Robin Trower has released over 20 solo studio albums since his onetime stint as guitarist for Procol Harum during the late-60s/early-70s. Now at the ripe old age of 71, he shows no signs of slowing down with his prolificacy as a both a recorded and touring artist. He's currently fulfilled duties as the former, with yet another new full-length record, 'Where You Are Going To', which seems like something of a rhetorical title considering the man's unstoppable urge to continue making music.
Prolific musicians are, of course, not necessarily always the best artists. Some succumb to a watered down output with an overabundance and incessant bombardment of material on their ready and waiting, dedicated fanbase and, all too often, new albums are discernibly hurried works of stagnant self-mimicry; lacking originality, new ideas or integrity. Trower might be prolific, but it must be remembered that his solo work now spans five decades, and this latest effort certainly isn't a watered down outing; at least in terms of quality. Originality? That's an entirely different question. 'Where You Are Going To' easily fits into established Trower idioms and songwriting paradigms, with an overwhelming sense of "more of the same". However, that's far from a criticism as I'm sure this will more than satisfy expectations of the man's established fanbase. And Trower indubitably invented some of the very clichés present here, so to accuse him of lack of originality would simply be deranged!
Music with certain stylistic sways is best digested in a particular context so as to fully appreciate and enjoy its aesthetic. 'Where You Are Going To' carries with it such a charmingly unchallenging, laidback vibe, that I'd wager many listeners will be able to hook onto its core, and relish its rewards, while supping a nice cup of tea. Coffee too? Maybe, but the ten cuts, for me, strike of lazy Sunday afternoon, cup-of-tea blues/rock. Nowt wrong with that either, as this album provides the perfect sonic accompaniment for all the blues-loving tea drinkers out there.
Performing all vocals, guitars and bass himself, alongside sticksman Chris Taggart, Trower's virtual artistic autonomy is impressive on 'Where You Are Going To'. The mild soulful sways and blues persuasions of his vocals have a kind of naturally calming and reassuring quality in their tone and delivery. And his singing works ever so well over the album's predominantly down-tempo, easy-going vibe. Likewise, the most delicate of touches and nuances in his warm-toned lead work has an undeniable soothing quality, and conveys all the refined experience of a man who's able to work his fretboard into profound expressions of his own emotional language.
The funked-up, rhythmic backbone that propels forth 'The Fruits of Your Desire' and the lesser funk infusions that flavour 'Ain't No Use To Worry' are welcome divergences in his, otherwise, blues dominated compositions, although the more up-tempo, rockier numbers are hit and miss in their success. 'In Too Deep' is, perhaps, the album's weakest track, where Trower doesn't seem to be playing to his strengths, either vocally, or with the rocked-up rhythm guitar that dominates the song. A moment of genuine poignancy is engendered by 'We Will Be Together Someday', one of two cuts Trower's dedicated to the memory of his late wife, and provides the album's most beautiful moment, instrumentally and vocally.
All in all, I'm sure that Trower enthusiasts will adore this latest album by the widely respected guitarist. For more casual listeners, like myself, it'll no doubt prove to be a more ambivalent listening experience where its minor shortfalls won't be digested through rose-tinted glasses.
WHERE YOU ARE GOING TO
Review by Mark Holmes
6th May 2016
1) When Will The Next Blow Fall
2) Where You Are Going To
3) Back Where You Belong
5) The Fruits of Your Desire
6) We Will Be Together Someday
7) Ain't No Use To Worry
8) In Too Deep
9) I'm Holding on to You
10) Delusion Sweet Delusion
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN:
"...lazy Sunday afternoon, cup-of-tea blues/rock."