Windstorm Productions Presents: Robin Trower with Eli Cook
Thursday, March 15 at Center Stage
Doors 7pm / Show 8pm
• All Ages Welcome
• Reserved, assigned seats
• Tickets available online via Ticketmaster.com or without ticket fees in person at the Center Stage Box Office, M-F, 11-6. Online sales end at 6pm on day of show.
The Robin Trower story started in the mid Sixties when he began his recording career in the Southend rhythm and blues band The Paramounts. But the first time Trower pinged on rock’n’roll’s radar was in 1967, with Procol Harum – house band of the Summer of Love. Though he did not play on their mega-hit ‘A Whiter Shade Of Pale’, he completed five albums and many tours with them before breaking away for a solo career in 1971.
Robin admits that ‘the big break for me was Gary Brooker getting me to join Procol. That opened up the whole world. Without that I would never been able to go on and do what I’ve done.’ He rates leaving PH ‘the best career decision I ever made’
Trower modelled his own band on the power-trio blueprint of Cream and Taste, and, of course, the Jimi Hendrix Experience. His atmospheric, effects-laden Stratocastering brought inevitable initial comparisons with Hendrix, but he quickly made his own mark. Robin along with the vocal talents of James Dewar, a hard-living Scot, whose voice will always be associated with the Robin Trower Band proved to be a musical powerhouse.
Robin soon found himself outselling Procol by a considerable factor as he tuned in to the heavier zeitgeist of a new decade, his second album, ‘Bridge Of Sighs’ reached the Top 10 in the States. This collection of songs is in every budding guitarslinger’s reference library, and has Influenced a generation of musicians.
The success of Bridge of Sighs gave Robin the freedom to explore his musical limits. “In City Dreams” and “Caravan to Midnight” ( both produced by Don Davis) demonstrated Robin’s maturing song writing abilities and strong connection to the Blues.
As punk and new wave attempted to redefine the musical landscape, Robin’s distinctive style of playing retained a sizeable live following in the United States. Radio, however was listening in another direction. In the late eighties, Trower’s recorded output became more sporadic. And in 1984 he split from long-time label Chrysalis Records.
In the Nineties, a brief reunion with Procol Harum gave Trower breathing space to reassess the direction of his solo career. He was now, he concluded, aiming to fulfil himself musically rather than sell tonnage. ‘For the past ten years I’ve just been making albums for my own heart,’ he recalled to this author in 2001. ‘The great joy of having my own label (V12 Records, owned jointly with manager Derek Sutton) is that you haven’t got to make music to please some guy behind a desk. You can please yourself and make the music you want’…
The first V12 album ‘20th Century Blues’ appeared in 1994 and saw him backed by drummer Mayuyu and bass player/vocalist Livingston Brown. As the decade progressed, Robin decided to take on a share of the lead vocals. ‘I thought to myself there aren’t any blues artists that aren’t singers…I thought I’d give it a go. When you write songs, you’re always gonna get a twist put onto them by whoever sings them. When you sing it yourself it tends to come out how you heard it in your head when you wrote it.’
With his stock still high among his fellow performers thanks to albums like 1997’s ‘Someday Blues’,, the late Nineties saw him hooking up with Roxy Music’s Bryan Ferry for two albums, ‘Taxi’ and ‘Mamouna’, plus a European tour. It was a rare chance for European fans to see him live as, at this point, he was still concentrating on gigging in the States.
2000’s ‘Go My Way’ saw Trower sharing the spotlight with bassist/vocalist Richard Watts. As Robin later explained, ‘Go My Way’ was an album he rated highly. ‘It’s really where I live, that kind of blues; slightly spacey…I just like it. I like some of the other areas as well, but that’s my hometown.’
In 2002 Robin ran into Davey Pattison at Jimmy Dewar’s funeral. The chance meeting led to ‘Living Out Of Time’, released in 2003. It also featured Dave Bronze on bass and Pete Thompson on drums, a rhythm section he’d worked with many years earlier. So this was ’back to the future’…but with a difference. Young blues guitarist Eric Gales had supported Robin on a previous American tour and so impressed Trower that he wrote some songs for him. Robin and Eric never did have the chance to collaborate on recording them, but those songs formed the basis for “Living out of Time”.
2005 brought ‘Another Day’s Blues’, After this, Robin and legendary Scots rocker Jack Bruce got together to discuss remixing two of their Eighties collaborations for future reissue, but soon realised it would be more interesting to make it a hat-trick by recording a new album. The first meeting took place in February 2006. Robin and Jack’s joint venture, ‘Seven Moons’ was revealed to the public almost two years later.
Recorded in trio format with drummer Gary Husband, the result combined their talents more satisfactorily than its predecessors. ‘The main thing that changed,’ Trower confirmed, ‘is that we co-wrote all the music on this record. Before, we each brought our own songs, but now I write the lyrics and Jack and I do the music together; I think it’s a much better gel.’ He still regards Bruce as ‘one of my heroes from the Sixties.’ ‘By adding what he does, he makes the song into something much, much larger. All those dimensions are added compositionally just by him playing bass and putting the vocal melody to it.’
The next two albums were 2009’s ‘What Lies Beneath’, and 2010’s ‘The Playful Heart’. Both proof that Robin Trower still has the wherewithal to rock the world. Livingston Brown had heavy input into both records, and the latter disc – recorded with the road band of bassist Glenn Letsch, Pete Thompson and Davey Pattison – was particularly satisfying. The vibe is more contemplative than the power-rock of his early years, still the quality and passion is present in every single note.
The 2012 set “Roots and Branches” is a revelation, a mix of covers – the roots – and new material – the branches. The entire set is tribute to an artist still growing in power and dexterity, but most of all in emotional expressiveness. The CD garnered praise from both sides of the Atlantic as the many rave reviews attest.
Something’s About To Change released in early 2015 confirmed a world-class musician at the top of his game. With his own V12 record label allowing Trower to bypass the spirit-sapping protocol of the conventional record industry, it comes to no surprise this album sounds so vital. While palpably influenced by Trower’s deep love of post-war U.S. blues, its personal themes and visceral music mean that it will resonate with every generation. This set of songs differed from the caltalog as Robin himself played the Bass on them. “As a songwriter and a performer, you use everything at your disposal to put into your songs,” reflects Trower.
The latest release is titled Where You Are Going To. The new CD is more of a rocker, but still squarely based in Robin’s love for Blues. Robin’s voice is much more confident on these ten new studio recordings, and the guitar work is stunning. A continuation of Mr Trower’s creative upsurge. The songs remain the cornerstones. The artist’s astonishing fretwork may sometimes take top billing, but the all-original material of Where You Are Going To speaks of the gas in his creative tank. “There is some sort of feeling of emotional release,” he says, “when you play a note that rings out right.” Leading the line, of course, is Robin himself, playing bass again, alongside his unmistakable soul-in-fingers guitar parts. Chris Taggart played Drums, and Livingstone Brown co-produced and did the mixing/mastering
The current century has seen Robin wowing fans old and new on both sides of the Atlantic. The stadiums he filled in the Seventies may be a fond memory, but the upside is that audiences in clubs and theatres can witness the magic at closer quarters.
Robin will return to the stage in the US for a six week tour in Spring 2017. It will feature a trio, Robin’s favourite line-up, with Richard Watts on Bass and vocals, and Chris Taggart on drums.
Make no bones about it, Robin Trower is an axeman’s axeman. He’s been a Fender Stratocaster endorsee ever since Jethro Tull’s Martin Barre let him try one before a gig in the early Seventies, and now has his own signature model – an honour accorded to few. Robin Trower live is an experience not to be missed. Whether you play guitar, or just enjoy a brilliant soulful player, come out and see the show. You will walk away smiling.
Eli Cook is a mystifying soul. He’s a keen observer, a provoking thinker and has swagger.
All under that messy blonde hair is a passionate heart with fingers of silver and gold that recalls John Lee Hooker, Chris Smither, and Chet Atkins, mixed in with a dirty, grungy sound. It’s clean playing mind you; it’s just his fingers are covered in the dirt left over from the crossroads.
High-Dollar Gospel preaches a high voltage bolt to your ears and shakes you loose.
Coming from Albemarle County in Virginia at the Foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, Eli Cook grew up listening to the blues, country, classic rock and alternative rock. He grew up with no TV and radio shows like Prairie Home Companion were his Saturday night entertainment. Life moves slowly in this rural area of the world giving him time to hone his skills with his voice and guitar chops. At 18 he was opening up for B.B. King – a few years later he’s playing in Canada – and then the next week he’s blending in with his hometown locals. Talent like this shouldn’t go unnoticed, and Eli has been smoldering in the underbelly for far too long.
“It’s what was around me, and I just tried to pick up on everything and everybody, including Doc Watson and Chet Atkins. In fact, hearing Chet fingerpick made me realize I didn’t need a band.” (Source: Guitar Player 2007)
Produced by Eli Cook at Full Moon Recording Studios in VA, High-Dollar Gospel opens up with a slow bang with “Trouble Maker” – taunting and questioning his muse to join him. Acoustic picking and slide drive the classic hoedown backs the cautionary tale “The Devil Finds Work.” The haunting “Mixing My Medicine” contains the cavernous sound of a detuned custom 12-string guitar; an instrument played famously by Leadbelly and Blind Willie McTell. Cook slows down Muddy Waters’ melancholy “Can’t Lose What You Ain’t Never Had” into a terrifying, heart of darkness lament, his voice reaching a bottomless depth of sorrow. The orchestral 12-string guitar underscores the metaphoric boast of “King Of The Mountain” that shows off Eli’s huge growl of a voice with its anthem-like chorus is a showstopper.
“Got my spirit vision mama, she’s callin’ me
head-on collision when a heart runs free
when I’m high, lordy people, don’t nobody mess me round
I seen every kind of evil; got to get on out this town” – King Of The Mountain
High-Dollar Gospel isn’t all balls to the wall, for his take on “44 Blues” is a brilliantly inventive version of Howlin’ Wolf’s classic propelled by his tapping foot. Dylan’s “I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight” is made less declamatory than the original as Cook slows and lightens his approach without losing the romantic heat. He again flashes his slide accompaniment skills on the jaunty “Month Of Sundays” in a poetic entreaty to a paramour. (Click on Eli’s face for an acoustic performance of “Month Of Sundays”)
Eli Cook explains his album title as “I was brainstorming ideas that would evoke the imagery of the American South. The phrase ‘high-dollar’ is an old one, and ‘gospel’ is the Southern church music that brought us Ray Charles, Aretha Franklin, Sister Rosetta Tharpe and countless other iconic musicians. The two phrases together can have several connotations, but the one I think of is the feeling of disillusionment that seems to be more and more pervasive. I think a lot of young people feel a sense of apathy and a loss in direction, generally speaking. People need inspiration, and it seems like that is becoming harder to come by.”
“He’s in the vanguard of young, 21st-century blues rockers!” – Tinsley Ellis
The growl in his voice shows off an emotional connection to the music as a tool rather than decoration, and with your eyes closed, you could be listening to Howlin’ Wolf or Chris Cornell. On Aug. 18with High-Dollar Gospel, Eli shows you what you can’t imagine, something so strong and melodic, so don’t be afraid to look and listen.
“Artists often talk about the blues as a living and growing thing and not just a style of music ﬁt for museums. Cook puts that theory into practice and moves things forward.” – Slant Magazine
Back away the concrete is buckling.