Album review: Robin Trower, Back It Up (1983)

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN THE GEORGIA STRAIGHT, OCT. 28, 1983

By Steve Newton

The best things in music, like the best things in life, often go unnoticed. And Robin Trower is one of them.

The British blues-rocker has been putting out exceptional albums for ten years now–the most notable being Bridge of Sighs, Victims of the Fury, and his collaboration with Jack Bruce, BLT–yet only a small portion of the music-going public has even heard of the guy.

Much to the benefit of real music lovers everywhere, things are beginning to change. Maybe it’s due in part to the breakthrough success of bluesman Stevie Ray Vaughan (who, even with his incredible talent needed the ‘Bowie Connection’ to push through), but Robin Trower is finally getting airplay. “Back It Up”, the title track from one of his best albums ever, is bringing the magic of his guitar to some long-deprived ears.

That song opens Trower’s new LP at a chugging pace, and sees the return of original vocalist James Dewar to the band’s lineup. His soulful, impassioned singing is refined and powerful on Back It Up, and stays that way for the balance of the album–always forceful yet never out of control.

The flowing “River” is next, kept steady through Bobby Clouter’s drumwork and the loping bass of Dave Bronze, but edgy with Trower’s jagged rhythm and leaping leads. Somehow he manages to keep a winning combination of sounds both sharp and smooth that soothe and bite at once.

After the rocking “Back to Bed” and nine-minute, improvisatory “Benny Dancer”–which allows both Trower and Bronze to stretch out and get funky–Side Two kicks off with “Time is Short” and the introductory feedback used so well at the start of “Jack and Jill” on Victims of the Fury. The instrumental “Islands” follows, the most graceful and moving track on Back It Up, and Trower’s delicate shadings and light touches are superb–he really makes you feel the chosen note.

The boogie-ish “None But the Brave” and bopping “Captain Midnight” allow for more wildness and flash in his solos, and Trower takes full advantage, paying homage to Hendrix, his most obvious influence. And then on the album’s final cut, “Settling the Score”, slow blues is the name of the game. And he plays it gloriously.

If this record doesn’t break Robin Trower wide open and acknowledge him as one of the finest blues-rockers alive I’ll be very disappointed. But I’ll never stop trying to convince people of the fact.

 

 

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