Friday, January 23, 2015

Robin Trower - Something's About To Change - Trower's Sermon On Soulful Blues

Robin Trower
Something's About To Change
Manhaton/V12 Records
March 9, 2015

Is it my imagination, or is Robin Trower really getting better with every new record? His last outing, 2013's Roots And Branches was a super solid sender, but there's something about Something's About To Change that rings much more true, more direct, and more to the point. It is also a great sounding record - I've been on a tear about record production of late, and this is how it should be done.

This is truly a Robin Trower solo record - he not only masterfully wields his signature Fender  Stratocasters (which have never sounded better), but he's also supplying soulful fatback bass, and singing in a style and fashion that must certainly have his old pal Jack Bruce smiling down upon him from the cosmos. He's joined by Luke Smith on a very sultry Hammond organ, Chris Taggart's tasty drum work, and longtime producer Livingston Brown, but as picture perfect as their support is, this is all about Trower, who has long since graduated from being touted as a Hendrixian dietary replacement when he exploded on the six string scene in the early seventies to being the UK's senior king of the blues. He's never stood out this far, writing, singing, and playing wise, but it serves him very well, for this well runs deep.

There's not a single fast paced rock track on this album - you'll get no 'Day Of The Eagle', and there's little that leans towards the psychedelia that colored Trower's earth shaking Bridge Of Sighs album that had audiences around the world so enraptured back in 1974. This is a soulful, soulful slow blues album - maybe as good an example as you could hope to find, and as Robin will be seventy years old when this album sees its release, I think it's only appropriate. That's not to say that it lacks in any fashion - you can hear the beauty of every supple note bend, and his guitar tone has never been better - every wannabe blues rock kid should sit down with this album and get schooled, because this is the blues.

The most beautiful surprise is Trower's singing - his understated delivery and meditative recitation of his own lyrics are the work of someone who knows exactly what they want from any given song. He's not looking to do anything but deliver the message, and his many years of soaking up some of the most soulful Scottish singers on the planet (James Dewar, Jack Bruce, Davey Pattison) has served him well, and he's sounding as sincere as any blues man has ever sounded. This platter drips with syrupy, thick soul from every corner, and I love the fact that someone is walking that walk in 2015. This is one of the best British blues albums since Peter Green made his mark with Fleetwood Mac.

There is a sincerity and honesty about this project that can't be denied - how many times have you seen a guitar player put out their "blues record", only to find that it's a boring rehash of pentatonic licks over the same old tired I-IV-V changes with a static rhythm section, and little else? Trower's overpowering sense of soul never even allows the suggestion of such a possibility on this album, and he manages to keep twelve tracks engaging, and impassioned, a feat that seems too difficult for players with less mileage under the hood.

Robin Trower's guitar playing is most generally the focus of his work, so let's talk about that. The best guitarists I know continually come back to Trower when they talk about guys they just can't get over - their amazement at his ability to make real what others just play at seems to always astound them. On Something's About To Change you will be amazed by the guitar's ability to keep drawing you into the song, and forcing you to focus on the singing while still blowing your mind with its vibrancy and force. Tower's tone is huge, and he always manages to mix in just the right amount of time-based effects and sweetening to maintain your interest.

I'm not going to bother with a track by track dissertation on this one - reason being, that wherever you drop the needle on this album it is going to be the sweet spot. Every track is a part of the greater whole, and Something's About To Change is certainly on of the best of Trower's long and distinguished career, and I would highly recommend you buy it, and enjoy many long evenings in its company. If you're a guitar player, I would call this essential listening.

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