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ARTWORK BY BEN UPHAM III
“TROWER BAND REBORN”
BY J.J. SYRJA
THE SEQUIN GAZETTE
JANUARY 19, 1978
Austin music listeners have always been discriminating, perpetually with an ear open for the unusual. When Robin Trower’s current disk, In City Dreams” (Chrysalis) placed a surprising sixth in KLBJ-FM’s 100 most-requested albums of 1977, it said something for a group often criticized for its Jimi Hendrix imitations.
Trower’s debut, “Twice Removed from Yesterday” and the sequel, the best selling “Bridge of Sighs”, offered little intrinsically original but with such an understanding of what Hendrix was about that critical panning became pointless.
A key review of one of Trower’s failures, 1976’s “Long Misty Days”, was by Rolling Stone’s Teri Morris, who noted that the band was imitating itself. A lot has happened for this combo since, and the rewards are apparent on “In City Dreams”.
Trower and singer James Dewar have composed their best material since “Daydream,” ex-Sly and the Family Stone bassist Rustee Allen has been added so that Dewar can concentrate on vocals, and soul producer Don Davis (“Disco Lady”) has contributed a silky, full-bodied sound that enhances all of the above developments.
With the exception of the trite “Little Girl,” the songs are loose and excellent, although they still rely largely on performance rather than
substance. “Somebody Calling” is an enticing opener, where the Trower band lightly high-steps through dance rhythms for two minutes before Dewar’s evocative singing enters the picture.
All through the record, Dewar combines the savvy of Bobby Blue Bland with the anguish of Gary Wright, without the latter’s whine.
Trower, of course, is a monster guitarist. He rips off a screeching, metallic solo on “Love’s Gonna Bring You Around” that rings with passion. He has matured so that his work behind Dewar rivals
Robbie Robertson’s subtler fills and patterns with Richard Manuel and Levon Helm of The Band. On “Bluebird,” Trower plays fuzz-free, wondrous lingering notes and the purity of Dewar’s delivery could be equated to that of the very finest of gospel vocalists.
Eland’s 1957 hit “Farther On Up the Road” has been covered in a rocking rampage by Eric Clapton; the version here successfully recalls the blackness and control of the original. Trower’s guitar chorus is congested, dramatic and intense, while Allen and drummer Bill Lordan lay down a flowing groove.
“In City Dreams” caps off this album in a trance, with Dewar’s shining performance and something Trower should do more often — integrate acoustic and electric guitars. The stylistic weavings here possess a world of depth, inspired but not lifted from Hendrix, one of the few truly creative rock musicians. “In City Dreams” is a refreshing venture and has put Robin Trower back on the track to realizing his full potential.
The singing of James Dewar on Trower’s LP owes lots to Bobby Blue Bland and other Rhythm and Blues innovators. It goes without saying that Dewar’s approach has been influenced by Ray Charles because an astounding amount of rock voices have continued to learn from this master in the last 20 years.
ROBIN TROWER DISCOGRAPHY:
1973 Twice Removed from Yesterday
1974 Bridge of Sighs
1975 For Earth Below
1976 Robin Trower Live
1976 Long Misty Days
1977 In City Dreams
1978 Caravan to Midnight
1979 Victims of the Fury
1981 B.L.T. (w/Bill Lordan & Jack Bruce)
1982 Truce (w/Bill Lordan & Jack Bruce)
1983 Back It Up
1985 Beyond the Mist
1988 Take What You Need
1990 In the Line of Fire
1994 20th Century Blues
1995 Live in Concert
1996 In Concert
1997 Someday Blues
1999 This Was Now ’74-’98 (Live)
2000 Go My Way
2004 Living Out of Time
2005 Living Out Of Time: Live (Note: Also available on DVD)
2005 Another Days Blues
2008 Robin Trower at Royal Oak ’08 (Live)
2008 Seven Moons (w/Jack Bruce)
2009 What Lies Beneath
2010 The Playful Heart
2013 Roots and Branches
2015 Somethings about to Change
2016 Where You are Going to