Thursday, May 5, 2022

Robin Trower - No More Worlds To Conquer

Robin Trower does what Robin Trower does.
I could stop right there, and it would just about sum up No More Worlds To Conquer.  Just about.  There is a little more to be said though, so let’s get to it.
The opening ‘Ball Of Fire’ finds Trower twanging his way into a lean but sturdy riff, over behind-the-beat drums from Chris Taggart and his own supple bass lines.  There’s a catchy enough
Robin Trower cosies up to best friend
Pic by Rob Blackham
chorus, and some warped, wiry guitar soloing that’s typically-Trower.  And if you’re a dyed-in-the-wool fan of yer man then there’s plenty more of this kind of thing to keep you happy.  But for those of us who are, shall we say, less devoted listeners, there is an additional element to be considered.  Because on this platter Trower has recruited one Richard Watts to perform the vocal duties, and even if he’s not quite Jimmy Dewar (and to be fair, who is?) the soulful results are still waaay better than Trower’s own efforts on the likes of 2017 album Time And Emotion, which were passable at best.  This is a major plus point in my book.
The lack of dynamics through much of the album, on the other hand, becomes rather wearing.  'No More Worlds To Conquer' itself is up second, and it’s slow, languorous and one might even say minimalist.  Watts essays a patient vocal, and Trower nods heavily towards Hendrix – now there’s a novelty – from the ‘Hey Joe’ inflected intro to his restrained, wah-wah-ing solo.  It’s the languid pace though, that sets the tone for several tracks to follow.  There is not, as it were, a whole lotta shakin’ goin’ on.
There are faint traces of funk in ‘Deadly Kiss’, to go with snatches of falsetto from Watts and some sparks of originality in Trower’s guitar sound, with some tension and release added to the studied discordance.  ‘Losing You’ is a mite more sprightly, but otherwise is notable only for an angular guitar break.  Meanwhile ‘Waiting For The Rain To Fall’ features sparkles of guitar around a warmer, more inviting tune, then a fluid solo before it fizzles out.  There’s a fair bit of fizzling out in the course of No More Worlds To Conquer.
It's not until the eighth track, ‘Cloud Across The Sun’, that something more upbeat emerges to seriously vary the diet.  The funk quotient is turned up a bit on a semi-shuffle, around which Trower’s guitar stirs and probes, sparks and flickers with life.  The chorus has a decent hook too.
Two of the best tracks are saved till last.  ‘The Razor’s Edge’ may not be as vigorous or energetic as ‘Too Rolling Stoned’ of ‘Day Of The Eagle’, but it points in that direction all the same.  It’s muscular and spiky, with a stronger tune than many of the other tracks, with Watts at his most Dewar-esque as he nails the vocal, while Trower adds reverberating, prickly guitar fills.  And the closing ‘I Will Always Be Your Shelter’ shows just what a slowie can be.  It’s a soulful lullaby of a song, well delivered by Watts, that draws the listener in effortlessly, while Trower serves up his most emotive solo of the whole album.  Beautiful stuff.
So yes, there are some good moments along the way here.  But the discerning reader will have recognised that I don’t go a bundle on Trower’s go-to modus operandi of rather torpid six-string exploration.  The mournful collage of ‘Fire To Ashes’, for instance, put me in mind of a radio interview with Michael Schenker, in which he kept banging on about “artistic expression through playing electric lead guitar”.  Me, I’d like a bit more snap, crackle and pop for Richard Watts to get his vocal teeth into.  But if Robin Trower doing what Robin Trower does floats your boat, then No More Worlds To Conquer should be just the ticket.
No More Worlds To Conquer is out now on Provogue Records, and can be ordered here.
Note – Incidentally, for anyone who’s wondering, the title of the album comes from a misquotation about Alexander The Great in the movie Die Hard, of all places.  Further illumination can be found here.

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