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Issue 1088

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Review

Robin Trower: Somethingâs About To Change (Manhaton/V12 Records)

Robin Trower CD Cover Pic

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6.1

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UK release date 09.03.2015

Happy birthday to Robin Trower. 70-years-old on 9th March 2015 - and he has given himself the perfect gift. The release of his brand new album - a CD that lights up the room like a candle for every year heâs spent on the planet.

I really rated his previous album, 2013âs âRoots and Branches,â which mixed covers with original material and some stunning arrangements.

But this is a step above that, with some breathtaking guitar work, and his vocals sounding super strong and in parts very soulful; a thoughtful, spiritual mode to this collection. Excellent material too â all dozen tracks Trower originals. The new album coincides with Robinâs nationwide 17-date UK tour with special guest Joanne Shaw Taylor that kicks off on 26th March.

The production values keep it unfussy and solid as a rock. Produced by Livingstone Brown in the UK, this was not a dry exercise in box-ticking, but a bid to capture the chemistry between Trower and his band. On drums, Chris Taggartâs touch can be thunderous or feather-light. On organ, Luke Smith slips between his roles as support player and sparring partner. Leading the line is Trower himself, playing bass for the first time alongside his unmistakable guitar skills.

He says: "There is some sort of feeling of emotional release, when you play a note that rings out right." Amen to that. We all feel it when he does just that. Thatâs the key with this album and probably everything he has ever done, from back in the day. FEEL. The emotion. The connection between a bloke in a studio and the listener many months later. He doesnât forget us. He does it FOR us.

Hailing from Southend, he hit the London circuit of the early â60s with fledgling R&B group The Paramounts, but it was his 1967 arrival in Procol Harum that made his guitar work headline news. But he quit the British heavyweights to score his first solo smash-hit with 1974âs ageless âBridge Of Sighs,â - an album that made him a household name in the USA and still sells an annual 15,000 copies today. The â90s saw him partner Bryan Ferry on the well-received âTaxi,â and âMamouna,â albums, while his collaborative nature led to post-millennial alchemy alongside Jack Bruce on 2008âs âSeven Moons.â

2013âs "Roots And Branches," combined new material with reboots of cherished blues covers.Today in 2015, one has to marvel at the power of Trower as a player and as an enduring artist. He defies labels. But he has been regarded as the "White" Hendrix, due to his ability to channel Jimiâs bluesy, psychedelic, Fender Strat playing style.

You can tell that itâs still a labour of love for him, even a few years above retirement age. He may be entitled to a buss pass, free dental and eye care and a State pension. But ask him when he plans to sack the Stratâ and swap the amp for an armchair, and youâll get a quick answer: "I still enjoy making music. I practically live for playing the guitar."

âSomethingâs About To Change.â Maybe, âNothingâs About To Change, Thank Goodness,â is a more apt title! Like BB King, he makes every note count. Never overplays, leaves space and delivers a âless is moreâ philosophy. A measured performance that makes no excuses for keeping Robin firmly within his comfort zone. Mainly slow blues stuff here; not so much incendiary playing as a slow burner that will keep you warm for a long time.

The title track opens proceedings. A mean and moody, grungy âDown To The Crossroadsâ template, with some sizzling guitar licks and a growling vocal. âFallen,â is a slower blues where he is laid back and relaxed, squeezing beautifully controlled sounds from that instrument. âRiff No. 7 (Still Alive),â gets funky on a blues theme. "Dreams That Shine Like Diamonds,â is a sensitive slow blues where he lmost makes the guitar speak. âGood Morning Midnight,â has a Clapton-esque vibe to it perhaps, as does âGood Morning Midnight,â especially on the vocal. âWhat You Never Want To Do,â has that Doc Pomus/Mort Shuman âMess Of Bluesâ structure to it, with a slinky, pumping bass line. âStrange Love,â has a retro 70s Cream/Pete Brown feel to it. âGold To Grey,â leaves lots of space around the vocal and the sparse guitar parts. They nail a dirty groove on the funky, âThe One Saving Grace,â one of the few up-tempo numbers here. âSnakes and Ladders,â slows down the pace again, before âUp and Gone,â takes us to sweet home Chicago, with a mid tempo blues number. âTil I Reach Home,â closes the set with a late night; âItâs been a good day, letâs have a beer and chill out,â vibe. Which pretty much sums up the whole album.

If you are seeking high-octane, loud, powerful rock blues, this is not the one for you. Personal taste; I would have preferred a more even listen with a few more up-tempo trcks. But if you dig slower blues numbers, played and sung by a man who doesnât have to over sell it, doesnât need to get us on his side â letâs face it, most of the people buying this are probably life-long Trower fans â then fill yer boots.

Those who have not yet discovered his musical delights must surely be missing out. RT = A bonkers brilliant guitar player, with a very tasty, multi-layered birthday cake for us all to share with him. No marzipan in sight. Result.
Words SIMON REDLEY

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