Rick Galusha's Pacific St. Blues and Americana

Since inception (1989), Pacific St. Blues & Americana strives to be a discerning voice helping roots fans sift through the mountains of music released every year. We are not for everyone; we want to engage active, critical listeners that hear beyond d'jour. Interviews include: Johnny Winter, Bill Wyman (Rolling Stones), Jerry Wexler, Tommy Shannon & Chris Layton, B.B. King, Dr. John, Robin Trower, Robben Ford, Mato Nanji, Joe Bonamassa, Harry Manx, Sue Foley, Marshall Chess, Billy Lee Riley, Charlie Louvin, Kim Richey, Radney Foster, Eric Johnson, David Clayton Thomas, Al Kooper, Phil Chen (Wired, Blow By Blow), Ian McLagan, Art Neville, Southside Johnny, Miami Steve Van Zant, Nils Lofgren, Bruce Iglauer, Charlie Musselwhite, Studebaker John, Chris Duarte, Smokin' Joe Kubeck, Hamilton Loomis, Peter Karp, Roomful of Blues, James Harman, Hadden Sayers, Malford Milligan, Melvin Taylor, Otis Taylor, Dave Alvin, Coco Montoya, Jimmy Thackery, Marsha Ball, Maria Muldaur, Shelby Lynne, Magic Dick & J. Geils, Lil' Milton, BuddyGuy, Aynsley Lister, Matt Schofield, Susan Tedeschi, Derek Trucks, Guy Clark, Joe Ely, James Cotton, Robin & Jesse Davey, Hugh Coltman (Hoax), Sean Kelly (Samples), John Entwistle (The Who), Mark Olson (Jayhawks), Walter Wolfman Washington, Anthony Gomes, Bob Malone, Chubby Carrier, Buckwheat Zydeco, Murali Coryell, David Jacob Strain, DeAnna Bogart, Michael Lee Firkins, Guy Davis, Jason Ricci, John Doe, Little Feat, Matt Woods, MikeZito, Peter Buffett, Ronnie Baker Brooks, Corky Siegel, Todd Park Mohr, Watermelon Slim, Magic Slim, Corey Harris,- - - - - - ------------------------Radio archives: http://www.kiwrblues.podomatic.com/. Playlists: http://www.omahablues.com/ Reviews featured in http://www.blueswax.com/. Email: KIWRblues@gmail.com Live online; Sundays 9 a.m. (-6 GMT) http://www.897theriver.com/

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Album Review: Robin Trower, The Playful Heart

Artist: Robin Trower
Title: the playful heart

By the time Jimi Hendrix got done with the blues – there was a whole new branch in the artform. Yes, he honored the past but he is as significant to contemporary blues as Muddy Waters was to the ‘electric blues.’ With the advent of Hendrix’s influence the door was open to “rock” players using blues textures to emote beyond three chords and a cloud of dust. When the gates finally fell, the hackneyed as well as the credible came in: as it is with all artforms. Since his well received 1974 release, ‘Bridge of Signs’ Britain’s Robin Trower has struggled to focus his interpretation of Jimi’s muse against an unfriendly field of music critics. While there have been peaks over the past 37 years – much of the catalogue is resigned to an adamant niche of disciples. The sense that greatness is within reach resides on many of Trower’s outings is a scab that lingers; unitchable and annoying.

With the release of ‘the playful heart’ former Procol Harem (Lighter Shade of Pale) member Robin Trower has arrived with the finest release of his career.

In 1974, as a 14 year I began my official life long dalliance with Trower’s career by taking the Greyhound to attend his concert in Lincoln, Nebraska. Unrecognized until recently, Tommy Bolin’s edition of the band Moxy opened the show. And like a fetid marriage – the love affair with Trower’s music was arduous, hopeful and frustrating. When vocalist (and original bass player) Jimmy Dewer left the band there were many times when it was more out of routine allegiance than affection that the romance continued…

On the first listen of, ‘Find Me’ to realize that it is that rare, perfect, moment when an artist fully realizes his muse and is able to share it.

Trower’s guitar playing has been consistent; under-playing and highly textured. However the vocals for the band have been its weakest link. When Davey Pattison joined Trower as a vocalist, the magic was back. ‘The Playful Heart’ was recorded with his touring band: vocalist Pattison, drummer Pete Thompson and bassist Glenn Letsch. The album was produced by Livingston Brown (Tina Turner, Bryan Ferry and Sting).

‘The Playful Heart’ is a balanced album where vocals, song writing, performances and arrangements fit together with a synergy that has been missing. Programmers will find that the fifth track, ‘Find Me’ opens up the album. It is a languid tune where the band slips into a groove that allows Trower’s guitar playing to arc and bend above the lyric lines. ‘The Tuning’ is a high energy echo of ‘Too Rolling Stoned.’ The use of whispers in the chorus gives a haunted feel much as it did for The Doors song, ‘Riders on the Storm.’ Like ‘Too Rolling Stoned,’ ‘The Turning’ slows tempo at the three minute mark giving the listener a sense of a panoramic soundscape. Other strong songs include a rockin’, ‘Song for Those While Fell’ and the ballad, ‘Maybe I Can Be a Friend.’ And while I would not say it is jazz, the ninth track, ‘Camille’ uses jazz chords and a light touch to give a late night, candle-lit lounge feel.

Whether an established bluesrock fans that missed Trower’s ‘70’s heyday, or a former fan, this is an excellent album that you will find comfortable and familiar. For die-hard blues purists, unless you choose to follow the thread from Albert King to Jimi Hendrix and beyond, this is probably not an album you will enjoy. For existing fans, this album justifies Trower’s persistence. It is his second “great” record. Young listeners repeatedly demonstrate a fondness for the ‘60’s golden period of Rock, this album cements that bridge between the bygone era of “rock stars” to contemporary electric blues.