Friday, October 04, 2013

CD Review: Robin Trower - 'State to State: Live Across America 1974-1980' (Audio CD) - Release Date: October 04, 2013

A two CD set released on October 04, 2013 includes twenty-four previously unissued 'live' performances by the Robin Trower band. The album includes performances recorded in Philadelphia and California (1974), Illinois (1976), Oklahoma (1977) and Missouri (1980).

The late and supremely gifted James Dewar sings on each track on the album, and plays bass guitar on all but two tracks on Disc 2: 'Somebody Calling' and 'Bluebird'. Robin was feeling his way into a new phase of his career and brought in Rustee Allen on bass guitar with the intention of exploring, to an extent, funkier rhythms and sounds. Robin believed this would enable Jimmy Dewar to concentrate on fresh ways of delivering his distinctive and expressive voice. Whether this experiment was successful, or not, is left to the listener to decide and those fortunate to see the different groups in performance. I believe the personnel change, while transforming the scope of Robin's music, left James Dewar both musically and personally exposed on stage without his bass guitar.
All of the tracks on Disc 1 feature the magnificent drumming of the late Reg Isidore. Disc 2 highlights a significant change to the group: Bill Lordan replacing Reg Isidore on drums. Both excellent musicians with different musical identities and style. I believe that Bill Lordan's musicianship and presence improved the sound of the group both in performance and in the studio. His drumming is inspired and dynamic and enabled Robin to explore different musical concepts. The version of 'Alethea' recorded in California in 1974 highlights the contrasting techniques and creative abilities of both drummers.  
This 'live' collection contains music of a high caliber (even where the recordings are of a low standard and Robin's guitar tone is adversely affected by feedback and malfunctioning effects pedals) played by superb musicians and fronted by a guitar player who pushes himself to the limit each time he takes to the stage.

The highlights of the performances are those recorded in Illinois during 1976. All of the tracks, especially: 'Daydream', the wonderful 'Same Rain Falls' and 'Too Rolling Stoned' contain some of Robin's most expressive, moving and inventive guitar playing. His excellent musicianship, guitar tone and use of effects confirm that Robin had arrived at an artistic peak. This, however, could not have been achieved without the evocative, subtle and tremendous James Dewar on vocals & bass and Bill Lordan on drums, who both combined to create a tight and superb rhythm section.

The track 'Sailing' is remarkable and atmospheric. Jimmy is in great voice and the melodic groove is of deep emotional depth. Robin's guitar tone on 'Long Misty Days' resembles a jet aircraft taking-off with its huge brooding sound. The live performance is magnificent, transcends the studio version, and contains some of Robin's most eloquent and emotive playing. It would be great to hear other songs from the Illinois performance. Robin, Jimmy and Bill are outstandingly cohesive and, in terms of sound and inspiration, generate a well of sublime music which doesn't fail to get the adrenaline flowing.   

A striking feature of the recordings is the power, texture and soulful voice of James Dewar. At times, the unique quality of Jimmy's voice elevates itself above the atmospheric music, and the listener is drawn to the magical and beautiful expressiveness of his vocals. Truly breathtaking music.        

Pre-order at Amazon 

Listen to MP3 samples at Amazon

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

CD Review: Robin Trower "Roots And Branches" Release Date: 19 February 2013

'An artist's first responsibility is to himself.' - Miles Davis

Most of the songs on Roots And Branches are created around tight formal structures. The drums, bass and keyboards create a fine and subtle steady pulse throughout, which allow Robin Trower to perform some passionate and thoughtful soloing. Five of the eleven tracks are original compositions by Robin. The remaining six tracks are Robin's versions of songs that have inspired his appreciation of music, guitar playing and song writing.

From the opening track 'Hound Dog' it is evident that Robin continues to explore fresh ways of making music. In a sense, making music which enables Robin to escape from repeating himself in the studio, with the aim of furthering his musical development and, just as important, change. It is refreshing to hear Paul Jones soloing on harmonica over an ensemble which includes Luke Smith on keyboards. Robin's vocals remain a moot point. On this album, however, he sings with increased confidence, richer phrasing, and the end result is in harmony with the music.

Robin is definitely 'on the prowl' both in terms of vocals and playing on 'Little Red Rooster.' His guitar playing is alive with short incisive phrases during the verses, which create a wondrous crying sound. His guitar tone complements the hypnotic atmosphere sustained throughout the track. During the soloing Robin's performance is inspiring and bears all his memorable hallmarks: wide string bends, vibrato, slurs, and brooding phrases steeped in the blues. When Robin hits high notes with incredible vibrato during this track the outcome is moving and soulful. Truly a track of depth and brilliance.     

The track 'Shape of Things to Come' (placed at the center of the album) is, for me, a 'classic' Robin Trower song due to its intensity, atmosphere, and strident pulse. The rhythm section of Livingston Brown (bass) and Chris Taggart (drums) drive the song along as Robin solos with sustained vitality and depth.

The presence of 'That's Alright Mama' and 'Save Your Love' fall short of the standard set by the other tracks on the album. On 'That's Alright Mama' the clarity of the performance is hindered by the continued dialogue between Robin's guitar, the harmonica, keyboards, and rhythm section. I would have preferred a stripped down version of the song with the same pulse, emotion and structure. The restraint of 'Save your Love', while exuding a smooth sound, doesn't rise above slow standard twelve-bar blues.

The track 'See My Life' is a great climax to the album. Robin's guitar soloing highlights his range of feeling and improvisational skills at their finest. The addition of wah-wah to the effects adds to the lyrical and passionate sound.

Overall Roots And Branches contains moments of genuine inspiration and passion combined with a wide emotional range. I hope that Robin will tour sometime in the future and include some of the tracks of this album in his set list.                 

01. Hound Dog  (J. Leiber & M. Stoller)
02. The Thrill Is Gone  (R. Hawkins & R. Darnell)
03. When I Heard Your Name (Robin Trower)
04. Little Red Rooster  (Willie Dixon)
05. I Believe to My Soul  (Ray Charles)
06. Shape of Things to Come  (Robin Trower)
07. That's Alright Mama  (Arthur "Big Boy" Crudup)
08. Save Your Love  (Robin Trower)
09. Born Under a Bad Sign  (W. Bell & Booker T. Jones)
10. Sheltered Moon  (Robin Trower)
11. See My Life  (Robin Trower)


Robin Trower: Guitars and Vocals
Livingstone Brown: Bass Guitar
Richard Watts: Bass Guitar and Vocals
Chris Taggart: Drums
Luke Smith: Keyboards
Paul Jones: Harmonica 


Saturday, June 08, 2013

Beth Hart & Jeff Beck perform "I'd Rather Go Blind" at the 35th Annual Kennedy Center Honors 2012 for Blues Legend Buddy Guy

Jeff Beck has been one of Beth Hart’s most ardent supporters for years and asked her to sing with him at the 35th Annual Kennedy Center Honors held in December 2012. They performed the Etta James classic “I’d Rather Go Blind” as part of a musical tribute to honour the blues legend, Buddy Guy. The recording speaks for itself. In fact, Beth's rendition of the song is indescribable.

This video from the concert is one of the greatest recordings of a female vocalist singing live I have experienced. The rapport between Beth, Jeff, the band, and the audience is close, immediate and emotional. If it doesn't bring a tear to your eye I would be surprised.


Tuesday, April 09, 2013

Robin Trower: 'A Touch of Magic' - Guitar Interactive Magazine (Issue 16) & New CD Release: "Roots And Branches"

The current issue of this free "online" magazine contains a great feature (pages 8-17) on Robin Trower's extensive and successful musical career, his legendary guitar style and tone and the release of Robin's new album Roots & Branches.  The two video clips include interviews with Robin regarding his guitar playing techniques, sound and Fulltone effects.

I hope to post a review of Roots And Branches in the near future. In the meantime, enjoy the magazine feature and if you have the album give it a good listen. It is evident that Robin has put a lot of energy, time, thought and soul into its production. A task easier said than done. 


Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Michael Schenker's "Temple of Rock" UK/Ireland Tour Dates - April/July 2013

Michael Schenker's current group goes under the banner 'Temple of Rock' and includes ex-Scorpions Herman Rarebell (drums) and Francis Buchholz (bass); Wayne Findlay (keyboards/guitar) and Doogie White (ex Rainbow/Yngwee Malmsteen) on vocals.

The 'Temple Of Rock 2013' concerts will include hits spanning Michael Schenker’s artistic career such as UFOs 'Rock Bottom' and 'Doctor Doctor' (I hope Michael includes a few more), MSGs 'Armed and Ready' and 'Into the Arena' ('Desert Song' would be great), and the Scorpions classics 'Another Piece of Meat' and 'Rock You like a Hurricane.' Songs from the Temple of Rock album (released in September 2011) will be included in the set. So expect 'Before the Devil Knows You´re Dead', 'Miss Claustrophobia' and 'Hanging On.'

I've read reviews disparaging the quality of some of the songs, vocals, and production on the Temple of Rock album. I believe that most of the tracks will stand the test of time. As will Michael's guitar riffs, strong song melodies, guitar solos and guitar tone. Michael's past continues to shine in his music. Catch him in performance while you can. The guy's a genius. A truly magnificent guitar player.

No Belfast date: Am I surprised? No. Just another in a long list of artists who play shows in the Irish Republic but don't include Northern Ireland in their tour schedule. 

Temple of Rock Tour Dates:

09 April - Stockton ARC  
10 April - Aberdeen The Lemon Tree
11 April - Edinburgh HMV Picture House
12 April - Newcastle O2 Academy
13 April - Holmfirth, Picturedrome
14 April - Warrington Parr Hall
16 April - Falmouth Princess Pavilion
17 April - Bristol O2 Academy
18 April - Salisbury City Hall  
19 April - Oxford O2 Academy
20 April - Nottingham Rock City
21 April - Norwich The Waterfront
22 April - Vicar Street , Dublin
31 May - O2 Shepherd's Bush Empire, London 
19 July - 53 Degrees, Preston 
20 July - The Robin 2, Bilston, Wolverhampton
27 July - Sheffield Plug, Matilda Street, Sheffield  

Monday, February 04, 2013

The Who to play the Odyssey Arena, Belfast on 10 June 2013 as part of UK Tour

It's welcome news that The Who are coming to Belfast as part of their UK/Ireland tour in June 2013. Most of the concert will concentrate on performing the album Quadrophenia - The Who’s 1973 rock opera - in its entirety. The music and songs reveal the wealth of musical ideas Pete Townsend was capable of producing that contain extraordinary vision, considerable emotional range, passion and sound. As usual, the rhythm section of Keith Moon and John Entwistle is excellent and Roger Daltrey's vocals are buoyant and flow with great intensity and dynamism. I believe the album contains some of Pete Townsend's most inspired, remarkable and original guitar playing.

I was fortunate to see The Who perform at the Isle of Wight Festival in 1970 in what proved to be one of their most iconic performances. The sound was amazing and their marathon set - which included 'My Generation', 'Summertime Blues', 'Pinball Wizard', 'Young Man Blues', Substitute', and excerpts from Tommy - was incredible.

It's impossible to capture on vinyl, CD, or DVD, the atmosphere, power and emotion that a 'bona fide' rock band create during a 'classic' performance. The Who, however, came close with the release of Live at Leeds in 1970. It remains one of the greatest recordings of a 'live' concert by a rock band. The playing throughout the 'vinyl' version of the performance is inspiring and the group reach tremendous heights which allow the music to speak for itself. Truly exceptional.

Pete Townsend and Roger Daltrey will be supported in Belfast by Scott Devours on drums, Pino Palladino on bass, Pete’s brother Simon Townshend on guitar, a trio of keyboard players, and a brass section.

Set List

I Am the Sea
The Real Me
Cut My Hair
The Punk and the Godfather
The One
The Dirty Job
Helpless Dancer
Is It In My Head?
I’ve Had Enough
Sea and Sand
Bell Boy
Doctor Jimmy
The Rock

Love, Reign O’er Me
Who Are You
Behind Blue Eyes
Pinball Wizard
Baba O’Riley 
Won’t Get Fooled Again
Tea & Theatre