If you never heard anything from this artist before, then I recommend that you immediately check out his album “Bridge Of Sighs” and start with my favourite song “Day Of The Eagle”; you can find it here: YouTube
The vocalist on that album, Jim Dewar (RIP), had that classic, bluesy rock`n`roll voice made for this kind of music and Trower really shows what he is capable of on a guitar, and he is VERY capable.
Is this man the greatest rock guitarist in the world?
ROBIN TROWER says Yes
STEVE CLARKE says Hmm…
Conversation overheard between Chrysalis`s Head Of Creative Services and interested party back-stage at Manchester`s Free Trade Hall a week last Monday:
“There were 15 stretcher-cases last night,” says the gentlemen from Chrysalis.
“What…dope?” inquires the interested party.
“No. Enthusiasm,” declares the record-company exec. proudly.
Chrysalis haven`t known anything like it since Jethro Tull, and two of their top men, Chris Wright and Doug Darsey, have caught the train up to Manchester to witness the breaking of Robin Trower in his own backyard.
The above conversation referred to the group`s gig at Liverpool Stadium, where 300 Trower afficionados had to be turned away. London Theatre Bookings are trying to put in a third London Trower gig owing to unexpected demand, and in less than a week “For Earth Below”, the new Trower elpee, has sold some 11,000 copies over here.
They, the people, started eating up Trower albums in America around a year ago, to the extent where Trower`s second album, “Bridge Of Sighs”, notched up enough sales to win a gold album.
Consequently the broken-nosed guitarist from Southend, plus band, spent the majority of their time touring the USA; his current British tour, where ticket prices range from a ludicrously low 65p to an ever-so-modest quid, are the band`s first UK dates for nigh on 18 months, when they supported Nazareth.
Since those gigs there`s been a line-up change whereby a tall blond Yank called Bill Lordan has replaced Reg Isidore in Trower`s drum-seat. Lordan`s considered something of a wonder-boy, and although he never actually got to gig with Hendrix, he and supremo bassist Willie Weeks did rehearse a bit with him with the view to forming a band. But Hendrix couldn`t tear himself away from Billy Cox, and Lordan didn`t want to split from Weeks. Hendrix, so Lordan tells it, did, however, try to get hold of Lordan for Woodstock but couldn`t lay his hands on the drummer`s phone number.
Lordan was also associated with Sly Stone, with whom he cut two albums; “Small Talk”, and Sly`s next in line, which at the time of recording was called “Snitchin`”. He also played 151 live gigs, and six TV shows with Sly. Trower himself just can`t praise the drummer enough.
Otherwise the line-up`s the same as before, with Jim Dewar, a scot, completing the three-piece. Dewar was largely responsible for starting up Stone The Crows, and since then he`s spent his time entirely with Trower.
Jim Dewar always looks as though things are going bad, whether he`s wrapped up in Ian Fleming`s “The Man With The Golden Gun” en route for Newcastle, (the gig after Manchester), or up on stage laying down clean bass lines that make the edge of your seat vibrate.
Only occasionally does he allow a whisper of a smile to cross his weathered visage. That is unless he`s been drinking, and apparently the rest of the band ensure that he doesn`t get to the bottle before a gig. Like Trower himself, Dewar drinks orange juice on stage.
Even now, as he and the rest of the group tuck into what is allegedly the best French cuisine served in Manchester, Dewar doesn`t look exactly enchanted by life in general.
He and the rest of the band have two things in common; white sheep-skin coats, and music. They`re all 100 per cent musicians. The table conversation turns to the prospect of ligging it up in Slack Alice`s, George Best`s Manchester night-spot, but Trower, who`s just about into his second half pint of lager and lime, prefers to go back to his hotel room and listen to the tapes of the evening`s gig.
“I get more of a buzz out of that than anything else,” he says. And a few hours later Trower, Lordan, and Dewar are up in the guitarist`s room listening to the play-back. (By the way the French nosh cost a cool £160 for some 16 people which was enough for even Chris Wright`s inscrutable face to show some signs of expression, as well as being an indication that the band are doing good business).
Every gig is taped; the recording the band are listening to was recorded near Lordan`s stage-monitor and emphasises the total rapport between guitarist and drummer.
“Some things I haven`t even started to play and he`s on it,” Trower comments on their communication. “Bill creates such a solid back-drop. It gives me so much more freedom to relax and stretch out in a way which I`ve never known before.”
On-stage Trower refers to Lordan as “The best drummer in rock”. And he is totally sincere on that count saying, “I think he`s amazing, he`s dynamic, sensitive, powerful and creative. You know he`s just got everything…he`s everything a rock drummer should be but most of them are not. In fact I can only think of one or two that are at all sensitive musicians. Most rock drummers just lay into it and that`s it.”
Dewar puts it this way, “He`s like a dancer. Everything he does makes incredible sense. He`s a very tasteful drummer. I can relax more now and play in time, which is important. It became very hard to work with Reg, he was so erratic. I used to come off stage dripping sweat because you never knew what he was going to do next. I don`t want to have a go at him or anything, but he couldn`t handle the job. Reggie`s just a bit mixed up, but he`s a nice wee guy.”
Apparently the situation had arisen where Isidore had become envious of the attention Trower was receiving onstage, and had attempted to upstage Trower by playing against him rather than with him.
Says Trower euphemistically, “He didn`t particularly want to leave, but we decided it was the right thing to do.”
The guitarist already had another drummer in mind, a black guy called Freddy Allen, but he was tied up with a band called Fresh Start, and couldn`t break his committment.
Trower`s search went to Los Angeles where the band hired out a rehearsal studio to audition prospective drummers. Six or so auditioned, then Lordan called…”I hear you`re auditioning drummers,” Trower remembers him saying, “Well don`t bother listening to anyone else cause I`m your man.”
Lordan had seen the group for the first time earlier in the year when they played The Whiskey in LA, just catching their encore “Rock Me Baby.”: “I wasn`t that impressed, but I`d liked their second album. Even when we first played together I wasn`t overwhelmed. Then we did `Too Rolling Stoned`, and that was it. They said it was the best version they`d ever played.”
Trower recalls, “We just went in and I had this idea for a song. It wasn`t really finished, but I knew how the backing track was supposed to go. We got to about the third take and it really started to cook. We listened to it and just went around and shook each other`s hands, and said `That`s it`.”
An extensive US tour followed, then it was back into the studio to record the remainder of the album, Trower moving his family temporarily to Los Angeles. They averaged around two days a cut. Matthew Fisher, Trower`s colleague from Procol Harum, produced.
Trower thinks it`s the best album yet, and prefers the sound he got from an American studio, the previous two albums having been recorded in London. He thinks it`s more sophisticated, but still looks on albums as something of a compromise when it comes to their being representative of the band.
“I think we`ve got something live that we don`t get in the studio. I just love the sound of us live. I`m still happier about a great live night than anything else.
“I think when we get up and play we are playing firstly to please ourselves, although we`re always very conscious of the audience being there, and what they need. It`s gotta reach our standard and not theirs. Its not like we`re going to play down to them.”
Live Robin Trower are as exciting a band you`ll see anywhere in this country right now. To prime their audience, a tape of “Song For A Dreamer” is played through the PA. Taken from Procol Harum`s “Broken Barricades” album, it`s Trower`s song for Hendrix, and was the first indication of the guitarist`s real musical soul. Shortly afterwards he quit Procol.
Whether it`s Manchester or Newcastle the audience respond to Trower`s entrance with spontaneous enthusiasm, and there are shouts of “Robin” and “Trower” (Get away – Ed.)
Be it 1975 or not, Robin Trower is undeniably a guitar-hero.
From the opening bars of “Day Of The Eagle” (a cut from “Bridge Of Sighs”) the sheer damn power of the group is apparent. With a playing volume on just the right side of the pain threshold, it`s not since the days of Hendrix and Cream that a guitar-orientated three-piece has made so much music.
Lordan has fleshed the sound out considerably, and follows Trower, whose playing overflows with excitement, to the note.
Dewar plays with a lot of space, and both members of the rhythm section are ideally suited to the other.
There`s not a lot of moving going on; Trower nodding or shaking his head, or slowly tramping his right calf to the rhythm. Sometimes, like with “Too Rolling Stoned”, the music has a frantic intensity. Elsewhere it gently sways and swells, as with the beautiful “Daydream” which Robin dedicates to “The Man”, who of course is Hendrix.
“The only `The Man` I know. It`s strange, even though I don`t listen to him these days he still influences me. His influence goes very deep – it`ll always be there. A great inspiration,” Trower says of Hendrix.
It`s a shame that Trower`s music gets disqualified simply because of this inspiration. Was, say the music of Fleetwood Mac (Peter Green) rendered redundant just because so much of their inspiration came from Chicago bluesmen? Of course it wasn`t. Neither should Trower`s, although it does look as if English audiences are at last realising that here is some music worthy of close and critical attention.
The group close with “Rock Me Baby”, and manage in their own way, to do what Jeff Beck and Free, in their own ways, did for the song. In fact the blues gives Trower maximum room for exploration, and his playing is a treat. Mention must also be made of Lordan`s brief solo; ultra-tight and featuring some remarkable one hand snare rolls and cymbal work.
But, just how good a guitarist does Trower really think he is?
“How good do I think I am? I think I`m probably the best there is in the world today.”
Give me some reasons.
“I dunno. I just think I`m the best, that`s all. I don`t think there is anybody else doing anything very interesting. There are some great guitar players – some great jazz players that I wouldn`t even put myself alongside, but in rock I don`t think there`s anybody.”
And yet despite his confidence in his own ability, Trower didn`t think he was ever going to make it in England: “It`s a great buzz to be getting some sort of reaction in this country. There`s no doubt about it. I`ve never had that, never had it in all my career. I had a feeling that we would never be able to do anything in this country. That doubt`s always been with me.”
It must be the best possible way to be proved wrong.
I have personally transcribed this from the original paper and you are free to use it as you like. If you use it on your own webpages – please credit me or put up a link to my blog.
This number of New Musical Express also contains articles/interviews with these people: Status Quo, Bryan Ferry, Todd Rundgren, Alan Freeman, David Bowie, Elton John, Larry Coryell, Hank Marvin, Eric Clapton, Kursaal Flyers.
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