3 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Simply one of the best "live" DVDs ever made,
This review is from: Robin Trower: Living Out Of Time [DVD] (DVD)
Trower a Hendrix clone? Are you kidding? Just look at me, I'm crazy about Trower's music and I don't even like Jimi Hendrix! Yes, he was a great innovator but let's face it, the guy couldn't sing, he never realized what it means to be part of a band, and he wrote songs that were calling out for much bigger arrangements than a guitar trio.
So here's my private version of history for you: When Hendrix died, Robin Trower picked up the mantel and perfected this new style of electric guitar playing. He didn't have Hendrix's raw bite and aggression, but he made sure to have a truly superb singer in the late great Jimmy Dewar and a superb producer, and he started his solo career after leaving Procol Harum by making two fantastic albums. Then, admittedly, things gradually deteriorated. Bill Lordan, who replaced original drummer Reg Isadore, was never my favourite Trower musician, sounding as if he was constantly trying to slow down the pace. The album "In City Dreams" stood out, but it really isn't until this DVD that Rob the Tower, now 60 years old, reaches his full potential. This live set is nothing short of stunning, captivating, super soulful, with perfect vocals from Davy Pattison and a truly fine rhythm section. The songs are well-chosen, mainly taken from the earliest and latest part of the immense repertiore, and stretching from straight blues to some more experimentive tones. Wonderful music, wonderful playing.
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Showing 1-10 of 11 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 2 Jun 2012 04:31:17 BDT
My first exposure to RT was the Live album from circa 75. After hearing the first track Too Rolling Stoned I thought, bloody hell this guy sounds more like Hendrix than Jimi does! A strange idea I know but in essence I was sensing that Robin had encapsulated certain aspects of Jimi's style and distilled them extremely well. I love that album and some of the key tracks from that album are also on this DVD.
There aren't many musicians that I would attribute the tag genius to and Jimi is one of a handful including Miles Davis. Hendrix is remarkably influential and I can name at least 3 world class guitarists that owe a large debt to him and the other two are Stevie Ray Vaughan and John Mayer.
Music is ultimately a totally subjective experience so my opinion is no more or less valid than anyone else's. So enjoy this DVD but if you like this I urge you to also check out Hendrix and Stevie Ray Vaughan DVDs as the odds are you will also like them.
In reply to an earlier post on 2 Jun 2012 11:59:03 BDT
Last edited by the author on 2 Jun 2012 12:02:24 BDT
There is no doubt that Hendrix, from a purely guitar technical point of view, was an extremely talented, original and influential force. However, there are a number of factors that puts me off listening to him. First and foremost, he had no idea of what it entailed to play in a band. He might as well have been alone on stage or in the studio because he had no regard whatsoever for what the other players were doing, did not listen to them at all and try fit himself into to a larger musical web, which of course is one of the most fundamental basics of playing in a group. As a musician, he was a complete egotist who founded a whole school of lesser talented but equally loud and egotistic guitar players, much to the aural suffering of players of other instruments and audiences alike. Combine this with his pretty aggressive and piercing style of playing and it seems quite ironical that this former sergeant in the Marine Corps became such an icon for the hippie generation. Secondly, Hendrix was a terrible, terrible singer that should never have been let near a microphone. Thirdly, he wrote songs that called out for a larger group than the trio format he mostly used.
In my opinion, Robin Trower took the best parts of what Hendrix did and threw the rest away, which also seems to be what you're partly saying. He respects his fellow musicians and gives them space, he uses some of the best vocalists around and is actually not a bad singer himself, and his arrangements suit the material to a tee. He hasn't got the same ease and flow as Hendrix had, but in some regards he is just as innovative. Just listen to the album "In City Dreams", where Trower invents a whole new approach to the guitar, clearly a forerunner to what Andy Summers did in the Police a few years later and nowadays an established style of playing - for which Trower has never received the credit he deserves (not that he cares about such things).
In my opinion, Hendrix's role in modern popular music pretty much equals the role Berlioz had in classical music. He was a path breaker and an innovator who inspired others and led them on to bigger and better things.
In reply to an earlier post on 2 Jun 2012 18:57:49 BDT
I don't have `In City Dreams' but am curious to hear it after what you said; the only early studio album that I have is `For Earth Below'.
I'm wondering if the `Hendrix clone' tag seriously bugs you as you spent a lot of time disparaging him. Hendrix was limited by the trio format but for me he created a large and variable soundscape within that context compared to contemporaries Cream.
My take on Trower is that without Hendrix's influence he would be a completely different musician. That doesn't make him a clone but someone not afraid to wear his influences on his sleeve. So I could place RT's music as a sideways offshoot of Hendrix's style. Ultimately it's not important how we label things but that we enjoy the music and I still get a lot of pleasure from Live (75) and also enjoy the opportunity to see him playing in concert on this DVD.
I don't listen to much guitar focussed rock music these days but when I do RT Live is an obvious choice.
Curious to know a bit more about the style that you described on `In City Dreams' and the link to Andy Summers which intrigues me.
In reply to an earlier post on 2 Jun 2012 21:08:37 BDT
"the only early studio album that I have is `For Earth Below'"
That is probably the weakest of the three first Robin Trower albums, all produced by Matthew Fisher who was also supposed to produce a live album. Instead, the group went for a recording made by Swedish Radio.
I interviewed Robin Trower in 1983. At that point he named "Bridge of Sighs" as the absolute favourite among his own LPs. He also agreed with me that "In City Dreams" predicts a lot of things that Andy Summers would do later on, employing unusual, open string chords etc. to create big, open soundscapes. Incidentally, both players were experienced British R&B guitarists who had been going since the early 1960s.
"My take on Trower is that without Hendrix's influence he would be a completely different musician."
Technically, I would agree, although Trower often breaks away from his Hendrix influences completely. Apart from that, the important thing to Robin Trower is to get the feel right, and his feel is different from Hendrix's. It was largely developed around 1969 when he was still with Procol Harum and heard Jimi Hendrix for the first time (Procol had gigged with Hendrix in 1967, but that was when Ray Royer was still their guitarist). Hendrix is, unsurprisingly, more comfortable with his own style and it comes more natural to him, and Trower has to work a bit harder at it and rely more his fellow players, but in my opinion he turns this drawback into an advantage.
"I'm wondering if the `Hendrix clone' tag seriously bugs you as you spent a lot of time disparaging him."
Not at all. I'm just trying to place Hendrix where he truly belongs in musical history and in relation to Robin Trower.
"I don't listen to much guitar focussed rock music these days but when I do RT Live is an obvious choice."
I agree, it's an outstanding performance and you can see how much Trower is enjoying it, too. He used to play huge stadiums in the US in the mid 1970s but seems more comfortable with a smaller audience.
In reply to an earlier post on 3 Jun 2012 00:33:42 BDT
I listened to `For Earth Below' earlier today and it didn't grab me. I'm more of a one album guy with RT and my tastes have changed a lot since I was a teenager so I'm unlikely to add more to my collection. I am though a bit curious about the albums with Jack Bruce. I was fortunate to hear Bruce playing with McLaughlin, Cobham & Goldberg back in the day and that was some show.
As for the Andy Summers connection I remember enjoying his playing with The Police (caught them live also) which was sophisticated compared to the typical guitarists around at the time. By that I mean the contemporary bands that they were lumped in with even though they weren't typical New Wave players; I recall AS played with Neil Sedaka's touring band which is hardly bona fide punk credentials. :)
Because of my limited exposure to RT's work I find it hard to see this connection as his style seems quite narrow compared to what I have heard from AS. It's dangerous to extrapolate too much about an artist when you've only heard 3 full albums and some bits and pieces but human nature being what it is it's hard not to.
Regarding the Hendrix connection it did appear to me to be a negative thing to start your review of this DVD (which is playing right now) with a paragraph that focussed mainly on criticising Hendrix. I can appreciate that you wanted to dispel the `clone' idea but did you need to be so defensive?
I read a few of your other reviews and noticed that you made other more personal criticisms of Hendrix which made me think you have a bee in your bonnet. I'm not sure the relevance of mentioning that JH was in the paratroopers in a disparaging way! You obviously don't like JH's music but does it add to the discussion on RT to share your dislike of JH so fervently?
RT is a master guitarist and I love the subtle nuances and tones he coaxes from his Strat. He may be slightly derivative but he ultimately owns the style he has created and I really enjoy it. That's good enough for me.
In reply to an earlier post on 3 Jun 2012 11:30:02 BDT
Last edited by the author on 3 Jun 2012 11:32:22 BDT
Jimi Hendrix wasn't a marine, I was wrong about that. He was in the 101 Airborne, and apparently not entirely by his own choice. It also seems that I was wrong about his being an NCO. I apologise for that. My point, however, was that there is a fierceness and aggression in his delivery that sits badly alongside his status as a hippie icon. That isn't meant as a criticism, just an observation of one point where his approach differs from Robin Trower's.
I apparently have to say again that I have a lot of respect for Hendrix as a musician, composer and musical path breaker. Comparing him with Berlioz, the man who supposedly "invented" the classical romantic style of the late 19th Century, is hardly to put him down. I don't recall mentioning Hendrix in other reviews than the one we are discussing here, but perhaps I have. I do find his status overrated in SOME respects, or rather I find that his problematic sides are too often ignored due to an iconoclastic status that even existed in his lifetime and which puzzled me even then. A guy with a guitar does stupid things stage, tries to use his tongue as a plectrum (didn't really work, did it), tries to play with the guitar held up behind his neck (not particularly smart either), pretends to rape his instrument, and then pours lighter fuel on it and sets fire to it - and the audience goes bananas. And yes, I am fed up with people writing Robin Trower off as a Hendrix clone because they don't try to open up and listen TO THE MUSIC, so I have been trying to address that. But I know that Trower himself doesn't give two hoots about these matters so perhaps I should leave them also.
With regard to Trower's versatility you are right, it is impossible to discuss with someone who only has a very limited knowledge of his 50 year career as a recording artist.
In reply to an earlier post on 3 Jun 2012 14:02:51 BDT
My exposure to RT is mainly limited to material from the mid 70s (75/76) and circa the Living out of Time albums (~2005). Both periods seem similar stylistically so I'm wondering if you can recommend albums that offer different aspects of his style?
Hendrix the icon is separate from Hendrix the musician and as a music lover I prefer to focus on the music rather than the other stuff.
"My point, however, was that there is a fierceness and aggression in his delivery that sits badly alongside his status as a hippie icon."
He had that side to him but he also wrote songs like Little Wing, Angel, Drifting and many others that showed his gentler side. He also wrote songs such as Message to Love and Power of Soul which talk straight to the heart of Hippy ideals. He was definitely a man of shadow and light butcan't see why that would exclude him from being a hippy icon! But ultimately it has nothing to do with the music.
" apparently have to say again that I have a lot of respect for Hendrix as a musician, composer and musical path breaker."
"the guy couldn't sing"
"Hendrix was a terrible, terrible singer that should never have been let near a microphone."
"He never realized what it means to be part of a band"
"As a musician, he was a complete egotist"
"He might as well have been alone on stage or in the studio because he had no regard whatsoever for what the other players were doing, did not listen to them at all"
"he wrote songs that were calling out for much bigger arrangements than a guitar trio."
"A guy with a guitar does stupid things stage, tries to use his tongue as a plectrum (didn't really work, did it), tries to play with the guitar held up behind his neck (not particularly smart either), pretends to rape his instrument, and then pours lighter fuel on it and sets fire to it - and the audience goes bananas."
Wow, if that's what you have to say about people you have a lot of respect for I'm almost scared to hear what you have to say about people you don't respect.
"But I know that Trower himself doesn't give two hoots about these matters so perhaps I should leave them also."
I agree as I don't think it adds anything to our appreciation of RT and also I don't think it shows you in a good light. I see RT is touring quite a lot this year and playing near me in September so I hope to catch him for the first time; just missed him about 4 years ago when he was playing locally as I was away that week.
In reply to an earlier post on 3 Jun 2012 14:36:35 BDT
Last edited by the author on 3 Jun 2012 14:40:38 BDT
"Wow, if that's what you have to say about people you have a lot of respect for I'm almost scared to hear what you have to say about people you don't respect."
Perhaps if you didn't deliberately condense my main two or three points of criticism, worded in various ways, leaving out the positive things I've said about the man, you wouldn't have to be so scared.
"Both periods seem similar stylistically so I'm wondering if you can recommend albums that offer different aspects of his style?"
Anything before his first four solo albums and a lot of the stuff after them. However, the "Living out of Time" DVD includes a lot of material from the first solo LPs, which is why you sense a strong Hendrix influence on them as well. Still, there is a song in the live set he sings himself which is completely different. I'm not sure which album it is taken from and I don't even know what to call the style. Sounds a bit like 1980s post punk, I suppose. I don't normally really like that style, but once again Trower takes what's good about it and leaves out the rest, at least according to my taste buds.
In reply to an earlier post on 3 Jun 2012 14:46:44 BDT
Is there a particular album that you'd recommend? Just realised that I have `Seven Moons' on my Nokia Music folder so will start there.
In reply to an earlier post on 3 Jun 2012 15:23:26 BDT
"In City Dreams" I will recommend. It was followed up by "Caravan to Midnight", a bit in the same style. "Victims of the Fury", with some lyrics by Keith Reid, is also interesting and more earthy. "Take what you need" has an Eighties sound and is the first album with Davey Pattison on vocals. You could also take the other route chronologically and go back to Procol Harum or even the Paramounts for a more Sixties based R&B sound. Some of the later studio albums have been pure blues with a Hammond included, such as the album "Someday Blues". All good stuff. However, his best album is probably still "Bridge of Sighs", but that is heavily influenced by Hendrix.