Following up his last work, 2001′s Go My Way, could hardly be easy for Robin Trower. That effort was his best album in 20 years.
On his latest, Trower ditched the band from Go My Way and brought in some of his ’80s cohorts, including journeyman vocalist Davey Pattison, who has worked with Ronnie Montrose and other familiar names.
Longtime fans may recall the ’80s were not a time of Trower’s best work; a few albums from that period were real stinkers. This new disc is better than those, but still lacks cohesion. It seems that for this live-in-the-studio effort, the idea was to focus on the songs and bring as much soulfulness as possible to the proceedings. Unfortunately, on many cuts it just doesn’t work.
The guitar work is economical and understated, the vocals lacking spirit, the rhythm section workman-like. But to dismiss the entire album would mean overlooking fine songwriting and the tightness and structure of the songs themselves. While most are slow- or medium-tempo, there are a few rockers and the trademark Trower Strat attack shows up. But this is much less a guitar-oriented album than his ’90s releases, and only on the final track, “I Want to Take You With Me,” does Trower really open up some solo work.
One thing that made his last couple of albums endearing was that Trower handled the vocals. Though limited in range, he managed to bring an earthy growl to those works and the simpler arrangements allowed for atmospheric guitar overdubs. Bringing in a pro like Pattison should have spiced things up, but he sounds drowsy and dozing through these tracks. One supposes there is a fine line between soulful and sleepy, and Pattison never seems to find the right energy level for his delivery.
Finally, the dry mix means little of the spacey Univibed/layered Trower sound many fans are accustomed to. In all, this is a solid set of 11 songs that, unfortunately, never quite take off.
This article originally appeared in VG‘s Jan. ’04 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.