Classic Rock Review

The home of old record and bootleg reviews…

Robin Trower Bridge Of Sighs (1974)

untitledFrom starling.rinet.ru

This is still widely regarded as Trower’s masterpiece. Actually, I fail to see why – I mean, I, too, believe that it’s among his best albums, but it’s somehow put on a very high pedestal, far higher than anything that surrounds it, and this is strange, because the songs sound exactly like they sounded a year earlier on Twice Removed and exactly like they would sound a year later on For Earth Below. Same band lineup, same guitar sound, same raw R&B edge, same stately majesty. Oh, yeah, there’s one exception: the tunes are generally far more solid and well-written than on the 1973 and 1975 albums. But since when do diehard fans take into account the actual melodies when it’s the guitar tone and the finger-flashing they’re mostly worrying about? No, I truly don’t understand why Bridge Of Sighs is given such unjustifiable honours.

So let’s give it some justifiable honours instead. Eight songs on here, all written according to the formula worked out the previous year. Gargantuan majestic epics alternating with funky rip-roaring rockers alternating with dreamy atmospheric ballads, all of them based on the damn same guitar tone. But from the very first number, ‘Day Of The Eagle’, something goes into a more right and true direction than previously. ‘Day Of The Eagle’ is a steady and well-calculated rave-up, with a complex multi-chord riff and a pretty catchy vocal melody; it also changes tempo near the end of the song in order to give Robin the opportunity to play some slow sly ‘restrained’ licks as a graceful outro to the song. It’s the same style as Twice Removed, and yet, not the same style – there’s a certain precision in the playing and a certain self-demanding approach to songwriting that’s been lacking before.

The title track, as has been said before, recycles the riff of ‘I Can’t Wait Much Longer’, not for the last time, but it also improves on that song, with cleverly placed effects and Dewar’s impressive vocal delivery as he recites the depressing, dark lyrics that fit the song’s mood perfectly (for comparison, the simplistic love lyrics to ‘I Can’t Wait Much Longer’ never really fit the song’s ‘royal stature’). The combination of Trower’s moody playing with the howling of the wind and Dewar’s sad, angry intonations makes up for a truly atmospheric listening – and was deservedly a stage favourite.

And that’s just the first two tracks. But most of the rockers on the record are equally deserving as well, being really catchy – this is one rare Trower record that breaks the basic rule of R&B (never write a memorable melody, just howl as much as needed and more). Could one say that ‘The Fool And Me’ is not catchy, for instance? That’s hardly possible. It’s catchy as hell, indeed, at some points I’m becoming afraid that the main melody is way too simplistic for Trower and almost nursery-rhymish in structure… hah hah. Isn’t it a nursery trick when you end every line with the phrase ‘the fool and me’? It’s fun.

Of course, this is the album that features the ‘quintessential’ Trower song – the anthemic ‘Too Rolling Stoned’. Quintessential or not, this is one great number, worth it for the opening bass line alone: thousands of hard and soft rock bands alike would kill, steal and borrow for such a magnificent bass riff that drives the track along like a ‘stone keeps on rollin’, well, more like a couple choo-choo trains than just some stupid stone. Then there’s the slow part – actually, the fast part may be regarded as just an intro for the slow boogie that follows, over which Robin is intent on displaying all of his playing techniques. Funny thing, I’ve never bought much into that second part… and shame on me, pr’aps, but I recognize quite a lot of lines that go back to as far as ‘Whiskey Train’ off Procol Harum’s Home. Okay, enough dirtying up Robin’s reputation coming from the impure mouth of a ‘wannabe rock star’ like somebody gently christened me after I’d unintentionally offended Tales From Topographic Oceans or something like that.

‘Lady Love’ and ‘Little Bit Of Sympathy’ are also solid slabs of boogie, though a wee bit inferior to the other rockers on here, but there’s one more track that could be raved about: the wonderful ballad ‘About To Begin’. It sounds very personal, with Trower using only a moderate amount of echo and drawing the listener somewhat closer into the actual experience than he usually is. Dreamy, gorgeous and short – three and a half minutes, with just a very economic amount of soloing. The other ballad, ‘In This Place’, is just okay.

I’m not really sure if the sudden rise in song quality has anything to do with the fact that Trower is mostly credited as sole author to all of the songs on here; I think that Dewar was primarily the ‘lyrics man’, although I could be wrong. More probably, the band was just solidifying its sound and tightening up all the bolts, because despite all the professionalism, Twice Removed still sounded too loose. Here the band is just an unstoppable monster, and in tightening up the sound, they also manage to improve song structure and ‘catchify’ their chord progressions. Thus, Bridge Of Sighs captures “Robin Trower” (the band!) at a relative peak – with the band in a state of perfect balance. Naturally, this peak couldn’t last long; by the time of their third album, they’d already fallen back on formula.

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March 7, 2013 - Posted by | Robin Trower Bridge Of Sighs |

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