Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Robin Trower - "The Playful Heart" - Studio CD - Release Date: 7 December 2010

The latest studio album from Robin Trower is certainly intriguing and compelling. I would recommend the album to anyone who enjoys classic rock, blues, and jazz. The musicianship from Robin, Pete, Glenn, and Davey is outstanding, as is the production by Livingston Brown. The songs are diverse, and most are weaved in magic.

Track Listing:
  1. The Playful Heart
  2. Don't Look Back
  3. The Turning
  4. Dressed In Gold
  5. Find Me
  6. Song For Those Who Fell
  7. Maybe I Can Be A Friend
  8. Prince Of Shattered Dreams
  9. Camille
  10. Not Inside - Outside
  11. And We Shall Call It Love
Further details of album and ordering: Amazon and The Official Robin Trower Store

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Concert Review: Jeff Beck - Brighton Centre, Brighton - 16/10/10

Concerts this inspiring don't come along too often. Some guitarist's flaunt their technical skill with fast playing, fast tempos, clichéd licks, have little interaction with their fellow-musicians on stage, and forget they are supposed to connect truthfully and emotionally with their audience. I see no point in grading guitar players as better or worse among themselves. The concept of who is/was the 'best' guitarist seems vacuous to me. All 'great' guitar players are born with a gift and I respect their genuine differences.

I guess Jeff's music and playing has a deep meaning for me and makes a genuine difference to my life; similar to other musicians I admire. Tonight, Jeff and his band exceed my expectations and give a performance rich in sound, delivery, creativity, emotion and inventive agility. When you watch and listen to Jeff playing live you hear each note he plays, the melody, the music. He constantly moves about the stage as if searching for fresh inspiration, new sounds.  His movements fixate the audience's attention. Tonight, Jeff shows breathtaking dexterity on the guitar in a wide range of musical styles. His excellent band never waver during the performance; kicking rhythmically in unison on each song while highlighting their individual artistic prowess.

From the opening track "Plan B" of the Jeff album (2003) it is evident this concert holds no false promises. The sound balance and Jeff's guitar tone are excellent. Also apparent is Jeff's willingness to give his group room to highlight their exceptional individual musicianship. When "Plan B" fully kicks in - an electronic, funky, haunting mix of beauty and steel - it enables Jeff to fire his powerful turbine of riffs over Rhonda's powerful, funky, bass lines, Narada Michael Walden's colourful, intuitive drumming, and Jason's exceptional, rich-sounding keyboard playing.

"Corpus Christi Carol" was as captivating and atmospheric 'live' as on the Emotion and Commotion CD, which didn't surprise me. What surprised me was that it didn't seem out of place on the set list. In fact, it sounded simultaneously mysterious and wonderful. If you were still enough, and concentrated on the music, the musicians, you felt part of it. A magnificent tenderness. The mood takes a powerful turn when Jeff hits the wah-wah pedal for the intro to "Hammerhead", a track that burns with passion, amazing soloing over hypnotic rhythms and riffs. Magical music with power and energy.

Jeff's rendition of "'Mná na h-Éireann" (Women of Ireland) composed by Seán Ó Riada, was moving and breathtaking. Jeff's soloing, on this song, was one of the highlights of the concert, as was Rhonda's bass solo. I prefer the 'live' version without violin. It felt, to me - and the audience, by their reception at its conclusion - that Jeff and the band delivered a haunting, evocative, and unforgettable version of the song. Truly wonderful.

Rhonda performed a stunning bass solo which included harmonics, bending the strings behind the nut of her bass guitar, hitting (caressing?!) its body, finger tapping, string bending, and then getting into some serious, eloquent, and powerful funky bass playing which had the crowd totally enthralled. Rhonda's playing was formidable and sexy. Am I allowed to state that? Hell, yes. Perhaps you should be over a certain age to witness Rhonda's compelling stage presence and musical talent!

Tonight, the music range is wide; embracing everything from blues to funk to jazz to classic British rock, and much more. The band play a wonderful version of "People Get Ready" and the vocals aren't missed. In fact, Jason plays some wonderful keyboards in the outro section of the song which create a strong groove. Then the concert goes up another notch; this time with a great version of "Big Block". Jeff's guitar soloing - alternating between light and shade - reaches a different level. In the hands of a master his guitar wails and sings with melody, riffs, single notes, harmonics, finger tapping, volume swells, whammy bends, and most of all, feel.  

"Brush With The Blues" lasts for about five minutes and is a complete masterclass in how to play music that connects with an audience, and why Jeff deserves to be placed high in the canon of musical geniuses. He plays with a lyrical beauty, spirit, and charisma that few guitar players, at present, can hope to reach.

The slow tempo of ""A Day In The Life" sounds rich, textured, melodious, and is a revelation - full of character, magic, exhilaration, sadness. Music that lingers in the memory. (Is that "Purple Haze" I hear? Is that a tribute to 'Jimi at the Monterey Pop Festival' at the end of the song?). John Lennon composed the beautiful, memorable song, and Jeff has reconfigured it to be heard in a different, and perhaps, for some, in a more powerful way.

Jeff and the group deserve the boisterous standing ovation at the close of the set. During the encores they preform a rousing, energetic version of "I Can Take You Higher" which highlights Rhonda's talent as a vocalist, as well as a musician. Jeff and the group are joined on stage by the leader of the support act, "Trombone" Shorty, which helps create a party feel. Jeff then pays tribute to the late "Great" Les Paul by adorning a Les Paul guitar and playing a rendition of "How High the Moon". Jeff and the group play in sync with a pre-recorded vocal tape. I believe the recording featured the vocalist, Imelda May.

Jeff reaches for his white, fender stratocaster and plays a beautiful, haunting version of "Nessun Dorma". He may not have played the songs everyone wanted to hear tonight, but no-one was left in any doubt they had witnessed an incredible show. A show performed by an outstanding group led by one of the greatest guitar players of our time. Music and guitar playing which tends to stay in the memory for a long, long time afterwards.

Jeff's set list signed by Rhonda

Postscript: Even though it was freezing outside the venue I'd like to thank Rhonda Smith and Narada Michael Walden for taking time to talk to fans outside the venue and signing memorabilia. The following photograph didn't come out as I hoped. I believe it was too cold and the flash decided not to work properly! It is still a good photograph and a great memento - along with the set list - of an outstanding concert.

Ronnie and Rhonda - post concert in chilly, cold Brighton 

Rhonda Smith Official Site 

Jeff Beck Official Site   

Jeff Beck - Official YouTube Channel

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Jeff Beck UK Tour Dates - October 2010 / Live at Tokyo International Forum -12 & 13 April 2010 / Les Paul’s 95th Birthday

Jeff Beck and his band are undertaking a short UK tour during October 2010. Anyone who has never witnessed Jeff playing 'live' - and is attending one of the following concerts - will witness an amazing guitar player and a mind-blowing concert. I am disappointed Jeff is unable to include Belfast in his schedule. Perhaps Jeff will include the Ulster Hall, Belfast on a future tour.

I am attending the Brighton concert and will be posting a review.

UK Tour Dates 2010

15 Oct 2010 - Bournemouth International Centre [BIC] - Bournemouth
16 Oct 2010 - Brighton Centre - Brighton 
17 Oct 2010 - Symphony Hall - Birmingham
19 Oct 2010 - Guildhall - Preston
20 Oct 2010 - Clyde Auditorium - Glasgow
21 Oct 2010 - Apollo - Manchester
22 Oct 2010 - City Hall - Sheffield
24 Oct 2010 - Colston Hall - Bristol
25 Oct 2010 - St David's Hall - Cardiff
26 Oct 2010 - Royal Albert Hall - London
27 Oct 2010 - Royal Albert Hall - London

The line-up of Jeff's band includes bassist Rhonda Smith (played with Prince and Little Richard); keyboard player Jason Rebello (CV includes stints with Sting and Chaka Khan); and drummer Narada Michael Walden (a Grammy Award-winning producer who worked with Jeff on the 1976 album Wired).

Rhonda in full flight

 Videos of Jeff & Co. "live" at Tokyo International Forum -12 & 13 April 2010

Jeff Beck commemorated 'Les Paul’s 95th Birthday'  at the Iridium Jazz Club. Click on link for details, photos: Jeff beck Live at The Iridium, NYC June 8th & 9th 2010

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Robin Trower - UK and European Tour - Sep & Oct 2010

Robin Trower and his band will be undertaking a UK and European tour during September and October 2010. Don't miss the opportunity to witness 'live' a truly creative guitarist with a distinctive sound and inspired song writing ability.

Some talented musicians grow into maturity and then decline swiftly or slowly. Robin isn’t one of those – he continues to mature musically, play with creativity and passion, and is an inspiration to musicians, fans and music lovers alike.

I am attending two concerts and will be posting a review of one of the shows.

Concert Dates:

11/09/10 - Academy, Glasgow
14/10/10 - TBA, Monaco

An important aspect of the tour will be the set list. Robin says it will include some new songs and [perhaps] restoration of some old favourites that are truly atmospheric live, for example, "Daydream" - a classic song.

Best wishes to Robin and the band for an enjoyable and successful tour in 2010.

This footage is dedicated to Robin, Pete, Davey, and Glenn. Thanks for the music and the vibe.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Concert Review: Robin Trower - Komedia, Bath - 22/9/10

I've attended good concerts and great concerts. Myself and my wife, and others whom we meet afterwards, agree we have witnessed an outstanding one. A compelling performance from beginning to end; a terrific triumph for Robin, Pete, Davey and Glenn (who astound with their energy, passion and musicianship) and for the audience an emotional, unbeatable, roller coaster ride.

I glance at Robin's set list and believe it is one of the strongest Robin has put together for recent tours in the UK. The strong riffs and rhythm of "Confessin' Midnight" followed by "Lady Love" will enable Robin to solo with a degree of aggression and passion right from the start and for the band to hit a tight rhythmic groove early in the show. I'm pleased a deep favourite of mine "Daydream" is included in the set. The first time on this tour. The gods have fortuitously shone down on me once again. Somehow I feel this is the right place, one of the right gigs to be at.

As the number of people flocking into the auditorium grows there is an increasing air of excitement and anticipation, and the slight electricity of whispering that occurs before such events. When Robin and his band appear on stage the audience give them a warm boisterous welcome.

"Confessin' Midnight" sounds razor sharp. The band come together and the song goes off like a flashbulb. Robin's guitar tone sounds amazing, especially when he hits the wah-wah pedal. Davey's vocals are superb and distinct tonight. In fact, his singing is a revelation and he wins many plaudits. Robin's soloing bites, twists and turns, and is pleasantly aggressive. A problem with a monitor is soon fixed by Laurie at the end of the song. Without losing ground the band launch into "Lady Love" which keeps the crowd energized. It says something about Robin's unique guitar style that songs from early in his career still retain a freshness and vitality on each hearing. Pete on drums and Glenn on bass combine to provide a sweeping, smoldering, strong rhythm which delights and catches hold of your spirit at the same time.  

The hypnotic, funky rhythm of "Somebody Calling" is particularly noteworthy powered by Robin's lead guitar work. Combined with Davey's vocals and enthusiastic backing by Pete and Glenn this song sounds better live than I expected. Robin's vibrato is used to killer effect alongside beautiful rhythmic chording and chord changes.

It's obvious that Robin loves to continually write and record new music. The inclusion of three "new" songs in the 14 song set, "Find Me," "The Turning," and " Not Inside - Outside" are well received by the audience. "Find Me" really kicks in when Davey sings in sync with Robin's guitar. During the song Robin plays beautiful understated solos which rise to a crescendo. This should be an interesting composition to listen to on Robin's forthcoming CD regarding the guitar parts and overdubs.

"Extermination Blues" has been dropped from tonight's show; a slow song which I believe can lose an audience no matter how great the guitar playing may be. I'm pleased it's been replaced by the classic "Daydream." Tonight "Daydream" is haunting and unforgettable due to Davey's outstanding vocal and Robin's graceful guitar playing and lush sound. The bass and drums sound just right and combine to make this one of the highlights of the show.

Robin's mastery of the guitar is highlighted to great affect on "Bridge of Sighs". He improvises with great feeling; moving from soulful tenderness to moving aggression. I'm glad this version was captured on film. Another new song, "The Turning" sounds excellent. The main riff, chord sequencing, rhythm - and the slow coda - make this a finely-crafted composition. The haunting beat from the outset creates an intoxicating sound. A truly memorable riff weaves its way through the song and make it impossible to remain still until the coda. A coda which is soft, beautiful, and gets large cheers from the audience.

Pete in full flow

Robin's Set List

The people I spoke to post-concert agreed this was one of the finest performances by Robin, Davey, Pete and Glenn they had witnessed. A great set list enabled Robin to ply his exceptional monster bends, licks, and classic vibrato with incredible energy for the whole concert. At 65, Robin deserves high praise for continuing to create music and play guitar at a level second to no other living guitarist.

Davey's singing was top notch and the sound mix was great for the audience. Pete's heart, soul and finesse shone in his drumming and Glenn's funky bass lines were a revelation. A truly superb performance by Robin and the band which produced many great musical moments to cherish. "Daydream" was the icing on the cake.

Postscript: The venue was great and all the staff were friendly and supportive. This helped to make the concert superb and unforgettable.

Davy Smith, Alan Howard, Ronnie Kerrigan (post concert)


Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Concert Review: Robin Trower & Jack Bruce - The Music Hall, Worpswede, Germany - 1 March 2009

The venue for the concert is 25km north of Bremen. The village of Worpswede is intimate, quite and beautiful. As my brother and I walk towards the The Music Hall I am intrigued that such a  music venue exists so far from noisy, densely populated towns and cities. It is 5.30pm and the band are going through a sound check. The songs are "Seven Moons" and "Lives of Clay" and sound great. At the rear entrance to the hall there are a number of vans with cables running from the stage area. The performance is being recorded for broadcast on Radio Bremen.

I meet a music journalist from Hamburg and we talk about the broadcast and the venue. My brother and I talk to a number of people from different parts of Germany and Sweden who are big Jack Bruce fans. It's good to see Laurie Brace (Road Manager/Sound Engineer for Robin Trower) and Steve Russell (responsible for Jack Bruce's instruments and amplification). We talk about tonight's gig, the previous night's performance in Nijmegen, Holland and exchange a few pleasantries and jokes. Two great guys kept busy making sure all the musical equipment is working, in the right place and ready for the musicians to perform. Also, ensuring that the sound balance is as close to perfection as possible given the restraints of the venue.

Steve Russell, Ronnie, and Laurie Brace

The program and posters outside and inside the venue intrigue me. The only musician displayed is Jack Bruce. It appears Jack is the main act and Robin and Gary are supporting musicians. I understand this is the way the music industry sometimes works. Two formidable musicians collaborate on three albums, organize a short tour in Europe, and only one musician is given recognition and billing. When I discovered the set list included the entire Seven Moons album I tried to curtail judgment, but couldn't. The album has a number of great songs, but also has its share of average, unmelodic tracks.

I notice Robin's Deja Vibe is absent from his pedals. This rules out the possibility of the trio inserting other songs in the set to provide contrast: up-tempo, funkier rhythms; the chance to hear Jack playing bass and singing on "Bridge of Sighs" or "Day of the Eagle."  A view shared by numerous Robin Trower devotees and musicians at the front of the stage. Indeed, the absence of songs from earlier collaborations - BLT & Truce - is a major talking point before, during and after the concert with fans. Tracks such as: "Into Money," "No Island Lost," "Won't Let You Down," "Gonna Shut You Down," "Gone Too Far," "Fall In Love," "Little Boy Lost" would have enhanced the set and experience.

Frankly, I despair of CD/DVD/concert reviews which make you wonder if the person was at the concert. or has listened to the music on disc. Some reviews on the internet, and in magazines appear to be “cut & pasted” and follow a familiar pattern with comparisons of Robin to ... well, you know who. A review bereft of originality and sincerity does a disservice to any impassioned and skilled musical artist. 

The show started around 9:00 pm to a hall packed with eager fans. At the outset Robin's guitar sound seems low in the mix. This fails, however, to make "Seven Moons" or "Lives of Clay" any less engaging. Two powerful tracks back to back. Robin's soloing is a revelation. In fact, it is noticeable that Robin and Jack are enjoying playing together.

The sound is uncluttered and Robin's guitar sound becomes more visible during the pedestrian "Distant Places Of The Heart". During the song Robin uses his considerable vibrato and guitar voicings to great effect. A wonderful, creative journey. A masterclass in sensitive, passionate soloing. The outro solo is stunning. Jack Bruce at the finish of the song says, “Life isn't so bad after all ...”  I believe, for the moment, he's right.

Tonight Robin's Strat is plugged into a 100-watt custom built Cornell amp. I prefer his guitar tone when he uses Marshall. In fact, towards the end of the set Robin's guitar sound appears to oscillate in volume; a combination of amp and faulty connections, perhaps.

After a passionate and enthusiastic version of “Sunshine of Your Love” the tempo slows for a rendition of “Carmen.” The live version misses the guitar overdubs and outstanding vocal Jack produced on the original recording. Not an easy song to sing, whatever your age, or state of health.

At some point I begin to feel Gary Husband is prone to over-drum - a la Buddy Miles - and the sensitivity of some songs, while still moving, are executed with undue rigidity.

Following “We're Going Wrong,” “So Far To Yesterday,” “ Just Another Day” the infectious rhythm of “Perfect Place” enables Robin to use the wah pedal to create haunting, biting, riffs that make the song seem too short. During the song the trio create a wondrous groove which the audience share with vocal enthusiasm.

I'm grateful that supreme musicians such as Robin Trower and Jack Bruce still grace this planet, share their music, their gift, and voice wherever, and whenever, possible. Both musicians have enriched my life and those of numerous others. I hope they tour together again without constraints and a different set list. I acknowledge they call the shots. Me? I'm someone who enjoys music played "live" with passion, vigor and creativity. So who am I to talk? I knew you would understand.

Link to photographs of the performance on 'The Music Hall' site: Photos + Videos

The concert was recorded and broadcast by Radio Bremen. Click on the following link for the whole concert: Robin Trower & Jack Bruce 

Set list signed by Robin Trower and Jack Bruce

Saturday, July 24, 2010

CD Review: Robin Trower - A Tale Untold: the Chrysalis Years 1973-1976 [3 CD Box set] - Release Date: July 26, 2010

A 3 CD Box Set containing Robin's five Chrysalis albums released between 1973 -1976 [including bonus tracks: B-sides; previously unreleased tracks] was released on 26 July 2010.

Robin Trower fans will have most of the tracks on vinyl, CD and MP3. However, the collection is a valuable insight into the songwriting, music and superb guitar playing of Robin Trower. The recordings highlight the exceptional vocals of James Dewar which were important in the creation of so many musical  masterpieces. Jimmy's ability to compose strong lyrics, and his musical bass playing, are on clear display. 

The drumming styles and techniques of the late Reg Isadore and Bill Lordan smoothly integrate into the song structures and provide a hypnotic rhythmic feel which make the songs timeless and unforgettable.

The essential message is that the songs on this selection capture a musician and guitar player at the top of his game creating music which is compulsive listening from start to finish. Each track sounds remarkably fresh rather than jaded. Few artists or bands - past, or present - deserve this accolade.

I am still taken aback by the soulful vocals of James Dewar. They have a deep spiritual dimension which take hold of the listener the way sunlight takes hold of each flower, each tree, all things on this earth: life enhancing and breathtaking.

The end result is music of high quality, lyrical, other-worldly, passionate, and memorable. Each melody, guitar solo, lyric, remains woven in my memory, and provides a river I can bathe in, as I wish.

Rock and blues at its finest.

CD 1
  1. I Can’t Wait Much Longer (2010 Digital Remaster)
  2. Daydream (2010 Digital Remaster)
  3. Hannah (2010 Digital Remaster)
  4. Man Of The World (2010 Digital Remaster)
  5. I Can’t Stand It (2010 Digital Remaster)
  6. Rock Me Baby (2010 Digital Remaster)
  7. Twice Removed From Yesterday (2010 Digital Remaster)
  8. Sinner’s Song (2010 Digital Remaster)
  9. Ballerina (2010 Digital Remaster)
10. Take A Fast Train (B-side of ‘Man Of The World’) (2010 Digital Remaster)
11. Day Of The Eagle (2007 Digital Remaster)
12. Bridge Of Sighs (2007 Digital Remaster)
13. In This Place (2007 Digital Remaster)
14. The Fool And Me (2007 Digital Remaster)

CD 2
  1. Too Rolling Stoned (2007 Digital Remaster)
  2. About To Begin (2007 Digital Remaster)
  3. Lady Love (2007 Digital Remaster)
  4. Little Bit Of Sympathy (2010 Digital Remaster)
  5. Day Of The Eagle (Single Edit) (2010 Digital Remaster)
  6. Shame The Devil (2010 Digital Remaster)
  7. It’s Only Money (2010 Digital Remaster)
  8. Confessin’ Midnight (2010 Digital Remaster)
  9. Fine Day (2010 Digital Remaster)
10. Alethea (2010 Digital Remaster)
11. A Tale Untold (2010 Digital Remaster)
12. Gonna Be More Suspicious (2010 Digital Remaster)
13. For Earth Below (2010 Digital Remaster)
14. Too Rolling Stoned (Live) (2010 Digital Remaster)
15. Daydream (Live) (2010 Digital Remaster)
16. Rock Me Baby (Live) (2010 Digital Remaster)

CD 3
  1. Lady Love (Live) (2010 Digital Remaster)
  2. I Can’t Wait Much Longer (Live) (2010 Digital Remaster)
  3. Alethea (Live) (2010 Digital Remaster)
  4. Little Bit Of Sympathy (Live) (2010 Digital Remaster)
  5. Same Rain Falls (2010 Digital Remaster)
  6. Long Misty Days (2010 Digital Remaster)
  7. Hold Me (2010 Digital Remaster)
  8. Caledonia (2010 Digital Remaster)
  9. Pride (2010 Digital Remaster)
10. Sailing (2010 Digital Remaster)
11. S.M.O. (2010 Digital Remaster)
12. I Can’t Live Without You (2010 Digital Remaster)
13. Messin’ The Blues (2010 Digital Remaster)
14. Long Misty Days (7″ Edit) (2010 Digital Remaster)
15. Let Me Be The One (Outtake/B-side to ‘Long Misty Days’) (2010 Digital Remaster)

I'm pleased this is not an anthology. A Tale Untold mirrors the extraordinary gift Robin Trower has to produce music that is magical, exhilarating and which is capable of raising the human spirit on each hearing. For that, I remain thankful.

Track samples and order available at: Amazon

Link to articles about Robin on Your Way To Music: Robin Trower

Sunday, June 20, 2010

CD Review: "What Lies Beneath" - Robin Trower - Released 28 July 2009

Some musicians are excellent: some are outstanding. Robin Trower belongs to the latter category. During his long solo career Robin's feel for melody, musicality, passion, and rhythm has not deserted him. Despite decades of successful achievements - on record, and in performance - this album confirms he is still capable of searching for new and challenging musical horizons while retaining his own trademark sound.

The addition of strings, in particular, the cello, on some of the tracks give a a tonal warmth which is immediately appealing. The cello touches the heart and soul in ways other musical instruments are denied.

The qualities that make Robin's music an art which cannot be imitated - and shine throughout this recording - are its rhythmic pure sound; its warm, polyphonic textures; and, of course, Robin's mastery of the guitar: tone; chord inversions/extensions/voicings, vibrato; phrasing; melody; string bends, feedback, whammy-bar, improvisation, wah-wah, and feel.

Track Listing:

01. Wish You Were Mine (instrumental) 

A 'classic' hypnotic rhythm overlayed with Robin's warm guitar tones, feedback and whammy bar create an opening track of ethereal beauty. The interplay with strings (cello/violin) is captivating adding to the celestial mood.   The lead which kicks in at 1:37 is Robin at his finest.

02. What Lies Beneath 

The wah-wah introduction (its use throughout) and the recurring bass riff and sound give this song a solid depth and structure. After repeated listening Robin's voice suits this song, and most songs on the CD. At times, his voice sounds smoky, husky, conversational, but always impassioned, sincere.

03. As You Watch Each City Fall (part 1) 

Beautiful intro. Great melody interspersed with lyrical fill-ins. At 1:56 a new dimension is reached. The rich tapestry of sound is enhanced by the strings, and Robin's soloing and layered guitar parts. The tone of a strat never sounded better.

04. As You Watch Each City Fall (part 2) - (instrumental)

The plethora of sounds, guitar parts, bass, and drums combine to make this a instrumental a joy. Full of creativity; great arrangement. Magical.

05. Freefall 

This track sends shivers up and down my spine from start to finish. The tone of the main guitar is intense and powerful. The blend of Robin's vocals, the melody, the arrangement, bass and drums, combine to produce a classic track. Love the backing vocals ... Astounding.

06. Once The Spell Is Broken 

A song that contains a plethora of sounds including organ. The combination of a strong melody and a wonderful outro solo makes this one of the best songs on the CD. Moody and ambitious; amazing chorus.

07. Sleeping On The Moon 

Don't be fooled by the calm start to this song. Out of the calm comes a strong, passionate chorus (great harmonies). Then it goes up another gear when Robin breaks into incendiary solos at 1:36 and 2:34. Love the groove on the outro solo ...

08. Time and Emotion  (instrumental)

The organ and Robin's melodic guitar riffing and chord embellishments combine to make this a wonderful, atmospheric composition. Robin solos using all the techniques he has perfected since he started out as a professional musician. A sweet and passionate track.

09. Skin and Bone 

A track that appears to be going in one direction and takes different paths. A well-structured song with strong soloing. Great tone and Robin seems to be enjoying himself. The change at 2:10 makes for a welcome fade out were Robin is firing on all cylinders. A sound to behold, indeed.

10. Buffalo Blues  (instrumental)

The blues has played a large part in Robin's musical career and songwriting. This catchy, blues-driven instrumental - supplemented by organ - gives Robin the opportunity to play the blues as only he can. Some sweet lines and bends; seamless playing with incredible tone.

11. Find A Place

The chord voicings make this one of the best tracks on the CD. Robin's guitar parts are inspirational and melodic throughout and create a wonderful sound. A strong verse and chorus make this a great song. Robin's vocals sound completely in sync with the music. An exceptional closing track for the CD. Breathtaking outro.


Robin Trower - Guitar & Vocals
Livingston Brown - Bass
Sam Van Essen & Chris Taggart - Drums
Roger Cotton - Organ
Andrew Haveron & Clare Hinton - Strings

Further details about What Lies Beneath at Amazon and trowerpower.com

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame 25th Anniversary Shows - 29/30 October 2009 - New York City: Jeff Beck & Billy Gibbons play "Foxy Lady" as a tribute to Jimi Hendrix

It was great to see Jeff Beck and Billy Gibbons performing "Foxy Lady" by Jimi Hendrix on the second night of this event with images of Jimi emblazoned on a large screen above the stage. Jeff and Billy both play solos, each sounding fantastic, highlighting their own guitar style, tone and licks. Jeff preformed a second song with Billy Gibbons: "Rough Boy" - (some of the finest soloing and guitar tone recorded - Eliminator, 1983) - beautiful song and solos (available on YouTube - embedded by request).

Jeff's set list included: "Drown in My Own Tears", "People Get Ready", "Freeway Boogie", "Cause We've Ended as Lovers", "Let Me Love You", "Big Block", "Rice Pudding", and "A Day in the Life".

On the first night Jeff Beck accompanied Stevie Wonder on "Superstition".

Friday, April 23, 2010

Album Review: "Valleys of Neptune" - Jimi Hendrix - Released March 2010

Everyday in the week I'm in a different city
If I stay too long people try to put me down
They talk about me like a dog
Talkin' about the clothes I wear
But they don't realise they're the ones who's square

                                                                  - Jimi Hendrix

I'm always cautious of posthumously released material from any artist. This album, however, confirms that Jimi Hendrix's music and art still has power, a story to tell, and will resonate for generations to come.  Jimi's premature death in London on Friday, September 18, 1970 sadly deprived the world of a musical genius.

While Jimi's career lasted less than four years, his music and guitar playing remain inspirational, unique, soulful, and relevant. Jimi pushed the boundaries of music creation, guitar playing, and performance to a limit which has never been surpassed by any other musician. Jimi remains the greatest, most innovative, and iconic guitarist of all time.

Eddie Kramer engineered most of Jimi's authorized recordings from Are You Experienced? to Hendrix in the West, and I'm glad to see he's involved in producing this album, together with John McDermott.

Track Listing:

Stone Free
Recorded: Record Plant, New York, April & May 1969
Vocal, Guitar: Jimi Hendrix
Bass: Billy Cox
Drums: Mitch Mitchell  

This reworking of "Stone Free" is intriguing for the hypnotic rhythmic variations Jimi uses to drive the song. The use of sliding octaves, pull-offs, string bending and Jimi's inventive approach to playing segments of songs differently throughout the recording enrich the take/recording. Jimi's vocals and phrasing are beautiful. His guitar tone is incredible. Words can't describe his explosive solo - full of melodic expression, passion, fire. Billy Cox's bass playing and tone is refreshing. I'm not surprised this is the first track on the album. The recording flows and Jimi sounds at ease and inspired.

Valleys Of Neptune
Recorded: Record Plant, New York, September 23, 1969; May 15, 1970
Vocal, Guitar: Jimi Hendrix
Drums: Mitch Mitchell
Bass: Billy Cox  

Beautiful chords, melody and Jimi in fine vocal form. It's such a great song that the absence of a solo, or further guitar parts, overdubs are not missed. The track has a transcendental feeling and is testament to Jimi's artistic gifts and his development as a songwriter. Love the fadeout.

Bleeding Heart 
(Elmore James)
Recorded: Record Plant, New York, April 24, 1969
Vocal, Guitar: Jimi Hendrix
Bass: Billy Cox
Drums: Rocky Isaac 

This up-tempo version of " Bleeding Heart" is a revelation. Jimi's singing and rhythm playing are only eclipsed by his electrifying solos; his use of wah is electrifying. Jimi and Billy dig deep into their R&B and blues roots to create an exceptional sound, vibe. A wonderful track.

Hear My Train A Comin'
Recorded: Record Plant, New York, April 7, 1969
Vocal, Guitar: Jimi Hendrix
Bass: Noel Redding
Drums: Mitch Mitchell 

The definitive version remains the superb 'live' version recorded/filmed at the Berkeley Performance Centre, California, on May 30, 1970. However, this version is also memorable. The soloing is a source of tremendous melodic inventiveness. Also, Jimi incorporates some scat singing. Great bass and drum sound. 
Mr Bad Luck (Look Over Yonder)
Recorded: Olympic Studios, London, May 5, 1967
Vocal, Guitar: Jimi Hendrix
Bass: Noel Redding
Drums: Mitch Mitchell 

The driving rhythm ensures a memorable musical journey.  In addition to some clowning from Jimi his soloing is magical, upbeat and inspired -  'See that? - I've just broke a guitar string.' While it is well documented Jimi was a perfectionist this track still sounds exceptional.

Sunshine Of Your Love
(Jack Bruce/Pete Brown/Eric Clapton)

Recorded: Olympic Studios, London, February 16, 1969
Guitar: Jimi Hendrix
Bass: Noel Redding
Drums: Mitch Mitchell 

Jimi's energetic version of Cream's "Sunshine of your Love" shows the breadth of his inventiveness. It makes the original version by Cream seem pedestrian, even though it remains an iconic song with a memorable riff.  While this version elapses into an elongated jam it still retains an infectious rhythm which tends to drag you in. A great groove.

Lover Man
Recorded: Olympic Studios, London, February 16, 1969
Vocal, Guitar: Jimi Hendrix
Bass: Noel Redding
Drums: Mitch Mitchell 

Slow version of this song enhanced by a great sound from the bass and drums. Great fill-ins and soloing by Jimi. The outro solo evolves into a free form jam full of superb licks and melody. Evidence, if needed, of Jimi's creative potential during spontaneous jam sessions in the studio. 

Ships Passing Through The Night (Night Bird Flying)
Recorded: Record Plant, New York, April 14, 1969
Guitar, Vocals: Jimi Hendrix
Bass: Noel Redding
Drums: Mitch Mitchell 

Engaging riffs, rhythms, melody and rendition of a song which shows great potential. Again, beautiful soloing. Despite its failings this song still contains the seeds of something beautiful: Night Bird Flying. Jimi's solo performance at the coda of the song highlights his prodigious talent and guitar magic.

Recorded: Olympic Studios, London, February 17, 1969
Vocal, Guitar: Jimi Hendrix
Bass & Backing Vocals: Noel Redding
Drums: Mitch Mitchell 

Difficult to improve on the 'live' version included on The Jimi Hendrix Concerts CD released in 1990 - truly an incendiary performance - great drumming by Mitch Mitchell, and Jim's guitar playing is stratospheric. This version still contains some great playing. What the atmosphere was like in the studio is/was only known by a few individuals.
Red House
Recorded: Olympic Studios, London, February 17, 1969
Vocal, Guitar: Jimi Hendrix
Bass: Noel Redding
Drums: Mitch Mitchell 

A 'live' performance favourite and one of the greatest blues songs composed. A launching pad for Jimi to give a strong vocal performance and show his soloing and improvisation skills.

Lullaby For The Summer (Ezy Rider)
Recorded: Record Plant, New York, April 7, 1969
Guitar: Jimi Hendrix
Bass: Noel Redding
Drums: Mitch Mitchell 

An instrumental which evolved into "Ezy Rider". This version contains some tantalizing moments. It displays the development of a song. The composition has a great groove and riffs over which Jimi improvises. Which take is this? How many patterns were changed? Was the band in disarray? I don't know, and frankly, I don't care. The music speaks for itself.

Crying Blue Rain (Blue Window)
Recorded: Olympic Studios, London, February 16, 1969
Vocal, Guitar: Jimi Hendrix
Bass: Noel Redding
Drums: Mitch Mitchell

A slow blues that morphs to a faster groove. The band are jamming and Jimi colours the instrumental with beautiful chord voicings and licks.

The album is well produced and most of the tracks highlight a genius at work. Even though marred by patches of weakness there is creativity and passion in the raw material, and - more importantly - honesty.

Jimi Hendrix was a human being - not a god - whose unique personality continues to shine through in his music, lyrics and guitar playing. To rise from a poverty-stricken background, to be black, left-handed, shy, and become a musical genius - always evolving, taking risks - and conquer the musical world, is testament to Jimi's perseverance amid a myriad of unwanted distractions and pressures.

This album - while imperfect - is testament to the creative mind of an exceptional artist who will be remembered as long as music exists.

Monday, March 08, 2010

Concert Review: Jimi Hendrix - The 1970 Isle Of Wight Music Festival

Isle Of Wight Festival 1970

Jimi Hendrix

'Yeah ... Thank you very much for showing up, man, you all look really beautiful and outa sight ... And thanks for waiting. It has been a long time, hasn't it? ... That does mean peace not this ... Peace ... OK give us about a minute to tune up, all right? Give us about a minute' - Jimi Hendrix addresses the festival crowd - Monday, Aug. 31, 1970

It is summer and I'm sixteen. I look down at my brother who is asleep on a small patch of ground. A patch of ground that has been our home for three days and nights. We have sleeping bags, some food and drink, body aches, and above us a dark blue sky patterned with stars and planets. Someone stole our tent the day we arrived. Our musical pilgrimage has included travel by ferries, hitchhiking day and night, sharing cars and vans with some people who engendered - within us - curiosity, terror, or both. Why such a daunting and exuberant journey? Well, to hear and feel music played by some of the greatest musicians and bands ever to grace this planet.

Despite negativity in the media regarding management of the festival, unrest amongst fans, overt commercialization, drug dealers, heavy security, the attendance of Hell's Angels and so-called anarchists, I feel instilled in a carefree happy environment. The vibe is cool and the people in our vicinity are friendly and - like my brother and I - are engrossed in the diversity of music and performers. Everyone enjoys gazing at other people in the crowd: mainly at clothes, painted faces, hair, partial nakedness.

As I walk through the crowd I regain energy from the music weaving through the air. The sounds of acoustic guitars, drums, singing and chanting bring a sense of joy and comfort. The human landscape of multi-coloured clothes, tousled hair of every shade and length, and pretty girls - some dancing in erotic fashion as the evening sun glints in their hair - arouse delight and passion within me. The mood and smells are intoxicating. I suddenly wish to be older. Finding my brother, and our mutual space, is aided by our closeness to the stage, and the positioning of numerous flags rich in diversity and colour which act as an aide-mémoire.

Most people have witnessed memorable performances by Taste, Free, Chicago, Family, The Who, Jethro Tull, Miles Davis, The Doors and other artists: music of all genres played by superlative musicians and bands. Days and hours of invigorating music and beautiful images fill our minds, hearts and souls. Utterly magnificent and indescribable.

It is a cold dark morning. A collective cry of joy and relief raises from the crowd (circa 600,000) as Jimi's arrival on stage is announced. 

Shortly after 2.00 a.m. the eyes of those lucky to be awake and standing are centered on one individual walking towards the front of the stage. Jimi Hendrix is dressed in a colourful garment with long trailing sleeves. He is cradling a black and white fender stratocaster. There is no crush or discomfort: just lights, colours, darkness, people waking, coughing and rubbing their eyes. I try to wake my brother. Gradually, he opens his eyes and sits motionless. I tell him Jimi Hendrix is on stage. My brother rubs both his eyes and attempts to stand with some difficulty.

A calm cold beauty descends as I gaze at this amazing human being and his backdrop of daisy-chained Marshall stacks. For a moment I'm fearful of tumbling, being crushed, or losing my brother, as people start to move closer to the stage. I think of some of the inventive music and guitar solos Jimi has created. The first time I heard "Purple Haze" is ingrained in my memory. How could someone compose such a sublimely inventive and haunting song? The opening riff using tritones is unforgettable. I can hardly grasp that I 'm going to witness Jimi Hendrix in concert for the first time.

Music, to my mind, is an emotional roller-coaster to be experienced live: to be captured with your eyes and ears, and if it fails to change your emotions and feelings then move on to music that does. A live performance cannot be captured on vinyl, video, CD or DVD, etc. Such mediums fail to convey the potpourri of images, colours, sounds, vibrations and volume which make your inner being glow.

As Jimi speaks, sings, plays his guitar, the crowd watch in silence mesmerized by his magical charisma, stage presence, mercurial rhythms and soaring solos. I cheer and shout - like most people - after each song. My tiredness replaced by immense energy (I can't remember the last time I rested or slept).

The frost melts as Jimi plays "Spanish Castle Magic". It sounds like a hot bright light breaking through the black, blue and white formations created by the stage lights. Jimi's guitar playing reaches a higher level: soaring, electrifying, intense. His vocals are full of sensuality and power, and during the final solo his guitar sound becomes surreal - distortion and feedback combine to create an expansive dreamy sound.
' . . . That's if we travel by our dragonfly . . . '

While it is evident there are technical problems with Jimi's amplification, pedals and guitars (mostly going out of tune) his voice, phrasing and guitar playing are, at times, exceptional and soul-stirring. He establishes rhythms that are startling and utterly original. Jimi sings "All Along the Watchtower" passionately. His soloing is enhanced by feedback and infectious interplay with Billy Cox on bass. I believe Jimi is blessed to have Mitch Mitchell on drums and Billy Cox on bass as his rhythm section. They bring out the best in Jimi. Mitch shows he is an imaginative and multi-dimensional drummer, and Billy plays fluid and tight, with a deep intuitive skill, matching Jimi pattern for pattern. Jimi's playing is remarkable as it takes different twists and turns.

The patterns weaved by Jimi and Billy Cox are hypnotic during “ Machine Gun” and once again Jimi creates some outstanding runs and sounds. Jimi plays soft, raw, loud, continually bending and moving in the direction of the sound he is trying to create. At times it appears to be a struggle and there is a haunting tension and passion in his playing. Then the rhythm changes and the trio synthesize again to paint a different musical landscape.

Adorning a Flying V Jimi plays a powerful yet turbulent rendition of “ Red House”. I watch and listen as Jimi deliveries his guitar phrases and vocals with a wrestling intensity. It is great to hear new numbers: “Freedom,” ”Dolly Dagger” and “Hey Baby (Land of the New Rising Sun)”. 

Jimi pulled a blistering version of "Voodoo Child (Slight Return)" out of the bag. His guitar sounded heavily distorted and the notes rained down sprinkled with Jimi's unique creative powers.

For Jimi, the band and some of the audience - who were awake and standing - the show may have been uneven. All I know is that Jimi's performance at the festival shook and moved me and that for a while I was wrapped in its warmth and magic. I was shocked - similar to millions of people worldwide - when news of Jimi's death was announced on September 18, 1970, and facts surrounding his physical and emotional health were released.  

I still believe Jimi's set was the defining moment of the festival. His set showed an innovator and experimenter reaching out to his audience with his musical genius.  For those fortunate to come of age during the 1960's Jimi Hendrix raised the bar and brought unparalleled power, sensuality and sustained resurrection to guitar playing, song writing and performance. He exuded a contagious charisma and spirit rarely witnessed by any musician, past or present.

No one but Jimi Hendrix knows what his state of mind was during his last month on this earth. I believe, however, he had new horizons to explore musically, emotionally and spiritually. It is often forgotten that while Jimi was a guitar virtuoso, and an instrumentalist of profound influence, he was also an incredibly gifted, first-rate songwriter. Jimi's musical genius will continue to astound future listeners' as long as music exists and his memorable riffs, songs and lyrics will reverberate wherever sound can be heard.

Set List: God Save the Queen; Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band; Spanish Castle Magic; All Along the Watchtower; Machine Gun; Lover Man; Freedom; Red House; Dolly Dagger; Midnight Lightning; Foxey Lady; Message to Love; Hey Baby (Land of the New Rising Sun); Ezy Rider; Hey Joe; Purple Haze; Voodoo Child (Slight Return); In from the Storm.

I didn't mean to take up all your sweet time
I'll give it right back one of these days
If I don't see you any more in this world
I'll meet you in the next one
And don't be late,
Don't be late
'Cos I'm a Voodoo Child
God knows I'm a Voodoo Child

                                                             - Jimi Hendrix