Robin Trower: Compendium 1987-2013

Second-half career highlights from a true British electric guitar figurehead.

Robin Trower: Compendium 1987-2013

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He’s seldom sought the bright lights, but it’s a crime how rarely Robin Trower has had his name above the titles in such a distinguished and lengthy career as a guitar shaman.

Aside from a 1976 live album which reached the Top 20, his solo records haven’t made much of a mark in the UK. Whereas in the US, the Procol Harum man’s superior axemanship has received greater recognition, benefiting from the rock radio infrastructure. His chart career there has extended over 15 years, through the 70s and 80s, with four gold albums.

Even that run was just about at an end at the point where this welcome new double-disc compilation kicks in. The 35 tracks here are drawn from no fewer than 11 albums, starting with 1987’s Passion. It’s a word that snugly fits his relationship with the trusty Stratocaster he fell in love with when Jethro Tull’s Martin Barre invited him to play his spare, as the sleevenotes tell us. That album continued Trower’s proven formula of robust, riff-replete, FM radio-ready rock nuggets with guest vocalists, in this case Scotsman Davey Pattison. His soulful tones and Robin’s mellifluous leads put them squarely in easily accessible, Paul Rodgers/Bad Company territory.

In a non-chronological selection that nevertheless flows pleasingly, high spots include four tracks from Seven Moons, the 2008 collaboration with Jack Bruce, who delivers muscular, ever-distinctive vocals on their co-writes such as The Last Door and Seven Moons itself. Last year’s Roots And Branches offers the new and the old, with Trower’s own composition See My Life and a version of The Thrill Is Gone that’s as comfortable as a favourite old suit. The tactic had earlier worked when he tackled Crossroads on 2005’s Another Day’s Blues, but he’s been equally adept at subtly updating his style, as on the slinky Not Inside – Outside, from 2010’s The Playful Heart.

The power trio format he favoured would always draw inevitable comparisons, but Trower’s playing had a certain likeable economy about it that eschewed the look-at-me pyrotechnics of other frontmen. Throughout this anthology, he sounds like a guy who simply enjoys going to the office, as he continues to do. More power to him.

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Paul Sexton

Prog Magazine contributor Paul Sexton is a London-based journalist, broadcaster and author who started writing for the national UK music press while still at school in 1977. He has written for all of the British quality press, most regularly for The Times and Sunday Times, as well as for Radio Times, Billboard, Music Week and many others. Sexton has made countless documentaries and shows for BBC Radio 2 and inflight programming for such airlines as Virgin Atlantic and Cathay Pacific. He contributes to Universal's uDiscoverMusic site and has compiled numerous sleeve notes for the Rolling Stones, Eric Clapton and other major artists. He is the author of Prince: A Portrait of the Artist in Memories & Memorabilia and, in rare moments away from music, supports his local Sutton United FC and, inexplicably, Crewe Alexandra FC.