March 31, 2022

Veteran blues-rock merchant Robin Trower never takes his foot off the gas. To the contrary, he has been candidly quoted as saying, “you have to start revving up as you get towards the end of life,” and the title of his previous album, 2019’s Coming Closer To The Day was a self-admitted nod to mortality. Now 77, he is still bringing out albums of new music every couple of years, and not as a slave to the music industry either; he has been fully independent, self-releasing them under his own label, designing his own unique cover art, writing and singing all the songs, and playing all the guitar parts and bass himself, with Chris Taggart on drums. This time though, he has made the jump to Mascot’s Provogue label, and has drafted in vocalist Richard Watts for this year’s No More Worlds To Conquer. We were somewhat spoiled by Trower’s early solo releases on Chrysalis Records, which featured the golden tonsils of the late lamented James Dewar, one of the best and probably the most underrated rock singer of the ‘70s, but Trower’s own laid-back, smoky vocals fitted his ambient guitar style pretty well – and in fact Watts treats the songs more as Trower would have done, rather than trying to return to Dewar’s glory days.

Photo: Rob Blackham

The focus though, is always going to be Trower’s unique guitar style, one of the most instantly recognisable trademark sounds in rock. This set opens with Ball Of Fire, a mid-tempo piece, chunky but not heavy. As it turns out though, this is one of the rockier numbers from this album, which leans more towards lyrically-constructed songs with ambient, tasteful guitar improvisation. This is epitomised by Deadly Kiss, a slow, sparse blues pop number with a laid-back vibe that puts me in mind of Rock On by David Essex, although lacking the deep echo. The backing is composed of quiet, distorted chords with deep wah pedal, and a more-or-less clear-toned riff that holds it together in the foreground.

The most enjoyable song for me is Losing You, another of the rockier numbers, although rather short at under three minutes, carried along by a tambourine beat and a groovy riff – although Cloud Across the Sun is perhaps the closest he comes to the olden days. I love the sharply incisive wah work on the intro to The Razor’s Edge, which settles into a slow, rocking rhythm; the guitar tone stands out on this one. The album concludes with a smooth gentle piece named I Will Always Be Your Shelter, which eschews blues-rock in favour of a melodic chord pattern and twinkling, echoey guitar chords.

As with all current recording artists, the Covid crisis played havoc with Trower’s schedule. Some of the songs for this set were written as long ago as 2019, and the album was to be released in 2020, but was postponed due to the lockdown – instead, Trower embarked on a soul project called United State Of Mind with Livingstone Brown and Maxi Priest, which was released in 2021. This led to Trower having the time and resources to extensively rework this album, cutting some songs and adding others, and re-recording some of the guitar parts in Brown’s studio. The result, in Trower’s view, is a greatly improved product and a progression from earlier works. I wouldn’t necessarily say it’s a progression, but it’s clearly a labour of love, and Trower’s distinctive style stands proud. He reckons he already has enough material for another album, and I hope he keeps cranking them out indefinitely.

No More Worlds To Conquer by Robin Trower is released on 29th April 2022 via Provogue/Mascot