Well, how is the most unsung guitar legend in rock history performing in his mid 60's ?
Pretty amazingly well IMHO.
You might think he stopped playing live long ago and now occasionally puts out a token studio album. If so, you couldn't be more wrong ! He's recently completed a tour of Europe and the UK prior to an exhaustive tour of the USA starting early next year. And he's been doing the same thing for the last few years ! Check out the double live RT@RO 08 cd and hear a master virtuoso at work.
For this latest album, in essence Trower uses his road band and they are one seriously tight unit, honed to perfection over many tours - I think a special mention is due here for Pete Thompson, who is a simply awesome drummer.
This is the first (band) album of new material since 'Living Out Of Time' released in 2004 and that album was an excellent collection of original songs. And previous to that, the next stand out album was 'Go My Way' circa 2000. So it seems that around every 5 years something a bit special is released. Well 2010 has followed that progression, 'The Playful Heart' for the most part is song writing and playing of the highest calibre. In fact, for me, the soloing on some tracks is right out of Trowers top drawer and that's saying something when you take into consideration his glory years of the mid 70's - Bridge of Sighs etc !
Firstly, the cd sounds fantastic (especially on high end ear phones or Hi-Fi) courtesy of long time Trower collaborator Livingston Brown taking care of production.
The cd couldn't start any better. The title track is a fabulous song, instantly memorable not least due to unusual chords and chord sequences that Trower creates effortlessly. He also comes up with quirky and thought provoking lyrics. Over the years his songwriting has developed to a level that is now very very impressive. Trower is now not only a master guitarist, he is a master composer. The second track `Don't Look Back' in fact is a look back to classic TrowerPower of the 70's with an absolutely steaming solo. Robin sings on this song and also on maybe half of all tracks. There is a lot of debate about his vocals. My view is that he sings OK and his vocals can be quite effective on some songs, but it's just that Davey Pattison is significantly better. No one will ever be as effective with Trowers material as the late, great James Dewar, notwithstanding that Jimmy was much more involved by way of playing bass and co-writing songs, but Davey does an excellent job with both new and old material. Just listening to him let rip on classics like `Day Of The Eagle' or `Shame The Devil' is a treat.
Other impressive songs are `Dressed in Gold' which contains echoes of Hendrix's `All Along The Watchtower', `Song For Those Who Fell' is an up tempo rocker, with another sensational solo. `Maybe I Can Be A Friend' is the stand out ballad with great vocals from Davey and a delicious, ethereal outro passage. This is matched by the second half of `The Turning', where Robin again displays his unique gifts of scintillating technique and a tone that hits you right in the heart and soul.
If you like guitar effects, Mr. Trower will not disappoint. He's developed these over the years to the extent that he now has them specially built to his specifications, whether it's overdrive, sustain, fuzz, wah or his signature deja-vibe / 'Bridge of Sighs' effect. All these in combination with his Signature series Fender Stratocaster create something very special and aurally spine tingling.
This album is growing on me as I listen to it more. Serious guitar based rock doesn't really get much better than this and I really hope Trower gets the rewards he deserves for such an impressive effort.
Please do yourself a favour and see this band live on stage before he calls it a day, you will not regret it !