STORY WRITTEN BY ROB NAGY
For 21st Century Media
For former Procol Harum guitarist and blues legend Robin Trower, making a living as a musician was once the furthest thing from his mind.
“When I first started playing, before I joined Procol Harum,” recalls Trower from his home in the United Kingdom, “I had no ambition really — no thought that I’d ever achieve anything like where I ended up, and here we are.”
Having long secured his place among guitar royalty, Trower, who turns 70 next year, has amassed an impressive body of work that includes over forty solo, live and compilation recordings.
“I’ve just finished a new album,” said Trower, “my first since “Roots and Branches” in 2013. It will be out the beginning of next year, and it’s called ‘Something’s About to Change.’ It’s all original music. I think I sort of rediscovered a facet and a way of playing guitar when I was doing “Roots and Branches” that kind of inspired me to come up with the material for the next album.”
Growing up in the seaside resort of Southend-on-Sea, Essex, England, Trower was only 17 when he and Gary Brooker formed a local band called “The Paramounts” in 1962. Four years later, Brooker engaged the talents of Trower with the formation of “Procol Harum.”
Procol Harum’s 1967 self-titled debut album featured the classic song “A Whiter Shade of Pale.” Trower remained with the band through five albums -“Shine on Brightly” (1968), “A Salty Dog” (1969), “Ain’t Nothin’ to Get Excited About” (1970), “Home” 1970, and “Broken Barricades” (1971).
His initial solo effort, “Twice Removed From Yesterday” (1973), marked the first of five consecutive Gold albums that would later include “Bridge of Sighs” (1974) (his most famous album), “For Earth Below” (1975), “Long Misty Days” (1976) and “In City Dreams” (1977).
In the following decades, Trower released various solo efforts as well as studio collaborations with former band mates, Bryan Ferry (Roxy Music) and Jack Bruce (Cream). Forming his own record label, V12 Records, with manager Derek Sutton in the mid 90’s, Trower was able to enjoy complete artistic freedom.
“I was able to write just music or songs for my own enjoyment, my own pleasure and not have to deal with record companies and what they wanted,” said Trower. “It has come very easy, and I still continue to come up with ideas. I’m very lucky to have this kind of gig.”
“There are two things that keep me moving forward,” says Trower. “As a guitar player, I’m always struggling to get somewhere up ahead. The main thing really, is the fact that I keep coming up with good music. As I pick up the guitar, I come up with new pieces of music or ways of doing old songs, and I think that’s really the fire in it. It lights the fire under the pot to keep it boiling if you like.”
At the invitation of Sting, Trower participated with Ronnie Montrose, Ian Crichton (Saga), Dave Sharman, Jan Akkerman and Laurie Wisefield, in the “Night of the Guitars II” (1991) concert tour.
Citing B.B. King, Muddy Waters, Albert King and Jimi Hendrix, among others, as his greatest inspirations, Trower has humbly taken the reins as one of the blues’ elder statesman.
“The thing I always set out to achieve with every piece of music that I do and have done, although I don’t always achieve it, is that I always try to make it as soulful as possible,” says Trower. “Obviously that’s quite subjective, but as soulful as possible to me, and I do think that does communicate to people. It’s got a great energy to it as well. You couple those two things together, and I think it’s quite potent.”
“I do know how fortunate I am,” added Trower. “I haven’t had that pinnacle moment yet. It’s up ahead. If you feel that you’ve peaked, you’re in trouble. It has got to be the next album, the next gig, making it the best you’ve ever played. That’s the thing to do.”
Having recently embarked on a five-week concert tour that will bring him to the Keswick Theater in Glenside, later this month, Trower is excited to be, once again, gracing American stages.
“I’m feeling really good,” said Trower. “My energy is really, really good, and I’m playing really well. I’m doing lots of old stuff that people like – the most popular songs and a few things off the most recent releases. It covers quite a wide range. I love the studio and creating, but I really love to let loose on stage. It’s probably the pinnacle as a player.”
“I’m always grateful for any compliments,” said Trower. “Let’s face it, there have been plenty of very talented people that are not recognized in their lifetime. In truth, I don’t think it’s a good idea to think about those kinds of things. That’s for other people to say. For me personally, it’s still up ahead, uh, what I hope to achieve. I would like to say one hell of a big thank you to my fans. Without them I wouldn’t still be doing it. They are the ones that have really kept it all going.”
IF YOU GO: Robin Trower performs at the Keswick Theatre, located at 291 N. Keswick Ave., Glenside, 19038, Thursday Oct. 30 at 8 p.m. Tickets can be ordered by calling 215-572-7650 or on-line at www.keswicktheatre.com.