IT TAKES A LOT of gumption to leave a baseball team right after youíve clinched the pennant, or to walk off the playing field during the middle of a Super Bowl game, or to quit a rock band as soon as you reach superstar status. Robin Trower made just such a move when he left Procol Harum after that group had completed a highly successful tour of the states and had just released a superb album dominated by the guitarist (Broken Barricades).
But it actually wasnít such an unanticipated move when you realize that Robinís roots in the blues really had no place in the lofty surrealistic music of Procol. "I was in a group called Jam when Gary (Brooker) phoned me up and asked if I wanted to join. I said to him, "What sort of stuff are you doing?" because I was well into blues then and I couldnít see the fit. So I went up and listened to what they were doing and it really had a good R&B feel to it."
Five albums later, he accepted the fact that the earthy bluesy sound recorded on the first album could never again be recaptured and made the inevitable move after writing a song for the Broken Barricades album. "I was trying to make the band a bit more earthy and it worked for a little bit with Broken Barricades; when I recorded Song For A Dreamer, I realized I had to go on."
Shortly after leaving Procol, there was a benign linkage with the Jude band (which failed because of the clashing of ideas) and then a re-piecing of that group into Robinís current lineup. The ex-Procol guitarist saw the potential of bassist/vocalist Jimmy Dewar in Jude and when he began making plans for his own band, he naturally gave Jimmy, a call. Drummer Reg Isadore (not to be confused with ex-Joe Cocker drummer, Conrad Isadore) was a well-known session man Robin had run across, and it was Regís use of understatement in his technique that prompted Trower to ask him into the group.
"Itís not just a trio, itís the right trio with Reggie and Jimmy. Itís not just because Iím the lead guitarist that itís gonna happen; I mean Iím not just into guitar, Iím into making good music . . . great music. And I wouldnít do it if I didnít think it was a lot better than what Iíd done before."
Robin feels that a trio is the best arrangement for him musically because it allows (and demands) that each player undertake solely the duties of his instrument. "I think it gets too complicated if you add another (melody) instrument; to get somebody whoís willing to be just a part of what Iím trying to do is very hard because itís hard to get somebody whoís very good who doesnít want to do their own thing. Thatís why a three-piece really works because everybodyís really doing their own thing; Jimmyís playing bass because heís a bass player, Reggieís playing drums because heís a drummer Ė thatís it really." The trio setup, however (as well as Robinís guitar technique), has garnered some negative criticism over his work since leaving Harum.
"Iím very influenced by Hendrix, and Iím the first to admit it; everything I do is inevitable and I canít not be influenced by him. Anybody whoís got any ears and plays the guitar or whoís got any musical sense at all could not but be influenced by Hendrix. Itís like you canít write unless you learn A-B-C. Everybody else was just fucking about. He made real music on guitar and not just licks on top of somebody elseís music."
Robin confesses that it was Hendrixís attitude more than his playing that he tried to emulate and, as for pure guitar style; BB King influenced him more than anyone. "Itíd be silly to say I wasnít influenced by Hendrix; everything about the guitar that you wished for, heíd done it. I donít think Iíll ever be a good as him but I think itís possible that weíll make better music, which is a different sort of thing." Some of that music is the bandís first album titled Twice Removed From Yesterday which ranges from tender Hendrixian tunes (Daydream) to explosive amplified pieces (Man of the World). A new album due out shortly is an extension of that dťbut album and should do much to deter any further criticisms that Robin Trower is nothing but a "rip-off." His involvement with the new band came after years of experimentation (The Paramounts, Jam) and disappointment (Procol Harum, Jude), and it is from these learning experiences that Robin hopes heíll be able to avoid the same mistakes. The trio (of which he was first really made aware by Hendrixís Band of Gypsies) might have been formed years ago had he any notion or vision of what he wanted to do.
"After that first bunch of songs they shifted over . . . I think it was Matthewís (Fisher) influence that they went into a more classical thing because he was the classical influence; he was the biggest influence on the sound of the band. I think it was just that I didnít know what to do, really; I always felt that one day I would do something by myself, but I didnít know what it was.
"I didnít know what it was I felt then . . . a certain sense of loyalty; once youíre involved and youíre going along and you work so hard on it (and I did work bloody hard on it pushing them along), you just donít think of anything else. Itís just like that, you know, trying to get that to happen. But what Iím doing now is right Ė absolutely right."
More Procoloid history at BtP