Friday, March 29, 2019

Album Review: Robin Trower - Coming Closer To The Day

The last few years have seen Robin Trower in a particularly productive mood: this new record is his seventh studio album in under ten years. It would be tempting to impart the surge in his output on the realisation that it is, indeed, Coming Closer To The Day as the title says but no symbolism in the title or elsewhere in the record can explain the staggering quality of this late-career boom.

Not that the former Procol Harum guitarist has ever put out terrible material, but albums like Somthing's About To Change, Time And Emotion and this latest one are much better than they have a right to be. In fact they are nearly as good as classics like Twice Removed From Yesterday, Bridge Of Sighs and For Earth Below. Nearly, but not quite for one main reason: bass player and vocalist Jimmy Dewar has been dead for almost two decades now, and his warm, soulful voice is a much-missed ingredient.

Not that Mr. Trower's voice is bad, but it's pretty limited and never goes beyond a pleasant conversational growl. Thankfully, that style fits the material very well and it's understandable that Robin Trower would want to claim the spotlight, especially since the personal nature of these songs would especially resonate with him. In fact, he also plays the bass on the record but despite the overdubs the product never feels like a studio construct: it sounds warm, organic and analog.

The real star of course is Robin Trower's guitar playing, which is as strong as it ever was. Out of the thousands of Heirs of Hendrix, he's the one that feels the most complete. Stevie Ray had the blues part down and Eddie Hazel brought the funk but RT has it all, with an authentic sixties/seventies psychedelic edge that only he can legitimately add to the alchemy.

Most of the material is mid-tempo, but even within this confines feel quite varied: Truth Or Lies is a rather funky tune, Little Girl Blue is a slow blues number, The Perfect Wrong is a heavy track in the vein of Cream and Don't Ever Change is one of those delicate soul ballads like Hendrix used to write when he was in a Curtis Mayfield mood.

It's a pleasure to hear that warm guitar tone and familiar phrasing, and it's an even greater pleasure to hear it on such strong material. The world is full of disciples of Jimi, but Robin Trower is unique: he's an original.

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