For the best part of 35 years, most of us will have had to put up with, at best, basic low-grade homemade recordings or dodgy VHS-to-DVD transfers of this unforgettable TV performance.
Thank you Repertoire Records. Thank you BBC. This is the one live recording Trower fans worldwide, have been waiting for! Yes folks, it’s time to put your DIY and bootleg copies aside and invest in the real deal, the pucker package of this particular episode from the Beeb’s long-running and much-loved concert series.
Buy and you won’t be disappointed! Repertoire have done their homework well with some skilful audio remastering from Jon Astley, DVD mastering and editing by Deluxe Media Europe Limited and design work by Pete Hayward. The finished DVD and CD set is a joy to behold, faithfully recapturing the magic of one of Robin’s most pivotal and memorable live shows.
It would be Robin’s very last performance on British soil with Bill Lordan and James Dewar. This trio, which had first set out five years earlier around the time of Robin’s third album release ‘For Earth Below’, would head Stateside for one final tour there, after this ‘Rock Goes To College’ recording. So folks, this is special, very special.
It was always going to be special. It was always going to be a fine performance. The reason is simple. It was recorded the night after the last show of the band’s 15-date UK tour, an absolutely blinding performance at Newcastle’s City Hall, a tale told elsewhere here on this site. (Please note: The date given on the cover of this superb remaster is the date that the show was first broadcast on UK TV, not the date of its recording.)
Robin, James and Bill were in absolutely stonking form. What comes over so eloquently in these 40-minute recordings is the trio’s perfect partnership, their synchronicity, their space, their style.
The set list presented here draws on material from Robin’s then current release ‘Victims of the Fury’ (‘The Ring’, ‘The Shout’ and ‘Victims of the Fury’) plus classic tracks from his first two albums (‘Day of the Eagle’, ‘Bridge of Sighs’, ‘Daydream’ etc.)
The pace is electrifying. ‘Day of the Eagle’ kicks things off with Robin’s gold Strat (rosewood neck), extensive pedal board and massive Marshall backline leading the attack. The sound achieved throughout is among his best ever and, no surprises, is often at its most telling on the outro sections, ‘Day of the Eagle’, ‘The Ring’ and ‘Bridge of Sighs’ being particularly potent examples.
The whole show flows so effortlessly: Bill working his way around his kit with great gusto; Jimmy’s vocals and bass line so clear and crisp; Robin twisting and turning the notes out from his guitar throughout; and occasionally grabbing the mike to say a few words to the, largely student, audience (the show was recorded at the former University of London Union on Malet Street).
The highlights for me are probably one of the best-ever renditions of ‘Too Rolling Stoned, a fabulous version of ‘The Shout’ with its clever and deeply compelling segue straight into the perfect albeit extremely brief ‘Hannah’ and an amazing, if all too short, ‘Daydream’ (then again it’s only a 40-minute show Alan, so these are technically the single edits not the full album versions).
Pete Drummond’s introduction is kept safely in tact here too. I love the way he talks about ‘Billy Lordan’ and ‘Jim Dewar’ and his emphatic introduction of the main man ‘and on guitar, the incomparable Robin Trower, the Robin Trower Band’.
Blues Matters! magazine’s Alan Pearce and Pete Sargeant provide the splendid liner notes and there’s a full roll-call of the BBC production team there on the day – Director Tom Corcoran, his assistant Rose Rudnicka, Producer Michael Appleton, Soundman Graham Haines, Lighting men Neil Kirby and George Jakins.
35 years on, this Repertoire DVD and CD release celebrates one of the best nights ever for Robin Trower, his faithful sidemen and merry fans. This is a classic restoration of a definitive performance by three rhythm and blues masters. Enjoy folks!
Review by Alan Howard. Find out more about Repertoire Records by visiting their site here