Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Robin Trower Band

Robin Trower Band
by Pete Clemons

The fact that so much has been mentioned recently of the music from that period, I have
found myself listening to a lot of releases from 1967. And one of those songs on my playlist ‘Whiter Shade of Pale’ topped the singles chart that year for six weeks as well as scoring well in the U.S. It is indeed hard to believe that that song is now 50 years old. 

And listening to ‘Whiter Shade of Pale’ again led me to listening to several albums by Robin Trower who had been the guitarist on that Procol Harum hit. Robin was actually the guitarist on the first four Procol Harum albums but, while he had been developing his craft, he had been a huge student of BB King. And that led Robin to his next venture.

With Procol Harum, Robin had to work within a tight framework. And as time went on those limitations became more of an issue for him. No matter how good he was playing for Procol Harum it was against the tradition of the band for him to cut loose. So in July 1971 he made the brave decision to leave this successful band and go it alone.

After leaving Procol Harum, Robin formed the band Jude with Clive Bunker drummer and ex Jethro Tull, bass player James Dewar ex Stone the Crows and the then unknown Glaswegian singer Frankie Miller who had had relocated to London and had been discovered singing in pubs and clubs late 1971. However soon after it formation Clive Bunker left the band and Frankie Miller had begun gigging with Brinsley Schwarz. The Jude project aborted within months without leaving any recordings. But Robin and James Dewar had found a musical compatibility. Plus they had the material at hand for an album.

With James Dewar also taking on vocal duties Trower set about putting together a trio. And that first line up, formed early 1972, and would see the introduction of ex Quiver drummer Reg Isidore. With no gigs behind them, a debut album ‘Twice Removed from Yesterday’ was released early 1973 and it certainly delivered as James Dewar proved to be a more than capable vocalist.

The slow, relaxed blues style of the album along with extended guitar solos set the scene for future releases. The Robin Trower Band made an immediate impact particularly in the United States. The album also touched on the BB King influence, mentioned earlier, by way of including a version of ‘Rock Me Baby’. A second album ‘Bridge of Sighs’ released in 1974 solidified the bands popularity in the States as it gained considerable success over there.

During 1974 Reg Isidore left due to musical differences and was replaced by American drummer Bill Lordan who had formerly been a member of the Sly Stone Band and stayed with the Trower band until late 1987. Lordan debuted on the album ‘For Earth Below’ which was released early 1975. And with this release came, at last, real recognition in the U.K. as the album appeared in the top 20. By now The Robin Trower band were pulling audiences of 50,000 plus in American stadiums. A live album followed during 1976, again charting in the U.K. And yet again though, both this album and ‘For Earth Below’ proved to be hugely popular in the U.S.

The trio of Trower, Dewar and Lordan would essentially stay together through to the early 1980s completing several albums such as the Long Misty Days and In City Dreams. Although during this period the band were also augmented by American bass player Rustee Allen, who brought with him the element of funk.

And this added element possibly also played a part in the much lauded formation of Bruce, Lordan and Trower during the early 1980s. These early 80s albums with this line-up marked a change in style, as Trower was now working alongside Jack Bruce on bass and vocals. The resulting music was punchier and a bit less emphasis on soloing. Bruce said at the time ‘I've always had an affinity with what Robin does so there was common ground’.

Their debut album titled ‘BLT’ was advertised as follows ‘Robin Trower and Jack Bruce, two of the most talented and influential musicians of the seventies, together for the first time on one album. The L.P. captures the excitement that is their music for the eighties’. As good as the album was, the times were changing, and the eighties brought with it a whole new music scene which, for a while, eclipsed all that went on during the 1970s.

Robin Trower and Jack Bruce would collaborate again. This time, on the Seven Moons project released during 2008. With Trower’s guitar work and Bruce’s improvisational skills it is a pity we never heard more from them as they were a formidable pairing. Jazz rock drummer Gary Husband completed yet another trio for the live in the studio sessions. Again these were highly enjoyable releases.

Now in his 70s Robin Trower is still active and continues to thrill with his touring and the releasing of occasional albums. Having said that, I recently read that Robin had been ill but not in a debilitating way and recently cancelled a tour. His gigs in the UK though are, nowadays, few and far between but still well worth the effort of getting up and getting out to if you get the chance. It’s not often you get the chance to hear someone live who once gave Robert Fripp a few lessons in the art of bending notes.

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