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Robin Trower: Time and Emotion

Robin Trower: Time and Emotion

Trower is a more diverse player than sometimes given credit.

Robin Trower: Time and Emotion

4 / 5

There’s a segment of the public that knows Robin Trower for his 1974 album Bridge of Sighs and little else. The 72 year old guitarist has made records that are equal to or above that effort, though, and some of them within the last decade. Trower remains almost frustratingly consistent in his output, an artist whose talents have so rarely faltered you wonder if he’s made some sort of deal with you-know-who to obtain his prodigious talent. The consistency of that talent can be found when one takes a wide view at the British guitarist’s discography, but glancing back at the string of releases from 2000’s Go My Way forward you’d be hard pressed to name another performer from the Trower’s generation who has repeatedly topped himself without leaning on his past glories.

That’s not to say that Trower doesn’t know his strengths. Chief among those is the slow burn brand of blues, a tantric ballad that allows the guitarist to simmer and smoke to his heart’s content. There are a few of those pieces here, though “Returned in Kind” may serve as the best example. His lead work throughout is inspired and moving, though what he whips out across the last minute or so of the track will go down as some of the best playing he’s committed to recorded history. His impeccable choice of bends, his singular sense of phrasing and the sheer feel of it all is shiver-worthy. Trower’s based in the blues but his notes never quite land exactly where you’d expect them; he doesn’t over emote and yet he’s not painfully restrained either. He aims for a certain emotional arc and hits it time and again with an almost extra human precision. Aside from The Cure’s Reeves Gabrels and John Scofield, it’s hard to think of many players who have that focus and who strike the emotional/melodic balance as effortlessly as Trower. He gives us plenty to marvel at here and his playing on another of those prolonged derangement of the senses pieces, “If You Believe in Me,” serves as a textbook example of how to burn and shine.

He is a more diverse player than sometimes given credit, as his 1990s work with Bryan Ferry exemplifies. He’s also one of those rare players whose rhythm work raises eyebrows with the same regularity as when he lets loose the pyrotechnics shed. His Hendrix-style work in “You’re the One” is one example of that as is the attitude-laced “I’m Gone.” It’s one of the few times he seems to have been touched by more contemporary sounds. It’s pure Trower to be certain but one can easily imagine a post-Kiko Los Lobos laying waste to track and emerging just as proud and victorious as he does.

There’s also a sense of the timely and topical here, especially during the opening “The Land of Plenty,” a song clearly aimed at the fading spirit of the age. It’s unexpected and, arguably, all the more powerful for it. That, in many ways, is the whole package of Trower: he consistently reaches for that thing you least expect from him and seizes it with quiet vigor and intelligence.

He’s aided in this endeavor by vocalist/bassist Livingstone Brown whose voice recalls the warmth of the late James Dewar, who lent his talents to the aforementioned Bridge of Sighs and other highlights from the 1970s. Brown and drummer Chris Taggart aren’t as much a backing band as two capable foils to Trower’s formidable talents. They don’t merely drop out of the picture because he’s soloing or because he’s the boss. Instead, they meet him, measure for measure, throughout, leaving listeners with the impression that this is the work of a full-fledged band.

It is of course but one that comes under the banner of Trower, a man whose talents remain as fresh and far-reaching as they long have been. Arguably, they’re better than they’ve been before, better than they were even just a few years ago and if that’s any indication of the evolution of the man’s talents, then what comes next from him will surely be his best yet. In the meantime, the aptly named Time and Emotion will have to do.

    • Label:
      V-12
    • Release Date:
      May 5, 2017

      4 Comments on this Post

      1. Roland Kurz

        Very nice review Jedd.
        I enjoyed reading it very much.
        I wanted to make a correction, Robin does all the vocals on this, as he has on his last 2 cds.
        Regards,
        Roland Kurz

        Reply
      2. Anonymous

        Great Album Robin……

        Reply
      3. That Robin doesn’t get the attention he deserves after “Bridge of Sighs” is regrettable, but that’s thanks to a huge segment of the population that are stuck in certain points in their lives musically, and have neither the sense of adventure or interest in following up on bands or performers they claim to have adored when they were teens or in their early 20’s. It may well be the whole success of “classic rock” is dependent on these myopic listeners who simply cannot accept new music even when it’s from long time masters like Robin Trower.
        But Robin is brilliant, always has been, and thankfully there are enough of us who are much more than fair weather fans who have made it possible for him to continue. I still don’t have his whole collection, but I have far more than most, and “Time and Emotion” is stunning. I am of the opinion that blues have become as cliched as any other genre, with most players merely imitators of those who went before them. The world adores Stevie Ray Vaughan, and he was great, no doubt. But if you take one part T-Bone Walker, one part Albert King, one part Freddie King and a dash of Jimi Hendrix you have SRV, a talented but ultimately repetitive player, whom, had he not been tragically killed in a helicopter accident, may have started delving into jazz or other styles as regrettably his last solo album “In Step” was, to be honest, a weak effort.
        Robin Trower has not fallen into the derivative trap. He was unfairly considered a Hendrix clone when he is actually an equal, along with Jeff Beck. And what sets his playing apart is his willingness and ability to break the blues rules all over the place while still staying true to them, if that is possible. “Time and Emotion” is fresh and astonishing as he employs brilliant understated chord work that does not stay in a nice safe cliched place, soulful vocals, and solo guitar that is unmatched for feel and emotion. Just like his last great album “Where You Going To”, Robin delivers an album that breathes fresh air into the blues and shows the guitar world that being yourself is far better than copping others.

        Reply

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