Robin Trower returns with new album ‘Joyful Sky’ featuring Sari Schorr

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Album review by Phil M.

Here’s a name that really needs no introduction, but for those maybe a little younger than me that haven’t come across Trower – it’s time you got listening. Trower is a well-known exponent of the Fender Strat and his style inspired the likes of Robert Fripp to whom he gave lessons. In fact, Trower had given Fripp his ’57 Strat, but as Fripp was not using it insisted he have it back.

Trower was born in Catford in 1945 and joined Gary Brooker’s Procol Harum way back in 1967 and stayed with them until 1971 when he left to pursue his own career, feeling that “I had more ideas than they had room for”, finally forming the Robin Trower Band in 1973 with the late, great James Dewar on bass and vocals and Reg Isidore on drums.

Their first album release in 1973 was ‘Twice Removed from Yesterday’ which was followed by their amazing breakthrough ‘Bridge of Sighs’ (oddly named after a racehorse rather than the iconic Venetian bridge) in 1974. Isidore was replaced by long-time member Bill Lordan after their first two releases. It was through their ‘Robin Trower Live!’ album, recorded in Stockholm in 1975 which is right up there with the very best live albums of all time (in my humble opinion) that was never far from my turntable in the 70s. The sound and the energy of that live performance are nothing short of incredible.

Trower has never been one to rest on his laurels though and has continued to steadily release his own new music. His most recent issue features vocalist Sari Schorr who herself has already released three albums and worked with the likes of Warren Haynes, Walter Trout and Eric Burdon, so you can see how she’d readily fit with Trower’s style.

Both Schorr and Trower are managed by Alan Robinson of Manhaton Records who introduced the pair thinking they would work well together. Having traded demos online, the pair met at Studio 91 in Newbury, England to record the album – a mix of pre-existing songs rearranged for Schorr, and new numbers written from scratch. Despite initial nerves in the presence of the guitar legend, she felt that his songs “felt natural to me”. For Trower his writing usually starts with the guitar part and the vocal working around it, however, the approach here was different “I had to work the guitar up to the point where it suited Sari. So it was an interesting project” he tells us.

The album starts with the laid-back ‘Burn’ and immediately Trower’s trademark distortion and vibrato sound are in evidence. Schorr’s soulful vocals fit well with the slow, bluesy vibe of the track. The pace is picked up a little with ‘I’ll Be Moving On’ and Scorr’s vocals correspondingly notch up with a raspier style and she gets to show what great range she has. Hammond-style organ provides a good backdrop to Trower’s guitar sound.

‘The Distance’, about how far away it seems for Trower since he started playing, has a rockier feel to it, more of an edge to the guitar sound and great soloing. ‘Peace of Mind’ follows the telling of life as a touring musician, with a slow, heavy almost de-tuned feel to it and a classy wah-wah opening the closing solo. ‘Change It’ is about self-empowerment and is the closest that Trower gets to jazz and a commercial sound on this album.

The title track is up next, opening with a heavily distorted sound is about the need to remain positive “Don’t let your day in the sun pass you by”. ‘The Circle is Complete’ is the lengthiest and highlight of the album for me, starting with a riff harking back to ‘Day of the Eagle’ of his ‘Bridge of Sighs’ album, punchy drums and bass drive the track along until mid-way through when the tempo is taken down with soloing over a nice descending scale. “The outro was an instrumental I already had” Trower tells us, going on to say how he likes playing on the longer slower tracks.

‘Flatter to Deceive’ rages on the subject of popular culture where both Trower and Schorr hold similar views and the album closes out with the slower, almost anthemic ‘I Will Always Be Your Shelter’.

The album is representative of an artist still very much at the top of his game, and still willing to stretch himself with new collaborations. There is much here that existing Trower fans can relate to, his sound echoing down the years from his early solo albums. The soulful bluesy addition of Schorr’s vocals fits well with his style and adds a more contemporary feel to the album which should also appeal to new fans. The last words should go to Trower – “At my age, to still be doing it, and still turning out good stuff – you really appreciate what a blessing that is.”

Track Listing:

  1. Burn
  2. I’ll Be Moving On
  3. The Distance
  4. Peace of Mind
  5. Change It
  6. Joyful Sky
  7. Need For You
  8. The Circle Is Complete
  9. Flatter To Deceive
  10. I Will Always Be Your Shelter

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