No More Worlds to Conquer
3 1/2 out of 5 stars
Tone and tempo.
Those audio trademarks have always separated Robin Trower’s approach from that of other blues-rockers.
Over the 50 years of his professional life, his style has seldom been about speedy fretwork, frenetic fingering, or showy acrobatics. Rather he relies on a simmering groove and reverb-drenched Hendrix-influenced shimmer slithering out of his guitar. Notes slide into passages, as Trower keeps a firm grasp on atmospherics, never overwhelming the listener with an aural onslaught and always leaving room for bass and drums to support his often overdubbed, generally spare and concise, six-string work.
Add soulful vocals to that mix and you have a template that Trower has rarely varied from on a few dozen albums starting with 1973’s post-Procol Harum debut Twice Removed from Yesterday. While cries that they all pretty much sound the same have flourished, Trower nonetheless infuses subtle formula tweaks along the way. That keeps things fresh enough to maintain a cult audience who realizes he’s probably not going to have another Bridge of Sighs-sized hit again, and they don’t care.
So it goes that No More Worlds to Conquer, another in a long line of largely interchangeable Trower releases, adheres to his established sonic blueprint while bringing some fresh molten mercury riffs, melodies, and typically obtuse lyrics into play on another set of his psychedelic blues.
He gets political on “Clouds Across the Sun” and on the thumping “The Razor’s Edge,” expressing his frustration with politicians that don’t keep their promises as throaty vocalist Richard Watts sings in the latter It ain’t words that will make you/By your deeds you shall be known. The closing love song ballad “I Will Always Be Your Shelter” doesn’t provide much in the way of poetic insight, but brings emotions to the song by way of Trower’s smooth/edgy, quicksilver guitar solo. The glistening “Birdsong” finds Trower at his most delicate, referencing such earlier understated highlights as “Daydream.”
“Fire to Ashes” adds a restrained organ to slightly bolster the sound which remains firmly in slow, pulsating mode. And the somewhat more upbeat gleaming soul of “Waiting for the Rain to Fall,” one of his finest and most melodic compositions, should remain in Trower’s live show for the foreseeable future.
Now pushing 80, Trower isn’t looking to reinvent the tone and tempo wheel he has crafted over five decades. His quality control remains in place though which makes No More Worlds to Conquer another absorbing, if maybe not essential, entry into a bulging catalog that has remarkably few missteps.