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Issue 1080

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Review

Robin Trower: Roots and Branches (Manhaton Records)

Robin Trower CD Cover Pic

9

6.4

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UK release date 04.02.2013

One of the best albums British guitar hero Robin Trower has made in his entire career. I greatly appreciate his talent and his importance in the history of British rock and blues music, but I admit I was never a massive fan of Mr T as he was too far over to rock for me. Until now. This CD really is very special.

The word âhonestâ is bandied about in terms of how âhonestâ a performance or a record is. Well, this defines that much over-used word adequately. The guitar playing here does not borrow from anyone. Trower is creative and unique. It really is so refreshing to hear a man at the top of his game, being himself and not veering off towards trends and todayâs big thing.

The album - his 19th studio album as a solo artist, along with nine live albums and a compilation - features Robin's unique versions of some of the early blues influences in his career and re-workings of some of his own earlier material. The vocal is pretty raw and a few times dips in quality compared to the playing, but never detracts and it still works well. But the guitar playing SOUNDS live and as it should; cuts through like a bitch like it would on stage direct from the amp.

I really do not feel the need to bang on about each and every track and put this CD under a reviewerâs microscope. The best way to sum it all up is in a concise statement of intentâ¦â¦â¦â¦â¦â¦â¦.I, Simon Redley intend to make sure that each time I come across a new young guitar slinger turninâ and a churninâ â thatâs turning up his (or her) amp to 11 and churning out yet another Joe B, SRV or Gary M lick â I am gonna play âem this album and suggest they go pay homage to RTâs back catalogue very quicklly. As Mr Punch says: Thatâs the way to do it.â He often gets called the British Hendrix, which depends on your view point how accurate you think that is. Me; I think Hendrix and Trower are of equal stature as players, but very different in approach. Here, we get one track that sort of channels James Marshall H, the closer "See My Life." But Trower is always Trower. Fact.

If I use the words âastounding,â âoutstandingâ and âmasterfulâ and maybe even throw in âmasterclass,â you would be forgiven for thinking I may be on the pay roll of the record label, the artistâs management, the artistâs PR guy or indeed the artist himself. But Iâm not. I am however very sincere, when I attach these words to this magnificent album.

When I read the tiles of the covers London-born, Southend-raised Trower tackles, I did so with dread. It was like the playlist of a jukebox in a rest home for the slightly mentally bewildered ex-rock and roll musician, still reeling off the anecdotes of the night in 1968 they blew XXX XXX off the stage... â¦â¦â¦â¦â¦â¦.(pick your own dead legend to add here!) But from track one, Trowerâs groove-laden version of "Hound Dog" would have even The King bopping in the aisle.

There are some songs that are so associated with just one artist, no one in their right mind would attempt to cover them. BB Kingâs career-long theme tune âThe Thrill Is Goneâ is one that Trower took by the scruff of its iconic neck and made it; well, I wonât say almost his own, but I will say he made it a great listen. The same with âLittle Red Rooster,â which I love by the early Stones. He does the same on Crudupâs âThatâs Alright Mama.â

Albertâs giant âBorn Under A Bad Sign,â is as much Albert King as âThe Thrill Is Gone,â is BB King, but once again RT does the business and we just about forget about what has come before. He goes for a totally different sound and tone on guitar to the originals, and his licks are just effing awesome, they really are. For those who know Trowerâs work well, I am preaching to the converted. The former Procul Harum guitarist formed his own band in 1973 and has a global reputation as a powerhouse guitarist, and a big loyal following.

For those who donât; especially those guitarists young and old who think Hendrix and Clapton are the main axe Gods and cannot be touched; think again chaps, think again.

It's one of those rare records that you can stick on time and time again, never get tired of it no matter what mood or time of day it is and......you'll hear stuff for the first time on each listen. Some of the best guitar work I have heard in more than three decades is found here, and it gets better track by track. All this from a 68-year-old at the very top his game - sounding as far away from retirement as all these teenage pretenders to the throne coming at us thick and fast today.

A covers album could not ever be called career defining, could it? Wellâ¦â¦â¦â¦â¦â¦â¦â¦â¦

* Robin cancelled his UK tour dates last year and again this year (March 2013) due to serious illness in the family, and all US dates have been pulled for this year too. But good news: I am told he WILL tour here in the Autumn. Yaaaaaayyyyyyyyyyyy!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Words SIMON REDLEY

From Jazz Funk & Fusion To Acid Jazz

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