Robin Trower

The Playful Heart

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In his mid-sixties when this 2010 disc was released, Robin Trower seems to be getting more productive as he ages. This is the guitarist's fourth album in three years, including a studio and live project on which he shared top billing with Jack Bruce. Somewhat surprisingly, there is no drop-off in quality. In fact, this hour-long, 11-cut platter contains some of his finest material of the past decade. Everything down to the artwork and packaging is up to the high standards Trower set for himself in his productive and commercially successful '70s run and truth be told, many of these songs, such as the hooky title track, could easily slot into those classics. There are fewer rockers and neither Trower nor singer Davey Pattison (who shares vocals with the guitarist) has the rumbling lung power of the late James Dewar, but these songs mine the spacy, moody territory staked out by such memorable gems as "Bridge of Sighs" and "I Can't Wait Much Longer." The trio format leaves room for Trower's lines to float and weave throughout tunes, and they benefit from restrained playing by all involved. They find their sweet spot in nuances and subtleties as opposed to heavy riffs. He even leans toward supper club jazz in the sly, fingerpopping, quarter-to-three groove of "Camille," perhaps the most unusual and shaded approach he has taken. Harder-edged numbers such as "The Turning" are dialed down to maintain the vibe, yet raise the temperature to energize the overall tone. But selections such as "Find Me" nail Trower's pensive, contemplative atmospherics, influenced by blues, R&B, and of course, Hendrix's flowing reverb. The nearly eight-minute closing "And We Shall Call It Love" hovers over a boiling, repeating bassline as Trower applies his molten guitar to a solo so sublime, it's a shame it has to end. While some may bemoan the fact that this really isn't breaking any new ground, something that can be said for any number of Trower albums, it will still appeal to fans and newcomers as a classy, entirely distinctive work that doesn't need volume or demonstrative licks to be poignant and effective.

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