Born: March 9, 1945 in London, England
Blues-rock guitarist Robin Trower, while usually not regarded in the same league with contemporaries like Eric Clapton and Jeff Beck, has nevertheless done as much as either artist in bringing an artistic vision of British blues to American audiences. While Trower's early solo work is undeniably influenced by the incendiary six-string pyrotechnics of Jimi Hendrix, during past couple of decades, Trower has pursued a decidedly bluesy slant with his playing, and he continues to perform and record to considerable acclaim well into his 60s.
The Paramounts & Procol Harum
As a teenager, Trower came to prominence as a member of British R&B band the Paramounts, which included both the guitarist and pianist Gary Brooker, among others. Performing a repertoire of classic soul and blues covers of artists like James Brown and Bobby Bland, and R&B-tinged originals, the band recorded a number of singles for the Parlophone label during the early-1960s. The Paramounts performed on British TV shows like Ready! Steady! Go! and Thank Your Lucky Stars, appearing with the Rolling Stones, who in turn called them "the best R&B group in England."
A lack of chart success forced the Paramounts to break up in 1966, however, and a year later Brooker would score a smash hit with Procol Harum and "A Whiter Shade of Pale." Since Procol Harum was really just a bunch of studio players, Brooker enlisted his former bandmate Trower to be the new band's guitarist. Trower spent almost five years with the band, lending his six-string talents to five Procol Harum albums, including 1968's Shine On Brightly and 1971's Broken Barricades, which were all hits in both the U.S. and the U.K.
Solo Days & Bridge of Sighs
Trower left Procol Harum in 1972 to launch a solo career, forming the Robin Trower Band with bassist/singer Jimmy Dewar and drummer Reg Isidore, who would later be replaced by Bill Lordan. Trower's solo debut, Twice Removed From Yesterday was released in 1973, the album acclaimed for its Hendrix-inspired mix of psychedelic-rock and blues. Trower's landmark Bridge Of Sighs would follow a year later, the album climbing to #7 on the Billboard magazine Top 200 chart and establishing the guitarist as a popular arena-rock headliner.
Trower would follow much the same blueprint as Bridge of Sighs for 1975's For Earth Below and 1976's Long Misty Days, and a subsequent live album, all of which earned Gold™ Album awards for sales in excess of half-a-million copies. With 1977's In City Dreams, Trower began to drift away from his trademark blues-based sound, taking on elements of funk and hard rock in an attempt to develop a more mainstream sound, a direction he'd follow with 1978's Caravan To Midnight and 1979's Victims of the Fury, with diminishing commercial success.
Jack Bruce & Robin Trower
In the early-1980s, Trower teamed up with former Cream bassist Jack Bruce for a pair of albums - 1981's B.L.T., which would slide into the upper reaches of the Billboard Top 40, and the equally impressive Truce in 1982, which would be vastly ignored by the record-buying public in spite of its energetic blend of rock, blues, and soul music. After the collaboration with Bruce, Trower would return to his solo career and throughout the rest of the 1980s he'd release a handful of mostly unremarkable albums, including 1985's live Beyond the Mist and 1987's Passion.
During the 1990s, Trower would split his time between a modest solo career, which yielded albums like 1990's In the Line of Fire, and outside projects like an ill-fated 1991 Procol Harum reunion that resulted in the meek Prodigal Strangers album. Some of Trower's best fretwork was delivered playing on Roxy Music frontman Bryan Ferry's solo albums, including 1993's U.K. hit Taxi and 1994's Mamouna, which he co-produced. Trower would return to the studio with his friend Ferry for the singer's 2007 Bob Dylan tribute album, Dylanesque, delivering a scorching solo on the classic "All Along The Watchtower."
Back To The Blues
With 1997's stellar Someday Blues, Trower cast aside his Hendrix tendencies in favor of a raw blues-rock sound patterned more towards Albert King's scorched-earth style of guitar. The album helped establish Trower as a blues-rock artist, with an emphasis on the blues side of the equation. Still, Trower would try rocking out again with 2000's Go My Way, the album's sound an unabashed return to the guitarist's early-70s salad days.
During the '00s, Trower would continue to balance blues and rock with journeyman efforts like 2004's Living Out Of Time and 2005's Another Days Blues earning the guitarist widespread critical acclaim for his passionate performances. Trower reunited with friend Jack Bruce in 2008 to record Seven Moons, a throwback to their early-1980s collaborations with plenty of riff-driven blues-rock.
The two musicians would tour in support of the album, their live performances well-received and resulting in 2009's Seven Moons Live, released on both CD and DVD. Trower would also release the solo What Lies Beneath album in 2009, the guitarist stepping in front of the microphone to sing his material for the first time.
Recommended Albums: Trower's Bridge of Sighs is undeniably the guitarist's best 1970s-era decade recording, although his debut, Twice Removed From Yesterday, is also worth hearing. What Lies Beneath may be the best of Trower's more blues-rock oriented efforts, while his 2008 collaboration with Jack Bruce, Seven Moons, stands up with the best of either man's work.
Robin Trower - Select Discography
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- Twice Removed From Yesterday (Chrysalis Records, 1973)
- Bridge of Sighs (Chrysalis Records, 1974)
- For Earth Below (Chrysalis Records, 1975)
- Robin Trower Live! (Chrysalis Records, 1976)
- Long Misty Days (Chrysalis Records, 1976)
- In City Dreams (Chrysalis Records, 1977)
- Caravan to Midnight (Chrysalis Records, 1978)
- Victims of the Fury (Chrysalis Records, 1979)
- B.L.T. w/Jack Bruce (Chrysalis Records, 1981)
- Truce w/Jack Bruce (Chrysalis Records, 1982)
- Back It Up (Chrysalis Records, 1983)
- Beyond The Mist (Passport Records, 1985)
- Passion (GNP Crescendo, 1987)
- Take What You Need (Atlantic Records, 1988)
- In the Line of Fire (Atlantic Records, 1990)
- 20th Century Blues (V-12 Records, 1994)
- BBC Live (Griffin Music, 1994)
- King Biscuit Flower Hour (In Concert) (King Biscuit, 1996)
- Someday Blues (V-12 Records, 1997)
- Go My Way (V-12 Records, 2000)
- Living Out Of Time (V-12 Records, 2004)
- Another Days Blues (V-12 Records, 2005)
- Seven Moons w/Jack Bruce (V-12 Records, 2008)
- What Lies Beneath (V-12 Records, 2009)
- Seven Moons Live w/Jack Bruce (Ruf Records, 2009)