruff' Trower, but this time around it's not just 'gruff': it's 'gruff angry disturbed' Trower, which means he's not just subduing the audience but also brewing up a storm. This is where the overdubs and finger-flashing technique comes in: the instrumental part of the song rages along like mad, and it's extremely hard to describe, but you certainly haven't heard anything like it because it doesn't sound like heavy metal, and it doesn't sound like your average triple guitar interplay of Lynyrd Skynyrd and the like. It's... well, a musical thunderstorm in the purest sense of the word; I'm actually free to draw on analogies with pouring rain - Lynyrd Skynyrd do not sound like pouring rain, while the instrumental bit in 'Hannah' does. Get the idea? Probably not, but it's the best I can do; now you'll just have to go and buy the record. It gets seriously weaker from then on, though - after you've been hit by these three openers, Trower doesn't leave a lot of surprises. The other six songs are not bad, but... well, they're okay. Loud, abrasive, with more guitar pyrotechnics and stuff; sometimes Trower really rips it up, like on the old blues cover 'Rock Me Baby' or the stunning instrumental passage on 'Sinner's Song', and sometimes he's rather quiet and timid, like on the ballad 'Ballerina', but it's still hard to feed on guitar wizardry alone, and the melodies are only so-so, not much more. In addition, Trower certainly does not care about traditional riffage: it would be very hard to notate a Trower composition because he doesn't like repeating the same guitar line twice. Trower on guitar is like Elton John on piano: all over the place, half-improvising in the studio by building on a theme but never sticking to it note-for-note. The melodies are thus extremely hard to 'decipher', and often give the feel of being completely non-existent. I can't really tell if this feel is true or false, but fact is, very few of the compositions are memorable, even if all of them are sonically impressive. Well, that's the way it goes with Trower. In any case, Twice Removed From Yesterday is Robin's first record, and it has all the advantages of being a first. The style is new and fresh, the energy is unbeatable, and you can't yet accuse Robin of ripping off himself; I easily give it a nine if only because of those factors. That said, his second record would be a lot more successful - apparently, Robin was the kind of artist who'd only strike it big on the second record, with the first being a careful treading of water.
READER COMMENTS SECTION
Year Of Release: 1974
Record rating = 9
Overall rating = 11
Trower's best-known record, and indeed, most of the songs are suspiciously distinctive for a Trower record.Best song: TOO ROLLING STONED (but only the first part!!!)
Track listing: 1) Day Of The Eagle; 2) Bridge Of Sighs; 3) In This Place; 4) The Fool And Me; 5) Too Rolling Stoned; 6) About To Begin; 7) Lady Love; 8) Little Bit Of Sympathy.
This is still widely regarded as Trower's masterpiece. Actually, I fail to see why - I mean, I, too, believe that it's among his best albums, but it's somehow put on a very high pedestal, far higher than anything that surrounds it, and this is strange, because the songs sound exactly like they sounded a year earlier on Twice Removed and exactly like they would sound a year later on For Earth Below. Same band lineup, same guitar sound, same raw R&B edge, same stately majesty. Oh, yeah, there's one exception: the tunes are generally far more solid and well-written than on the 1973 and 1975 albums. But since when do diehard fans take into account the actual melodies when it's the guitar tone and the finger-flashing they're mostly worrying about? No, I truly don't understand why Bridge Of Sighs is given such unjustifiable honours.So let's give it some justifiable honours instead. Eight songs on here, all written according to the formula worked out the previous year. Gargantuan majestic epics alternating with funky rip-roaring rockers alternating with dreamy atmospheric ballads, all of them based on the damn same guitar tone. But from the very first number, 'Day Of The Eagle', something goes into a more right and true direction than previously. 'Day Of The Eagle' is a steady and well-calculated rave-up, with a complex multi-chord riff and a pretty catchy vocal melody; it also changes tempo near the end of the song in order to give Robin the opportunity to play some slow sly 'restrained' licks as a graceful outro to the song. It's the same style as Twice Removed, and yet, not the same style - there's a certain precision in the playing and a certain self-demanding approach to songwriting that's been lacking before. The title track, as has been said before, recycles the riff of 'I Can't Wait Much Longer', not for the last time, but it also improves on that song, with cleverly placed effects and Dewar's impressive vocal delivery as he recites the depressing, dark lyrics that fit the song's mood perfectly (for comparison, the simplistic love lyrics to 'I Can't Wait Much Longer' never really fit the song's 'royal stature'). The combination of Trower's moody playing with the howling of the wind and Dewar's sad, angry intonations makes up for a truly atmospheric listening - and was deservedly a stage favourite. And that's just the first two tracks. But most of the rockers on the record are equally deserving as well, being really catchy - this is one rare Trower record that breaks the basic rule of R&B (never write a memorable melody, just howl as much as needed and more). Could one say that 'The Fool And Me' is not catchy, for instance? That's hardly possible. It's catchy as hell, indeed, at some points I'm becoming afraid that the main melody is way too simplistic for Trower and almost nursery-rhymish in structure... hah hah. Isn't it a nursery trick when you end every line with the phrase 'the fool and me'? It's fun. Of course, this is the album that features the 'quintessential' Trower song - the anthemic 'Too Rolling Stoned'. Quintessential or not, this is one great number, worth it for the opening bass line alone: thousands of hard and soft rock bands alike would kill, steal and borrow for such a magnificent bass riff that drives the track along like a 'stone keeps on rollin', well, more like a couple choo-choo trains than just some stupid stone. Then there's the slow part - actually, the fast part may be regarded as just an intro for the slow boogie that follows, over which Robin is intent on displaying all of his playing techniques. Funny thing, I've never bought much into that second part... and shame on me, pr'aps, but I recognize quite a lot of lines that go back to as far as 'Whiskey Train' off Procol Harum's Home. Okay, enough dirtying up Robin's reputation coming from the impure mouth of a 'wannabe rock star' like somebody gently christened me after I'd unintentionally offended Tales From Topographic Oceans or something like that. 'Lady Love' and 'Little Bit Of Sympathy' are also solid slabs of boogie, though a wee bit inferior to the other rockers on here, but there's one more track that could be raved about: the wonderful ballad 'About To Begin'. It sounds very personal, with Trower using only a moderate amount of echo and drawing the listener somewhat closer into the actual experience than he usually is. Dreamy, gorgeous and short - three and a half minutes, with just a very economic amount of soloing. The other ballad, 'In This Place', is just okay. I'm not really sure if the sudden rise in song quality has anything to do with the fact that Trower is mostly credited as sole author to all of the songs on here; I think that Dewar was primarily the 'lyrics man', although I could be wrong. More probably, the band was just solidifying its sound and tightening up all the bolts, because despite all the professionalism, Twice Removed still sounded too loose. Here the band is just an unstoppable monster, and in tightening up the sound, they also manage to improve song structure and 'catchify' their chord progressions. Thus, Bridge Of Sighs captures "Robin Trower" (the band!) at a relative peak - with the band in a state of perfect balance. Naturally, this peak couldn't last long; by the time of their third album, they'd already fallen back on formula.
READER COMMENTS SECTION
Year Of Release: 1975
Record rating = 7
Overall rating = 9
That guitar tone is really something, but the songwriting on this particular record is apparently lost somewhere down the drain,Best song: FOR EARTH BELOW
Track listing: 1) Shame The Devil; 2) It's Only Money; 3) Confessin' Midnight; 4) Fine Day; 5) Alethea; 6) A Tale Untold; 7) Gonna Be More Suspicious; 8) For Earth Below.
And so it came out that Trower's first two albums established him as a worthy successor to Hendrix, carrying forward Jimi's technique and Jimi's power without getting too much out of control in order to be digestible by the general public. That was all very well. Unfortunately, his third solo record, For Earth Below, prefers to capitalize on that success rather than offer us something new and presents the man as a very unimaginative dude.The album itself isn't particularly long or stretched out: as usual, Trower doesn't engage in any patience-killing jams or quasi-experimental noodlings, just doing the standard guitarist's job. A riff, a staccato, a solo, a riff again, and a fade-out. And, considering that his technique only got more and more flawless with time, there's much for the seasoned guitar player to learn on here, as well as for the seasoned guitar aficionado to rave about. But what the heck? These songs are basically all one, and a "one" at that that we already heard in a better version on Twice Removed and Bridge Of Sighs! The tempo only ranges from mid- to slow, and the melodies this time around are not even close to memorable. Yes, James Dewar still roars out the lyrics in that great voice of his - but it might as well be non-existent, because nowadays he just acts like a routine funk singer, and I really lack the power that's possibly the main element in a funker's voice. Yes, Robin flashes out solid riffs all the time, never repeating himself and always repeating himself at the same time - but come on now, do you really need this stuff much longer? I don't. On this record, I don't see even a single song that could match any of Hendrix's best numbers (though most of them certainly match and exceed a lot of his worst - yup, Jimi was a 'filler king', too, no doubt about that), not to mention that I don't see even a single song that offers me something I ain't ever heard before. Just your standard rockers with loads of adrenaline but with no substance. That's the thing I hate the most about funk: basically, it's music that sounds mighty, driving and exciting while you listen to it, but nothing is left of it as soon as it goes away. Why? Because it's un-distinctive! Okay, before this review turns into a lengthy condemnation of some of the more popular musical genres in existence, let me switch on to the good aspects of this album. As you probably already guessed, about the only good aspect of it, as usual, is Trower's guitar playing. For best effect, put on your headphones and start playing this album beginning with 'Gonna Be More Suspicious', a potentially generic blues number that is rendered quite inflammatory by Robin's passionate wah-wah rhythms over which he overdubs the soloing. These vibratos rule! Likewise, 'Alethea' has some more of these intoxicating riffs, even if they are mostly borrowed from Jimi, from 'Foxy Lady', for instance. My favourite song on this album, judging from the guitar-playing point, is, however, 'A Tale Untold'. The wah-wah on that one really sets the house on fire, but the best part about the number gotta be the unearthly overdub of solos in the middle, when Robin makes his guitars almost sound like a bunch of alien ships attacking your stronghold with lasers. Imaginative, ain't I? Unfortunately, that passage takes about... twenty seconds, what? Bah. The two numbers that somehow stand out from the general wah-wah Hendrixofunkia on the album are the ones taken at a slow tempo, namely, 'It's Only Money' and the title track. Unsurprisingly, they also turn out to be the best compositions on the record. Thus, 'Money' is distinguished by a weird 'dripping' guitar sound that adds some delicate poignancy and even a certain mystical flavour to the proceedings. And the title track is about the only minor classic on here; pushing that 'dripping' sound still further, and adding 'psychedelic' percussion noises, Trower transforms the song into an atmospheric, dreamy chant that is finally able to raise an eye or two. When that relaxing, yet at the same time disturbing sound suddenly comes on at the end of the record to caress your ears, it's like being saved from eternal damnation - finally, Robin gives us something unusual. I don't even care that there are no interesting solos in the song; it's not supposed to be a polygon for solos. On the other hand, listen carefully to the lengthy, hypnotic fade-out, when Dewar slowly keeps repeating 'for earth below... for earth below... for earth below...', the percussion noises slowly transform into deep sighs, and Robin emits these creepy little wails out of his guitar. No, it's not ambient or anything, and the track is even hardly experimental; such 'half-psychedelic' numbers are quite common among seasoned rockers (cf. 'Dreams' by the Allman Brothers Band, for instance - except that 'For Earth Below' is a much better song). But it's the number's distinguished position on here that really attracts one's attention - further proof that the order of songs on an album does matter a lot. Nevertheless, one great song does not make a record. Fortunately, it's coupled on CD with next year's Live, which makes it a much better buy in any case (yeah, even if you hate Live, you wouldn't refuse to pay the same number of bucks for two albums, now would you?). For the record, Bill Lordan replaces Reg Isidore on drums for this record as a permanent band member.
READER COMMENTS SECTION
Year Of Release: 1976
Record rating = 8
Overall rating = 10
Trower in full flight, but he's still way too slow... In any case, Jimi would be proud of his disciple as he flashes his chops.Best song: DAYDREAM
Track listing: 1) Too Rolling Stoned; 2) Daydream; 3) Rock Me Baby; 4) Lady Love; 5) I Can't Wait Much Longer; 6) Alethea; 7) A Little Bit Of Sympathy.
Robin Trower is, indeed, one of those guitarists who's far easier (and far more useful) to be appreciated in a live version. Even much more so than Jimi the Guru; the latter always knew how to make his studio records entertaining by being innovative as hell and never stopping in his endless search for new kinds of sound. This can make some of his more bizarre numbers a pain in the butt to sit through, but at least this always results in something entertaining. Trower, on the other hand, never sought much to experiment in the studio; he'd just overdub two or three guitar parts and leave it at that. He certainly can't play two or three guitars at the same time when he's standing on the stage, but, like every professional guitarist with a bit of self-respect, he tries to make up for it by playing twice as energetic, fast and fluent as in the studio. Thus, who needs Robin Trower in the studio when one can get him live?And he is good in a live version, believe me. Again, problem number one is that he still does everything standing in Hendrix' shadow; but hey, after several listens one can get used even to that detail. The setlist for this particular concert, recorded somewhere in Sweden, as far as I know, is acceptable, drawing mainly from Trower's first two records. Only 'Alethea' is included from For Earth Below, certainly not an unwise choice; it is also partially transformed into the launchpad for Bill Lordan's drum solo, which doesn't bother me in the least, as it's powerful, rhythmic and relatively short. Good selection. The rest of the album is divided into highlights and 'forgettabilities' - everything simply depends on how cool Robin manages to sound (I can't blame or praise the rhythm section - they do their job finely throughout, and at least Dewar never misses the note while playing all those funky basslines). 'Lady Love', thus, is forgettable, and, frankly speaking, the seven-minute version of 'I Can't Wait Much Longer' bores the boars out of me. It was all right when Robin played slowly and dreamily in the studio, but carrying the same sound, only in an underarranged version, on to the stage was a fatal mistake; just bloated, tuneless arena-rock. Then again, I reiterate that it all depends on the spur of the moment. 'Daydream' is even slower and just as long, but the version on here is magnificent - I can't wait for the final section to come on, when Trower unveils some stupendous vibratos and, once again, engages in the kind of atmospherics that no one was able to imitate. I must tell you, I like it when Robin rips it up as much as anybody, but this dreamy, otherworldly sound might just be the thing for me, might just be Trower's best contribution to rock music. The liner notes to my CD version of the album contain a respectful eulogy to Robin, penned by none other than Mr Robert Fripp himself, where he states that Trower 'is one of the very few English guitarists that have mastered bends and wobbles' and that after 1974 'later, in England, he gave me guitar lessons' (actually, I suspect that the same liner notes are added onto all of the 2-fer editions of Trower albums, in case you actually might forget that Trower used to give guitar lessons to Fripp). Now I'm no musician, but I'm pretty sure it was the kind of sound that Robin made on songs like 'Daydream' that made Robert seek for his tutorship (if he's not exaggerating, of course - it could well be that the modest Mr Fripp just asked Robin 'Hey Robin, howdja make that WOBBLE?' and later on called it a 'guitar lesson'. I can almost picture that). Getting back to business, the first half of 'Too Rolling Stoned' predictably kicks all sorts of rear parts, and the second half of same song predictably sucks the same sorts of rear parts - I'll never understand why Trower had to suddenly slow down and practically destroy one of the most vicious and effective rockers in his career. The introductory bassline/wah-wah interplay alone take the song to heaven, but it gets so tedious later on that I just have to switch to the band's somewhat more effective treatment of 'Rock Me Baby'. Unfortunately, they don't play it as fast and smokin' as Hendrix did at the Monterey Festival; nevertheless, Robin unfurls some first-rate blues solos, again, mostly catching fire towards the end of the song. And, of course, the band has to fizzle out with a bang - they close the show with a blazing version of 'A Little Bit Of Sympathy'. Even so, I only give this an overall 10 because I'm in a good mood today and have nothing against a blistering guitar solo now and then. Essentially, if you exclude things like snub-nosedness, I don't really see why one should prefer this record to, say, a live album by AC/DC. Simple, powerful rockers with stupendous, ultra-professional guitar work, where the main guitarist goes so beyond himself, he almost ends up sounding like a lifeless machine. Granted, the Young brothers are far less 'humane' in that role than Robin, but hey, other people would probably want to debate that. So I say that only the inclusion of 'Daydream' (and a couple bits that are absolutely smashing, like the intro to 'Rolling Stoned') makes this somehow stand out o' the rub. But, of course, fans of ultra-professional guitar playing just got to add this thing to their collection.
READER COMMENTS SECTION
Year Of Release: 1976
Record rating = 10
Overall rating = 12
If you're looking for hooks, this is your best bet - what a cool bunch o' songs.Best song: ALL are moderately great and I just won't mess up my head...
Track listing: 1) Same Rain Falls; 2) Long Misty Days; 3) Hold Me; 4) Caledonia; 5) Pride; 6) Sailing; 7) S.M.O.; 8) I Can't Live Without You; 9) Messin' The Blues.
Terrific! Maybe a one year break from studio work did work wonders on Mr Trower - I find Long Misty Days to be his very best effort in terms of songwriting and creating particularly exciting and memorable melodies. It was a hard call to distinguish between this and Bridge Of Sighs, because the 1974 classic was, after all, extremely solid and quintessential in the stylistic and technical senses. But when it comes to hooks, the notion I worship most of all, Long Misty Days takes number one - out of the nine songs on here, not a single one is unattractive. So I have no choice but to give both albums a ten.How the hell could Robin come up with these blistering numbers after the relative stalemate of For Earth Below is, in fact, beyond me. This album is not at all 'experimental' - basically, it's just the same old style with not a single component of the sound having been changed. Robin is still churning out his riffs and blazing out his solos, Dewar is hollering in his usual self-assured soulful style, and neither of the two venture all that far from raw R'n'B. And it's not that all the melodies are original or anything - they do continue recycling the mood of 'Bridge Of Sighs' on such tracks as the title one, etc. But somehow they have managed to make their style more compact and precise, concentrating on song structure, melody and well-designed atmospheric passages rather than on their raw jam power that made for nothing but good background music. The songs are relatively short and always up to the point - taking an interesting idea or two and always driving it home, onto the exact spot where it belongs. The fast rip-roaring rockers rule as usual and even better: both 'Same Rain Falls' and 'Caledonia' feature Trower at his very very best, although the main star, to me, seems to be Dewar: his delivery is both melodic and soulful, completely sincere and moving as he sings some of the most catchy vocal melodies ever to be heard on a Robin album. 'Caledonia' is the fans' usual favourite, and it kicks ten thousand tons of the proverbial ass - Robin bases the song on a Hendrixey wah-wah rhythm that's impossible to resist and throws in some of the more standard redhot solos. But I think that 'Same Rain Falls' is even better, as it manages to recreate a sense of utter majesty and stateliness unmatched elsewhere on the album; I mean, when Dewar cranks out the 'same rain falls on you, falls on me' lines, don't you want to picture him as an ecstatic Biblical prophet or somebody? I sure do. 'Minor' rockers, like 'Hold Me', 'Pride', and 'S.M.O.', are nowhere near as climactic, but they aren't actually meant to - they were designed as filler, but were actually designed as nice-sounding filler: 'Hold Me' is particularly good, with a mean cynical old riff holding up the melody and Dewar phasing his vocals to fine effect. I like that style - slow, yet steady and compact, catchy, slightly ironic/cynical, with lengthy thoughtful guitar notes that give you all the time and possibility to suck in their beauty before they go away. 'Pride', meanwhile, gets us on the b-b-b-b-ouncy side, but it's a bit repetitive, with Robin mostly repeating one note on his wah-wah over and over again, while the 'I got my pri-i-i-i-i-ide' chorus sounds... er... a bit icky, as some of my regular commentators might say. Icky in that 70's AOR style, if you get me. Radio-friendly like Bad Company, even if far more interesting and I actually dig the song. 'S.M.O.' is probably the worst of the lot - it hearkens back to the sloppiness of For Earth Below, sounding more like a boozy jam than an actual song. And Trower's "wah-wah chat" sounds nowhere near as convincing as it is on 'Caledonia'. Still, not a bad number. I'm also quite partial to 'Messin' The Blues'. Subjective little old me thinks that since the riff on which the song is based is AWESOME - one of the best Trower ever came up with - the whole song is awesome as well, even if it mostly consists of repeating it over and over and over and over and over and... [repeat for four minutes]. Kill me with objective remarks, slaughter me with cynical criticism, but I'm not budging on that one. I couldn't stand a dumb riff if it were going on for so long, I guess, so the process of deduction tells me it's great. Which leaves us with three gorgeous, deeply moving ballads. 'Long Misty Days' recreates Trower's trademark epic style, with less accent on the 'echoey' guitar, though, as Robin unexpectedly brings that fat distorted grrrrumble into the very centre of the sound and Dewar has to holler at the top of his lungs to battle with the prominent six-string. But he manages to save the vocal melody in the process, and as a result the track never becomes a simplistic heavy metal screamfest; on the contrary, it retains all of its lyricism and tender beauty, despite the distortion and loudness. And both 'Sailing' and 'I Can't Live Without You' are also prime examples of Trower's songwriting. I can't really believe my ears on how catchy all this stuff is. Is it the same Robin Trower who used to rely on sound alone and let the melodies go down the drain just a couple of years before? Is it? The guy must have taken idea-constituting lessons from Paul McCartney. I really can't find any significant flaws anywhere on this record - as far as Trower's style goes (the one which doesn't earn him more than an overall rating of one, of course, but that's another story), it is absolutely immaculate, a glorious culmination of the best known period of his career. It's a good thing, too, that he decided to experiment with that old style on the following records - try as he might, he just couldn't have topped this one while continuing in the same vein.
READER COMMENTS SECTION
Year Of Release: 1977
Record rating = 8
Overall rating = 10
"Experimental" and somewhat less engaging from the point of view of Miss Melody.Best song: IN CITY DREAMS
Track listing: 1) Somebody Calling; 2) Sweet Wine Of Love; 3) Bluebird; 4) Falling Star; 5) Farther On Up The Road; 6) Smile; 7) Little Girl; 8) Love's Gonna Bring You Round; 9) In City Dreams.
1977 was the year of revolution and change in the air, but Mr Trower with his limited, yet devoted gang of followers, could really care less about punk and stuff - definitely not a single trace of outside influence can be found on this record. Anyway, punk might have blown apart the fortunes of progressive heroes who'd lost the last traces of their former critical reputation by then, but it certainly couldn't touch Trower who never was a great critics-acclaimed hero to begin with. And yet, according to fans and Trowerophiles, it "officially" starts what is usually called the "experimental" period for Trower. To tell you the truth, it took me a long time to figure out the vast stylistic difference between this stuff and the earlier albums - until I finally realized that "experimentation" is a very relative notion and in Trower's case, it means nothing more but a 'slight deviation from the usual formula'. Indeed, where the previous four albums were all carbon copies of each other except that some had more and some less hooks, In City Dreams is slightly different: it emphasizes primarily the 'softer' side of Robin, with far more ballads than usual and some different guitar tones on occasion. On a few tracks he does deliver the usual goods, but overall it's obvious that In City Dreams presents us Trower the dreamer: he's become far mellower and lighter, yet managed to effectuate the transgression without slipping into 'soft rock irrelevancy' (a cliche which I picked somewhere - I honestly don't remember the source). Meanwhile, Dewar prefers to concentrate entirely on the singing, as all these ballads require far more precision and subtle delicacy from the vocalist, so the bass duties are passed over to Rustee Allen.And the result? Not exactly weak, but somewhat disappointing. As usual, I dig the sound in general. It was pretty hard to mellow out in the Seventies and not sound like the Eagles (or the Carpenters! although that danger never really threatened Robin); but Trower compensates everything with his unique picking style and echoey, moody arrangements, not to mention the endless phasing and other fuzzy tricks that he hasn't abandoned in the least. Thus, even 'Smile', the bounciest, poppiest track on here, sounds excellent - commercial and at the same time artistically successful. It sometimes happens that so-called "rock performers", when they churn out the usual soft-rock radio sludge, dilute it with a few badly placed pseudo-metallic guitar lines so as to seem "cool" and avoid direct accusations of sissiness - I hate when that happens; if you're doing "soft rock", then let it be soft. If the melody is pretty, there's no need to make it more 'generic'; and if the melody is fluffy, well, no leaden guitar passages will save an atrocious song from being atrocious in the first place. But it's a different thing with Trower - while I could never call the melody of 'Smile' particularly good, no matter what Robin does with his guitar, it all works out fine in the sound department. He cranks out some wah-wah notes, and they sound convenient; he adds an overload of phasing, and it seems completely natural; then he switches on to the usual 'soft' pattern, and I say, hey, it's cool, here's some nice instrumentation for you. Yet melody-wise, this is still a letdown when compared to the previous album. Almost as if to remind the public that he is a gritty blues guitarist after all (as if we hadn't heard all those earlier records), Trower throws in an expendable live version of 'Further On Up The Road', short, unimaginative and pointless - in comparison, Mr Clapton drove his point into the ground far more successfully on contemporary live performances of the same number. Some of Robin's ballads show him running out of ideas once again: 'Little Girl' AGAIN recycles the mood/melody of 'I Can't Wait Much Longer'/'Bridge Of Sighs', etc., etc., while the 'sweeter' part of 'Love's Gonna Bring You Round' is way too commercial for these ears of mine (the 'harder' part is excellent, though). And is it just me again, or does 'Falling Star' indeed have no hooks? Or does it? Can that frantic cry of 'don't fall on me' count as a hook? I'm still trying to decide... Anyway, basically these are just minor complaints - but when you're dealing with an artist as tremendously consistent as Trower, you can't help but start nitpicking after a while. Never mind; I'll just stop nitpicking now and move on to the good news. The best news is the title track - Robin's most experimental piece on the album indeed, something of a weird hybrid between a soul number and a bolero; if I'm not mistaken, you can take it either way, because there's one guitar part going on that's quite conventional and another going on in between that seems to go 'ta-ta-ta-ta' as in prime Ravel, and the drums follow both patterns as well. Weird and funny, and definitely interesting no matter what else you might feel about the number. Elsewhere, there are cute little ballads like 'Bluebird' (not the McCartney song, although the mood is similar), and 'Sweet Wine Of Love', and strange little bouncy rockers like 'Somebody Calling' - with its boppy rhythm it kinda presages early Dire Straits, which is a good thing. And hey, whatever. Did I say something bad about those other tracks above? Make sure it only relates to melody, not the actual playing. Trower's da man. Remember how he used to rip himself off on every solo? Those days are gone, he'd developed enough tricks to keep the listener interested throughout. Throughout.
READER COMMENTS SECTION
Year Of Release: 1995
Record rating = 9
Overall rating = 11
Apparently, Trower's playing is better at a full show than at a shortened one. Ridiculous, but that's what empiric evidence tells us.Best song: DAYDREAM
Track listing: 1) Lady Love; 2) Somebody Calling; 3) Falling Star; 4) Too Rolling Stoned; 5) Smile; 6) Daydream; 7) Fool And Me; 8) Bridge Of Sighs; 9) Day Of The Eagle; 10) Little Bit Of Sympathy; 11) Messin' The Blues; 12) Further On Up The Road.
This is one of those King Biscuit live albums where you're never sure just how much of a bootleg it is and how much of an officially sanctioned release. Well - considering that it sounds real good and gives a mighty fine impression, I'm gonna review it anyway. This particular release reflects one of the shows from Robin's In City Dreams tour, played specifically on October 18th, 1977, at the New Haven Coliseum, probably all filled up with presumptuous, idealistic Yale students, still not aware of the punk revolution in progress and giving the man a reception so warm and friendly it might have seemed Trower was still being the hottest thing around, him and not these young amateur punks like the Talking Heads.Supposedly the entire show is captured on here, although if so, it is surprisingly short for such a jam-based, 70s-par-excellence band as Robin Trower's. Not to mention that I will never believe a Seventies hard rock concert could ever go by without a single drum solo in sight - what's that, no opportunity for well-meaning, law-abiding audience members to change their beers and empty their bladders midway through the show? What is this, the Beatles at the Hollywood Bowl?? Joking aside, the performance is very strong. Since Rustee Allen has now taken over the bass duties from Dewar, you would expect some shifts in their basic sound from the era of the Live album, but Rustee's style is predictably similar to Dewar's, and as for Dewar himself, fortunately, he's quite aware that, band or no band, the band's name is "Robin Trower" and not "James Dewar", so he never really tries to pull off a Robert Plant next to Robin's Jimmy Page: where singing is necessary, he sings, where singing is not necessary, he stands aside and lets the big man do his job in peace and quiet instead of putting on a fit of baby-baby-babies or annoying orgasm imitations. The real difference, if there is any, has to be found within Robin's playing; throughout the show, he appears to be in top form, much stronger, actually, than on the comparatively mediocre Live album, soaring on even those numbers that never seemed to be much alive in the studio. The setlist is quite predictable; Robin may have been experimenting with the sound, but certainly not with the concoction prepared for the ticket-buying masses. Approximately half of the show consists of numbers from the last album. That's the half that needs to be played for the people down there to convince them to spend money on it. Approximately the other half consists of numbers from Bridge Of Sighs. That's the one that needs to be played for the people down there to give them a good time. Occasionally, people also play "surprise stuff" so as to awaken special kinds of emotions among diehard fans, but Robin plays it straight and blunt. 'Messin' The Blues' and the golden oldie 'Daydream' are the only exceptions. But that's alright by me, as long as he still finds enough inspiration to deal with these old chestnuts. And that must have been a particularly inspired night. Rockers and "dreamers" (I hesitate to call them "ballads" - Trower's softer side, in agreement with the Hendrix-patented tradition, never really corresponds all that well to the "ballad" moniker) alternate with each other in a cleverly sorted way, and no matter how often the same kind of atmosphere is reprised, Trower always finds himself capable of saying something new. With the short rockers, for instance, it seems like he's consciously raising the kick-ass bar from song to song, starting with the powerful, but "economic" 'Lady Love'; going through the strict-and-solemn 'Falling Star'; raising bluesy hell on 'Fool & Me'; and then, finally, letting loose all the imaginable devils on 'Day Of The Eagle'; the former subtlety of the coda to the latter is completely eliminated in order to give way to a hurricane of wah-wah licks that must have been absolutely mindblowing for everybody who's had the luck to sit in the front row. Jimi would have been proud. However, if I'm lonely and want my ass kicked, I can always turn to AC/DC; Trower's own blue pate special has always consisted of slow moody ingredients. Blues-rock haters close your eyes and ears, the rest please listen to what I have to say: the long solo passage constituting the last six or so minutes of 'Daydream', seriously extended beyond even the running length on Live, is absolutely gorgeous. It does not exactly scale the kind of emotional depth that a great Clapton solo is capable of, and it doesn't display the kind of otherworldly vision you could sometimes suspect in a great Hendrix solo. But it does a good job of combining the two extremes, blending Hendrix's know-how technicality with Clapton's know-how soulfulness. It's a hard rock solo, not afraid of extra feedback, vibratos, tricky sonic effects, and volume; but it's also Trower's take on a true spiritual journey, not merely a showcase in self-indulgence. The kind of thing that gives the Generic Seventies Live Guitar Solo its good reputation, as opposed to so many other things and people which give it its bad one. The climactic moment, of course, always arrives when Trower invites us into the aural abyss that is 'Bridge Of Sighs' - for whatever reason, his signature tune never made it onto Live, but here you have a classic opportunity to hear a vintage performance from the glory years. Well worth the Taxpayer's money. Now that I think of, there's only one other person who could ever do this to a guitar while standing onstage, and that was Dave Gilmour. But Dave Gilmour, as I always insist, is a ruthless mathematician at heart, and his personal apocalyptic chaos is a perfectly structured and algorithm-ized one, whereas Trower is not afraid to let the guitar walk out on its own, and walk out it does. How the heck is it possible to create this before-the-first-day-of-creation rumpus with but one bunch of strings and two hands is beyond me. Not even the actual soloing is as impressive as the introduction to the song and the convoluted "half-melody-half-atmosphere" background that Trower keeps up during Dewar's singing. The soloing is cool, but it's Hendrix territory; the other parts are what makes Trower so unique among mortal Robins. Other highlights, for me, include 'Somebody Calling', here given a lengthy experimental intro and generally played with far more verve than it was in the studio (how does he get that ultra-cool phased "airplane taking off" effect several times, I wonder? Is it just the old 'Roadrunner' trick enhanced through technology or do you also have to be a Robin in order to succeed?); and, predictably, the fast and furious part of 'Too Rolling Stoned', funkier than in the studio and much choo-choo-ing-er in nature, if you know what I mean (see Jethro Tull's 'Locomotive Breath' for further explanation). Conversely, 'Messin' The Blues' is a bit of a disappointment, because the immeasurable coolness of the song consisted of having the main riff being stupidly and stubbornly hammered into your head while a freshly overdubbed Trower could wail away on top of it. In concert, this obviously cannot happen unless Trower sheds some of his pride to invite an extra guitarist, so he soloes just a bit and then basically just gives the song away to Rustee Allen as a Donation for Bass Guitar. Oh well, no drum solo at least. All in all, I don't really need to tell you that this is your best bet for live Trower: Live is too short to be diagnostic, and everything else will be from later epochs anyway. I wouldn't call it Robin's best album - after all, the man's studio trickery and songwriting are of sufficient importance in order for us to concentrate primarily on the studio output. But, like every guitar hero, Trower has to be appreciated in a live setting in order to be believed in, and if you don't happen to believe in him, it just might be that In Concert will convince you otherwise.
READER COMMENTS SECTION
Year Of Release: 1979
Record rating = 7
Overall rating = 9
Here's where the experiment goes slightly wrong - after all, exquisite guitar tones aren't everything.Best song: CARAVAN TO MIDNIGHT
Track listing: 1) My Love (Burning Love); 2) Caravan To Midnight; 3) I'm Out To Get You; 4) Lost In Love; 5) Fool; 6) It's For You; 7) Birthday Boy; 8) King Of The Dance; 9) Sail On.
Okay, this one's certainly "experimental". And how good is that? No-how. I mean, whatever, it's still a Trower record, which means immaculate playing and a complete gas for diehards, but by now Robin seems to have been completely engulfed in searching for THE perfect guitar tone, you know, the one that can rattle the world and wake up the dead. Reassure yourself, he certainly hasn't found it; but fact is, on most of the tracks Robin's guitar sounds a bit different, either due to some specific sound-modifying gimmicks the man picked up along the road or simply due to his using acoustic - a thing that doesn't happen all that often. Perhaps the only more or less acceptable example of the 'classic Trower' sonic assault is the opening number, 'My Love (Burning Love)', an inflamed rocker that's still inferior to all those inflamed classics recorded previously. Plus, even here there's way too much synth-processing of the guitar, I think.The rest is... well, the rest is experimental. But only when it comes down to "sonic" principles, because the basic melodies aren't experimental at all; just your standard R'n'B which we already had on the preceding six albums, at times diluted with an acoustic ballad or two. Only on a couple occasions does Robin step away from the formula, most notably on the glorious title track which probably has the most apt title in the world. It is slow, steady-paced, atmospheric, based on a gloomy bassline and with ominous, creepy synth notes weaving themselves around it, while Trower throws out a minimalistic, but graceful and majestic solo; which all gives the impression of a caravan slowly proceeding along a night road indeed. Watch out for those sublime echoey effects, too. This is quite a nice start, actually - after the generic, but mighty onslaught of 'My Love' comes the mystical energy of 'Caravan To Midnight', and it almost seems you're in for a fine ride. But you're not. 'I'm Out To Get You' follows with an unexistent melody and a pseudo-funky drive that's one of those drives I can't stand at all; you know, when it's neither fast and punchy to rip you out of your seat nor slow and sublime to throw you off into spiritual meditation. It just bops and bumps like a rabbit in a cage and - not surprisingly - ends up in the same cage. And it's immediately followed by a shameless Hendrix rip-off: 'Lost In Love' actually doesn't even aim at capturing Hendrix's usual thunderstormy style, it's more like a forced copy of Jimi's psychedelic vibe of Axis, as Trower plays a very mild and 'sly' melody and Dewar assumes a Hendrix-ey falsetto. Okay, perhaps they don't rip off any exact melody, but 'Lost In Jimi' would be a more apt title. Other "surprises" here include the strange acoustic folkish ditty 'Birthday Boy', a song the likes of which Robin hadn't yet recorded at all. It has a pretty atmosphere - which is only natural, as any song with a slow, 'meditative' acoustic guitar and high falsetto vocals will have a pretty atmosphere - but hardly anything else. But don't get any false hopes (or false doubts): Caravan To Midnight borrows absolutely nothing from contemporary music and, come to think of it, it could have as well been recorded in 1973, if only Trower would have wished to get more experimental from the very beginning. I was somewhat suspicious when I saw the track listing include a number called 'King Of The Dance' because in 1979 you could be pretty sure that a number with such a name would be a tribute to the Bee Gees, but no way: it's forged in the same old R'n'B tradition, a wah-wah rocker that's a bit milder than 'My Love' and moreover is really a re-write of some older Trower tune that I'm too lazy to be diggin' out now. But so it is. In fact, I'd go as far as to say that for a serious period of time (if not for all time - I just haven't heard all of his output yet) Trower was one of the least trend-influenced artists of his generation. Where's disco, Robin? Where's punk? Where's New Wave? And how come you don't comb your hair like Ric Ocasek? [Note: these last questions were strictly rhetoric]. The rest of the songs are hardly worth mentioning to me; I'm sure all you Robin fans out there can easily find some merits in them yourselves. Mostly lighter R'n'B shuffles or more dreamy ballads with a few unusual guitar tones and underdeveloped melodies. See, the problem is, I think Trower is at his best when he lets rip: I understand an angry, guitar-tearing Trower playing 'Too Rolling Stoned', and I understand an epic-heights, Gargantuan Trower playing 'Bridge Of Sighs'. And on his last records, particularly Long Misty Days, he was able to demonstrate that neither pop hooks nor tampering with song structures were exactly beyond him. But when he's just taking an oddly-tuned and oddly-processed guitar and uses it to wank around with a melodyless tune and a minimum amount of energy, I simply don't get it; leave that stuff for hardcore fans. Anyway, I don't have the time, space, or good will for a complete analysis of these remaining numbers; suffice it to say that every song on Caravan To Midnight is a complete, self-sustained, independent, accessible and understandable artistic statement. This doesn't save the album from the fact that it's weak, but it might save me from flames. Get it? Oh, and one more thing. The album cover's pretty cool. How surrealistic!
READER COMMENTS SECTION
Year Of Release: 1980
Record rating = 7
Overall rating = 9
Back to the basics and the ass-kicking.Best song: JACK AND JILL
Track listing: 1) The Ring; 2) Roads To Freedom; 3) Jack And Jill; 4) None But The Brave; 5) Victims Of The Fury; 6) Only Time; 7) Fly Low; 8) One In A Million; 9) Mad House; 10) Into The Flame.
How unimaginative. See, that's why I could only give Mr Trower a D - he's so dang uncreative in all of his works that it almost infuriates me at times. This record isn't half bad. But how could Robin, after two albums that had at least slight deviations from the formula, suddenly give a 180% twist and return to the standard R'n'B posturing of the For Earth Below level? This is a record that could easily have been recorded seven years ago; you could never really tell it was already 1980. Above all, Trower's band is back to a trio, with Rustee Allen gone and James Dewar assuming the bass functions again.It's so frustrating, I mean! What are we talking of - AC/DC or something? To tell the truth, I actually like the general quality of the material here more than on For Earth Below; but I still give it an eight and not a nine simply because I feel a desperate need to 'punish' Robin for this blatant retroism and obvious stagnation. Which means that hardcore Trower fans will find the record to be a complete and total gas, of course, but objectively, it's not a big deal. It did shock the critics a bit, though (they were already starting to peg Trower as a 'half-assed experimentator' or something), and since then it's often been recognized as the heaviest and grittiest album that Robin ever put out, but I really don't hear any more grittiness than we had on Bridge Of Sighs or Long Misty Days. What I hear is just an excellent guitarist returning to what he did best - uncompromised, heavy, sludgy R'n'B - but even the best formulas are bound to run thin with time. That said, I do like most of the rockers on here. 'Jack And Jill', despite the laughable title, is my absolute favourite on here, since it's based on a gargantuan killer riff that just plods on like some bastard Tony Iommi offspring, threatening to massacre and eliminate everything in its way. Actually, to be frank, I first heard that same riff on the Who's live version of 'Magic Bus' on Live At Leeds, but I guess speculations on whether it's just a coincidence or not are useless, kinda like those old speculations about Jimmy Page ripping off the riff of 'Whole Lotta Love' from Hendrix's live improvisations on 'Hey Joe'. Who cares? This is a studio record anyway. The album opener, 'The Ring', is almost nearly as good, with Dewar singing in unison with Trower's inspired wah-wah riffage, while the song itself cleverly alternates between fat, grizzly verses and speedier, more compact choruses. Pump 'em up loud and prepare to have a real rave-up. However, the only other 'true' rockers come towards the end - the socially biting 'Mad House' rocks heavily and sincerely, even if it ain't nothing they never did before, and the slower rolling 'Into The Flame' is just a generic blues number only distinguished by more flashing guitarwork. Aw darn, this is so depressing... how am I gonna review this album? There's nothing interesting on here but the flashing guitarwork! And how much flashing guitarwork from one guy does one actually need? Even if he is Robin Trower - or Santana, for that matter? At least Santana had his different periods and different styles of sounding for each period... Trower just brings out the same tattered old licks, although, granted, he really brings them out well. And yeah, I know I'll make somebody out there laugh, but the title track on here is again bringing to mind 'Bridge Of Sighs'. What's that with nearly every title track that Trower has written featuring the same echoey, vibrating guitar sound? I admit, the melody on here is different, and the song even speeds up on the choruses. But how come the gimmicks are still the same? Still all the same? I'm not asking for much - gimme a little bit! I don't want much, gimme a little bit... teeny-weeny bit of, teeny-weeny bit of diversity. Nadah. 'Only Time' has exactly the same vibrating sound; 'Fly Low' is the only truly mellow song on here, where Robin switches to a more 'heavenly' tone of guitar expression, but we've already had our share of Trower's heavenliness and Dewar's falsetto on the previous two albums. And 'One In A Million' bops along as if it were a powerful funk workout, but it's muddy and unmemorable. So, apart from 'Jack And Jill' and 'The Ring', there's just one other song on here worth saving, I guess, and that one is 'Roads To Freedom'. Maybe not, though - I don't know why I picked out that one. It just strikes me as being a bit more soulful than everything else, but that's hardly objective. So just take a little bit of subjectivity, it's hard to be objective when selecting the highlights and 'lowlights' on such a record. Me, I like 'Roads To Freedom'. What's that wheezy noise playing in the background? Is it a synth or some kind of fuzzy echo? I like that. Makes the production fuller. In any case, though, I have probably already earned crucifixion from Trower fans. Ah well, that's the cruelty of life. Nobody appreciates originality and freshness any more. What a pity. What a shame. Anyway, if I'm to be crucified, I demand that they hang Robin to the left of me and Lordan to the right of me. I could then play Jesus and forgive them their sins once they repent about recording the album. What a peaceful and harmonious ending that will be.
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