Last year I met Robin Trower. Okay, it was brief. Well, very brief actually. He had just roasted an appreciative French audience into awestruck admiration with a set that included many of his best known tracks from the days when he could fill huge arenas.
Despite the obvious effort that such a performance demands, he very kindly agreed for me to go backstage. There had clearly been a problem with the sound, not that I had noticed. As a result, my intended opening of “what do you think of my new local venue then?” seemed horribly out of place.
It is this determined pursuit for perfection that helped make Robin Trower one of the great guitar heroes of all time. As if to underline this observation, his latest studio album What Lies Beneath is living testament to his whole approach to his art. He is meticulous, often demanding the near impossible from himself as he pushes his playing to ever higher levels.
Yet somehow, despite spending several months locked away in a Surrey studio, the album still has a live energy and vibrant surge of instant electricity flowing through it. In short, and as corny as it sounds, this album is real. It is genuine, and because of that it has an air of undisputed authority to it.
The next statement will make reading any further somewhat academic. This album is by far and away his greatest achievement since those halcyon days during which he released For Earth Below, Twice Removed From Yesterday, Bridge Of Sighs, and Long Misty Days.
This is an album that oozes that old fashioned word, ‘craftsmanship’. Just as with all those crafts that seem to be rapidly dying out, Robin has successfully shown just what this type of approach can produce. There are many lessons here and they are delivered by a true master who, whilst being aware of his own legacy, has produced a timeless album of eleven mesmerizing tracks.
At his peak, the vocals in the Robin Trower Band were superbly handled by the late, great James Dewar. Such a voice is always going to be hard act to follow. Davey Patterson has been done a fine job of late, but on What Lies Beneath Robin’s own vocals have an air of calm authority that is perfectly suited to the tangibly thick, smoky atmosphere of this wonderful album.