Robin Trower is a total bluesman on Time and Emotion, firing off searing-hot licks and delivering an appropriately gritty, well-informed vocal performance. Blues-rock 101 from a classic guitarist….
Time and Emotion
11 tracks / 51:59
Robin Trower is a bluesman – no doubt about it. Even in his early days as guitarist for the legendary Procol Harum (who are celebrating the 50th anniversary of their seminal hit, “A Whiter Shade of Pale”), it seemed he was destined to end up in a bluer shade of rock. Trower’s guitar cut through that soulful blend of art/progressive/classically-influenced rock with searing, stabbing licks played with such raw power they almost threatened to tear the songs apart – a musical combination of sweet and savory that’s seldom been equaled since. Procol Harum’s fifth album, Broken Barricades, showed the guitarist stepping out in a more Hendrix-influenced direction that would lead to a solo career that thrives to this day.
Quick cut to 2017 and here’s Mr. Trower at 72, still playing stunningly emotional guitar and fronting a power-trio on Time and Emotion. The album is a testament to the timelessness and staying-power of a passionate artist playing and singing the blues.
A word about that singing… The handful of times that he was featured on vocals in the aforementioned Procol Harum (“Crucifiction Lane,” “Poor Mohammed,” etc.), Robin displayed a vocal style that belied his elfish appearance – appropriate and enjoyable but surprisingly gruff, somewhat limited in phrasing and nuance, but definitely street-level bluesy. On Time and Emotion Trower is the lead singer on all tracks and displays a more confident and even daring vocal style. A blues player and singer he is, and with the limited structures of blues-based rock, where vocals need to be potent and real, Trower delivers, even daring to slip into a falsetto now and again.
Time and Emotion starts off with a bang, “The Land of Plenty,” being a hard-hitting power-blues with a rock-steady beat and a relentless, up-front tambourine brightening up the slightly ominous chord changes. Things get slow and steamy on “What Was I Really Worth to You,” followed by Robin offering a falsetto vocal touch reminding me of Jack Bruce on “I’m Gone.” Also of note on “I’m Gone,” is the hint of organ and Trower’s first of two times where he injects a section of spoken-word into a song (Robin raps?! Not quite)…
The eight remaining songs offer a smorgasbord of blues sprinkled with the occasional classic rock tune (“You’re The One” and the title track are the least blues-formatted songs, the former once again including a spoken line and featuring some “Song For A Dreamer” - like overdrive settings). The seven minute – plus “If You Believe In Me” starts out funky and upbeat, then slows down half-way through giving way to minimal two-chord languishment in a phase-shifting bath of cymbals while Trower wails dreamily on his Strat.
It goes without saying that the guitar work is stellar. The unmistakable Robin Trower tone shares the spotlight with his signature blend of Hendrix and Stevie-Ray inspired fretwork. His guitar sounds like it’s begging for mercy as Trower rips out emotional licks flavored with tight vibrato and the selective hint of wah-wah. Supported by a solid but unobtrusive Chris Taggart on drums and Livingstone Brown on bass (and occasional keyboard), Trower does the heavy lifting up front with solid vocals and that amazing guitar. The guitarist is also responsible for writing all of the songs but one (co-written with Brown), playing additional bass, co-producing the album, and even contributing the cover art.
Lots of blues, a little funk, and that amazing Trower guitar sound wrapped up in clean production, solid songwriting, and delivered with soul and passion make Time and Emotion a must-have for fans of Robin Trower and blues fans in general.