REVIEW: Robin Trower – No More Worlds to Conquer

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Robin Trower is an English blues guitarist known for his work with the vintage prog posse, PROCOL HARUM, in the late 1960s and then again for his ensuing solo work – especially his 1974 flagship album “Bridge of Sighs.” The title track has been covered the world over, even by a band as unforeseen as the Swedish juggernaut of progressive death metal, OPETH, on their 2008 outing “Watershed.” Trower also used to give guitar lessons, among other things, to one English gentleman named Robert Fripp of KING CRIMSON back in the day. So, all things considered, when I heard that we are going to be blessed with a new studio album by this legend, to put it in vernacular terms, I knew shit was about to get real. At the age of 76, Trower is releasing a new full-length titled “No More Worlds to Conquer.” It is due out on April 29th, 2022, via Provogue/Mascot Label Group. After a few spins, it is easy to see that the elder-statesman songwriter is still crackling with invention. If you have a soft spot for lyrical, blues-tinted, and nonchalant guitarism – like that of, say, the OPETH-frontman, Mikael Åkerfeldt, or the PINK FLOYD guitarist, David Gilmour – I’m sure you will find this selection of eleven new, haunting blues cuts most pleasing and rewarding, whether or not blues is your particular cup of tea. Let’s face it: on this album, blues is a state of mind rather than random fretboard exercises on the minor pentatonic scale.

What is quite remarkable about “No More Worlds to Conquer” is the rather prominent presence of bluesy ballads. Since I’m not exactly a fan of ballads, you might expect me to write this outing off as something way too boring and sedative – but I won’t. When it comes to ballads, there are a few special genres that do not make my skin crawl: vintage jazz, Motown soul, and gritty, guitar-driven blues. At least, I’m willing to give these types of ballads a chance since it usually pays off. The first slow-cooking blues ballad on the album is “Birdsong,” which is pleasantly reminiscent of the 1975 Jeff Beck classic, “’Cause We’ve Ended As Lovers.” Trower makes his trusty toolkit of Fender Stratocaster and Marshall amp speak volumes against the backdrop of an extremely slow and spacious blues landscape. All the other ballads further pronounce Trower‘s mastery in this particular type of minimalist guitar art. Of course, for those whose entry point into his music was the aforementioned “Bridge of Sighs,” it’s nothing new. Sometimes less is more, regardless of what Yngwie Malmsteen has to say about the matter.

Over the course of the album, I made a peculiar observation. The vocal duties are taken care of by the vocalist, Richard Watts, whose bluesy rasp is by turns reminiscent of Eric Clapton, Paul Rodgers, and Stevie Ray Vaughn. I noticed that the impression depends rather heavily on the song’s overall feel. The title track has a thick blues-rock aura that channels the ghost of the 1970s in a somewhat Clapton-esque way, whereas the opening track, “Ball of Fire” – what with its stomping main riff – does not traverse in spirit that far away from the classic-rock hit, “All Right Now,” by FREE. “Cloud Across the Sun” has strong Jimi Hendrix vibes, so the raspy vocals quite easily stir up recollections of those revered Stevie Ray Vaughn renditions of many a Hendrix classic – probably since Hendrix wasn’t much of a singer himself. On further listening, it appears that Watts is quite a versatile blues singer – and, obviously, a raspy voice has that extra layer of gravitas that really does justice to this sort of music.

There is even a pinch of psychedelic soul vibes on “Deadly Kiss.” The lysergic wah-wah blurts resonate rather authentically with the air of bands such as SLY AND THE FAMILY STONE, THE TEMPTATIONS, and even FUNKADELIC. The slow ebb and flow of the wah-wah guitar chords work wonders in tandem with the soulful and funked-up vocal delivery of Watts. His falsetto game is nothing short of impressive! Yes, “Deadly Kiss” stands out rather nicely by stepping out of the comfort zone of traditional blues in a somewhat similar manner to the song, “Looking At Your Picture” on Gary Moore‘s album How Blue Can You Get,” released last year. These old blues cats seem to suggest that there is always some room for evolution, no matter how old you are. There are always new worlds on the horizon. So, in a way, the album title is a tad misleading, isn’t it?

Written by Jani Lehtinen

Tracklist

  1. Ball of Fire
  2. No More Worlds to Conquer
  3. Deadly Kiss
  4. Birdsong
  5. Losing You
  6. Waiting for the Rain to Fall
  7. Wither on the Vine
  8. Cloud Across the Sun
  9. Fire to Ashes
  10. The Razor’s Edge
  11. I Will Always be Your Shelter

Lineup

Robin Trower – guitars, bass

Richard Watts – vocals

Chris Taggart – drums

Label

Provogue/Mascot Label Group

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