Classic Rock Review

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Robin Trower Twice Removed From Yesterday (1973)


Alright, perhaps I did make one too many comparisons to other artists in my original review of Robin Trower’s Twice Removed From Yesterday, which explains all the negativity in the comments section. I should have explained the album in detail like I normally do. I’m not sure why I didn’t do that originally.

Anyway, here’s a better review of Twice Removed from Yesterday.

What instantly strikes me about this album is the mood. It’s dreamy yes, but underneath the beautiful guitar playing and vocal melodies I sense a fairly melancholy and depressing vibe. It’s like being in heaven alone.

“Daydream” contains shades of Jimi Hendrix in the guitar solos and atmosphere, but what blows me away is how HUGE the music sounds. This is definitely different from most 70’s hard rock bands. When I say “huge” I mean it sounds like some important grand statement, like this is how a beautiful song is supposed to be written. Hendrix never quite reached a level *this* awesome.

One key difference between Trower and Hendrix is that Robin Trower tends to really dig into your emotions with his guitar playing, whereas Hendrix occasionally goes for emotion, but also had his moments of showing off. I also feel that Hendrix’s music is more immediately enjoyable whereas Trower’s guitar skills take time to absorb.

I can imagine how magical this song must have sounded when it was originally released, and even today it still sounds pretty cool. I believe Rainbow was influenced heavily by this song because “Catch the Rainbow” contains a strikingly similar flow and atmosphere.

“I Can’t Wait Much Longer” has a surprisingly soulful vocal melody. I like the way the verse melody builds with emotional intensity until the incredibly sad “Cuz every day gets stronger, and every day grows and grows, and I can’t wait much longer” lines comes in. The guitar riff even seems to follow with the vocal melody, and it’s a perfect moment of songwriting really. It’s truly amazing. The feeling matches the album cover, too.

“Hannah” features a slow-moving but very powerful guitar riff in the beginning until James Dewar really blows me away with just as much passion here that he illustrated in the two previous songs. I can’t recall another hard rock band that utilized so much soul. The guitar solo seems hard to notice at first since it’s covered in a thick layer of haze, but with repeated listens you can make out most of it.

A song like “Rock Me Baby” would have been in danger of becoming just another attempt at the blues by a 70’s rock band, but luckily some quality guitar licks save what would have otherwise been an average song because the vocal melody fails to make an impression on me. Dewar sounds like he’s disappointed while singing it, like he wants to put some soul into it but forced to restrain himself and sing a simple blues pattern instead.

“Sinner’s Song” starts out innocently enough with a decent verse melody before totally catching me off guard with a fantastic guitar solo. It feels more like a freak out jam, though. It’s *awesome*. Anyone who likes this guitar jam absolutely must hear Santana’s Love, Devotion & Surrender album. It contains the same kind of guitar intensity but stretched out much much longer.

What an eerie way to end the album with “Ballerina”. Is it pretty? Yeah. Is it dreamy? Yes it is. Does it feel unsettling? Absolutely!

Anyway here’s my older review and you know, I still stand by most of it, but an album of this quality definitely deserved a more detailed review.

People keep comparing Robin Trower’s guitar playing to Jimi Hendrix, but to me, his first album closely resembles the classic period of Cream. He doesn’t necessarily have Eric Clapton’s guitar style, but the mood is similar to the psychedelic period of Cream.

I’d say Trower’s guitar playing reminds me of a slower, and more atmospheric Ritchie Blackmore with a vocalist that isn’t much different from the singer of Bad Company.

The songwriting on Twice Removed From Yesterday is pretty strong. Back in the 70’s hard rock bands didn’t just rock out- they could also back it up with strong songwriting, and that’s exactly what this album delivers. I really like it. The way the album was recorded is really cool too, because it feels like everything’s a dream. I recommend it.

April 8, 2013 Posted by | Robin Trower Twice Removed From Yesterday | | Leave a comment

Robin Trower Twice Removed From Yesterday (1973)


Robin Trower‘s debut solo album, Twice Removed From Yesterday, has finally been reissued on compact disc courtesy of IconoClassic Records. I’ve sung the praises of Trower and Twice Removed before, and am happy to have a digital backup to my well-worn vinyl copy of this underrated album. And, the CD is stacked with a bonus track, “Take A Fast Train.”

Twice Removed is moody, melodic and a revelation to those who had heard Trower only in his more supportive role as Procol Harum‘s guitarist. In Procol, Trower had the chance to spread his six-string wings on tracks such as “Whiskey Train,” but the band’s biggest successes relied on Matthew Fisher‘s organ stylings (“Whiter Shade Of Pale”) and lush arrangements (“A Salty Dog”).

Eventually, Trower’s desire to merge the blues with rock was too much to deny and he struck out on his own, not knowing if he would ever be part of another recording. But, as the CD liners quote Trower, “Procol Harum were a keyboard band, and musically I was going off in a different direction. I had to find my own way to pursue that, and so I decided to form my own band.”

With little more than faith and the help of bassist/vocalist James Dewar and drummer Reg Isidore, the trio went to work recording a set of original material along with a stomping version of B.B. King’s “Rock Me Baby.” The songwriting – a partnership primarily of Dewar and Trower – showcased Trower’s controlled fire across some of the strongest material of the guitarist’s career. The brooding opener, “Can’t Wait Much Longer,” reunited Trower with Procol-mate Matthew Fisher (who also produced the original recording).

For me, it is Trower at his best. One of the coolest parts about Trower’s playing is his ability to create “circular-sounding” riffs from a handful of notes. Unlike Tony Iommi, who would bludgeon and trample listeners with brontosaurus-like chords, Trower would paint mysterious musical pictures drenched in feedback and heavy in atmosphere. The compositions are not complex, but they drip with the pure emotion of the blues and imbue a sparkle to rock.

Dewar on the mike was the perfect foil for Trower’s potent compositions. His bluesy-soaked voice, often compared to Paul Rodgers, gives tracks like “Can’t Wait..,” “Hannah” and “Daydream” a gritty glimmer that’s hard to imagine bettering. And Isidore’s drumming is heavy yet smooth as quicksilver.

Success would follow Trower and Twice Removed, when Bridge Of Sighs was released a year later, but his first solo album remains the benchmark for Trower and the many hopefuls looking to meld blues and rock.

March 18, 2013 Posted by | Robin Trower Twice Removed From Yesterday | | Leave a comment

Robin Trower Twice Removed From Yesterday (1973)


When Robin Trower left Procol Harum in 1972, his future was anything but certain. As the guitar player in a keyboard-dominated band, his name was virtually unknown outside of a very limited audience. That all changed dramatically in 1974, with the release of Bridge Of Sighs. But Bridge was Trower’s second album.

His often overlooked debut, Twice Removed From Yesterday, came in 1973 and served as something of a blueprint for what was to follow. After being out of print for years, a new reissue label calling themselves Iconoclassic Records are releasing a remastered version of Twice Removed From Yesterday, which adds a rare non-LP track as a bonus.

The power trio of Trower (guitar), James Dewar (vocals, bass) and Reg Isidore (drums) came together rather quickly, and proved to be the most commercially successful incarnation of the group. Before the massive sales of Bridge, Twice Removed From Yesterday was seen as something of a surprise hit. In the beginning, expectations were pretty low on the part of Chrysalis Records.

To boost their profile, the trio were given prime spots on tours with Jethro Tull and Ten Years After. But all the exposure in the world wouldn’t have helped if the music wasn‘t there. Fortunately, Robin Trower delivered the goods with Twice Removed From Yesterday.

The original nine-track album opened up with “I Can’t Wait Much Longer.” This slow blues contains the patented heavy chording that would later gain fame as the basis of “Bridge Of Sighs.” As with all of the songs, Trower also gets off a furious extended solo midway through. One of the criticisms leveled at the guitarist over the years is his overt reverence for Jimi Hendrix.

Frankly, I could think of worse crimes. Be that as it may, however, “Daydream” nods in the direction of one of Jimi’s most delicate tunes, “Little Wing.” “I Can’t Stand It” is a much more pronounced Hendrix acknowledgment, sort of the Trower band’s “Purple Haze.”

The funkiness the trio were to pursue later on songs such as “Day Of The Eagle” is also foreshadowed here with “Man Of The World.” This was the lone single from the album, with the non-LP B-Side “Take A Fast Train.” The single sank like a stone, but the rare “Take A Fast Train” is included on this reissue. The lone cover version is “Rock Me Baby,” from blues master B.B. King. The grit these Brits bring to the song is amazing. Dewar’s voice is as authentic as it comes, and Trower’s guitar smokes.

There was still a bit of hippie-hangover in 1973, as the title cut proves. It is an interesting track, and Dewar really tries to sell it, but this is not one of Trower’s finest moments. “Sinners Song” makes up for it though. This is my favorite on the record, and features what the band did best: heavy blues rock, with some truly lyrical soloing from their namesake. Another notable element of “Sinners Song” is how Dewar and Isidore get their moments in the sun as well.

Twice Removed closes with a ballad titled “Ballerina,” which is one of Trower’s finest songs. It has remained in his repertoire on and off ever since. In retrospect, the debut of the trio that called themselves Robin Trower is one of the stronger albums released in 1973.

It is highly recommended for fans of Bridge Of Sighs particularly, as well as for those who just enjoy the sound of some great electric blues guitar.

March 9, 2013 Posted by | Robin Trower Twice Removed From Yesterday | | Leave a comment

Robin Trower Twice Removed From Yesterday (1973)


The liner notes to this CD (I have the edition paired with Bridge Of Sighs, which makes up for the best Trower collection ever, and probably the only one you’ll ever neeed) actually say: “Robin Trower is: Reg Isidore (drums), James Dewar (bass and vocals), Robin Trower (guitar)”. Which is supposed to mean that “Robin Trower” was a band? Like “Argent” or “Alice Cooper”? Whatever. Well, that’s up to the purists to figure out. What’s much more necessary to stress is that Trower’s debut LP, if not tremendously groundbreaking, still presents him in a light quite different from his usual Procol Harum stylistics, and establishes a distinct subgenre of “Trower-rock” that he would carry on for years without any particular development, for better or for worse.

James Dewar is quite a decent vocalist and stands up as a songwriter (all of the compositions here are co-written with Trower, sometimes with further collaboration with the drummer). But it’s clear that this time around Trower is going to dominate everything, and he does; no more half-measures, as with Procol Harum’s Broken Barricades. Trower’s guitar sound is ‘Gargantuan’ in its stature – this is a further bit of Hendrix heritage: the guitar must overshadow everything, including the rhythm section, and be estimated as an absolute value. Everything else is just like that, pro forma; GUITAR SOUND is what matters. So Robin distorts his poor instrument, lays on tons of echo and tremolo effects, picks up the fuzzbox and the wah-wah, abuses vibratos and staccato solos, and ultimately succeeds: when the record’s over, all you remember is POWER. Not even the melodies – just POWER, pure POWER.

As every self-assured debut album, this one sounds fresh and quite convincing; it’s said to be overlooked, but that’s often the fate of Album number One. Many of the numbers are winners, and Trower seems to pull out every ace out of his sleeve already on the first three tracks, all minor classics. ‘I Can’t Wait Much Longer’ welcomes the listener with a dreamy, majestic sound – the song’s spacey riff that seems to be coming from deep down under the earth is among Trower’s very best, and, in fact, he’s often imitated it since, repeating the same trick with minor variations on such tracks as ‘Bridge Of Sighs’ and others. How the hell he actually managed to procure such a fantastic guitar tone, not to mention reproducing it in concert, is way beyond the understanding of mortals.

‘Daydream’, on the other hand, is far softer, with much less distortion but the same type of sound overall: overwhelming and keeping one in deep awe. This is the “philosophic” aspect of Trower’s playing style – playing minimalistic, economic guitar lines with lots of vibratos (in the solo parts, I mean) to produce the required stately effect. I do consider the song slightly overlong, though.

Finally, “Hannah” returns us to the ‘gruff’ Trower, but this time around it’s not just ‘gruff’: it’s ‘gruff angry disturbed’ Trower, which means he’s not just subduing the audience but also brewing up a storm. This is where the overdubs and finger-flashing technique comes in: the instrumental part of the song rages along like mad, and it’s extremely hard to describe, but you certainly haven’t heard anything like it because it doesn’t sound like heavy metal, and it doesn’t sound like your average triple guitar interplay of Lynyrd Skynyrd and the like. It’s… well, a musical thunderstorm in the purest sense of the word; I’m actually free to draw on analogies with pouring rain – Lynyrd Skynyrd do not sound like pouring rain, while the instrumental bit in ‘Hannah’ does. Get the idea? Probably not, but it’s the best I can do; now you’ll just have to go and buy the record.

It gets seriously weaker from then on, though – after you’ve been hit by these three openers, Trower doesn’t leave a lot of surprises. The other six songs are not bad, but… well, they’re okay. Loud, abrasive, with more guitar pyrotechnics and stuff; sometimes Trower really rips it up, like on the old blues cover ‘Rock Me Baby’ or the stunning instrumental passage on ‘Sinner’s Song’, and sometimes he’s rather quiet and timid, like on the ballad ‘Ballerina’, but it’s still hard to feed on guitar wizardry alone, and the melodies are only so-so, not much more. In addition, Trower certainly does not care about traditional riffage: it would be very hard to notate a Trower composition because he doesn’t like repeating the same guitar line twice. Trower on guitar is like Elton John on piano: all over the place, half-improvising in the studio by building on a theme but never sticking to it note-for-note. The melodies are thus extremely hard to ‘decipher’, and often give the feel of being completely non-existent. I can’t really tell if this feel is true or false, but fact is, very few of the compositions are memorable, even if all of them are sonically impressive. Well, that’s the way it goes with Trower.

In any case, Twice Removed From Yesterday is Robin’s first record, and it has all the advantages of being a first. The style is new and fresh, the energy is unbeatable, and you can’t yet accuse Robin of ripping off himself; I easily give it a nine if only because of those factors. That said, his second record would be a lot more successful – apparently, Robin was the kind of artist who’d only strike it big on the second record, with the first being a careful treading of water.

March 7, 2013 Posted by | Robin Trower Twice Removed From Yesterday | | Leave a comment