Robin L. Trower is one of the biggest names in the history of rock and a pioneer of British blues.
Apart from earning great worldwide renown with his solo act, Robin is perhaps most famous for his time in Procol Harum.
Robin’s early work
It’s true that Robin Trower is practically synonymous with Procol Harum these days, but even so, he participated in several different acts, the most famous of which is The Paramounts band.
Before he started his solo career, even before he joined Procol Harum Robin had formed a band called The Paramounts. This group was comprised of himself, Gary Brooker, Mick Brownlee, Diz Derrick, B. J. Wilson, Bob Scott, and Chris Copping, and unfortunately, it didn’t have much success.
The Paramounts are rumored to have formed under a different name initially in 1959; most sources indicate that they were called The Raiders back then. All of the band members were teenagers at the time who played R&B, pop, and soul tunes. Their set-list included a couple of original tracks, their most famous being the Poison Ivy which was their biggest hit of sorts.
After several attempts to hit the British billboard charts (with singles such as Bad Blood), they’ve switched over from composing to being a backing band for Sandle Shaw on her European tours. A couple of years passed, and The Paramounts Disbanded.
This band made Robin as famous as he is today. His input in the band’s work was tremendous, even though he was a part of the troupe for only four years. It seems that his coming to the group was fated, as he joined in around the same time the band had released their first single called A Whiter Shade of Pale back in 1967.
Robin played in the band and took part in the songwriting process on four albums Procol Harum (self-titled in 1967, when he first joined the band), Shine on Brightly (1968), A salty Dog (1969) and Home (1970). Even though he left the band in 1971, Robin appeared on the 1971’s record called Broken Barricades.
He also appeared later on the 1991’s The Prodigal Stranger and 1995’s The Long Goodbye.
It’s tough to say whether ‘Jude’ was an actual project or just a jam-type thing for Robin. He joined Frankie Miller, James Dewar, and Clive Bunker forming this outfit right after leaving Procol Harum (and right before he started his solo career), but since this project didn’t put out any records, it split up rather fast.
However, the Jude project was significant because it jumpstarted Robin’s trio band. He took Dewar under his wing as a bassist initially, but he switched over to lead vocals pretty soon, right before forming the official trio with Reg Isidore.
Solo career and first albums
Trower’s trio has produced 23 solo albums, ten live albums, and numerous compilations. It would be a vast understatement to say that his catalog is extensive, as it’s comprised of so many records that have hit UK and US charts.
Twice Removed From Yesterday
Robin’s very first solo album was Twice Removed from Yesterday released in 1973 by Chrysalis records and produced by Matthew Fisher. Chrysalis released a total of eight of Trower’s albums, all of which were charted pretty high on the US charts.
The Twice Removed From Yesterday was placed at 106th spot on the US Billboard, and this album is even today considered as one of the blues-rock classics. Oddly enough, the tracks on the B side such as Twice Removed from Yesterday and Rock Me Baby were a bit more successful than the tracks on the A-side, with the exception of ‘I can’t wait much longer.’
This album featured a guest appearance by no other than the producer (Matthew Fisher) on organs on the song Daydream, which indicates a move away from the concept of a power-trio troupe.
Bridge of Sighs
Even though his first solo record was a decent success, Robin’s actual breakthrough came with the ‘Bridge of Sighs.’ This album was also produced by Mat Fisher, also released by Chrysalis records in 1974.
Robin didn’t change his writing style much for this album in comparison to his first record, and in fact, the Bridge of Sighs is a bit shorter than Twice Removed From Yesterday. The fact that this record was the number 7 on the US Billboard chart when it came out speaks volumes about its quality.
Several tracks from this record were covered by famous bands of various genres. The ‘Too Rolling Stones’ got covered in 2004 by UFO for their dedicated cover album called Salentino Cuts, the ‘Day of the Eagle’ got covered by Steve Stevens for his solo record Memory Crash, Tesla covered it as well, just like Armored Saint. One of the most curious bands to have covered Robin’s song from this album is Opeth who covered the title-track for 2008’s release Watershed.
Robin and James Dewar
James Jimmy Dewar (not to be confused with Sir James Dewar) had a significant impact on how Robin Trower’s power trio sounded like. He not only performed with Trower but also took part in the song-writing process throughout the bulk of Trower’s catalog.
Albums Jimmy participated in
On the album ‘Twice Removed From Yesterday’ Jimmy collaborated on seven out of the nine songs, including I can’t stand it, Sinner’s song, Ballerina, Daydream, Man of the world, Twice Removed from Yesterday, Hanna, and I can’t stand it.
His presence was tremendous on the albums ‘In City Dreams’ as he collaborated with James on eight out of the nine songs, some of which are Little Girl, Bluebird, Smile, Somebody Calling, and Falling Star.
Moreover, he helped write eight songs for the ‘Caravan to Midnight’, including My Love, Lost in Love, It’s for you, King of the Dance, Birthday Boy, Sail on, among others. He’s also credited for participating in the song writing process for Bridge of Sighs, For Earth Below, Back it Up, Long Misty Days, and Victims of the fury.
Trower’s fans are well acquainted with the fact that Jimmy is largely ‘responsible’ for the band’s success. Robin’s fiddling and Jimmy’s voice were the perfect combination, especially knowing that James had spent a lot of time searching for musicians for his band and no one could fit the bill as perfectly as Jimmy.
Why did Jimmy and James split up?
The Trower’s solo band could have continued with the same line-up for decades, but even so, Jimmy was out of the picture. He didn’t leave the group, nor was he kicked out – he had a severe stroke in 1987 which has put a stop on his music career for good.
He was, luckily, recovering reasonably well during the next two decades of his life, but he couldn’t continue singing for Trower.
In the Line of Fire
In the Line of Fire is one of the best blues-rock records Robin has put out. It was released in 1990, and he had Davey Pattison as a singer on it. The album, unfortunately, didn’t make it on the charts (in neither UK nor US), and it’s the second Robin’s record to be released for Atlantic records.
One of the characteristics of this album is that almost every track of the record has had guest appearances on it, such as Matt Noble on the song Under the Gun, Bashiri Johnson on percussions, and Peppy Castro and Al Fritsch on background vocals.
Robin’s musical influences
Robin’s playing style, as well as his writing style, are both unique, but it doesn’t take much to figure out that he was heavily influenced by old-school legends such as Albert King, Jimi Hendrix, B. B. King, and such.
In most interviews, he stated that his primary influences were American artists, but one artist in particular that influenced him the most was James Brown. He also noted that the ‘Live at the Apollo’ in 1968 had a massive influence on his playing, even though Brown is a singer.