Jack Bruce and Robin Trower, Seven Moons

Lenny Kaye

By Lenny Kaye

on 04.22.11 in Reviews

A most intriguing collaboration this, pairing two giants of '60s-oriented guitar pyrotechnics, both with strong personalities and chops to match, and both, coincidentally, somewhat overshadowed by the legacy of the bands that birthed them, in actuality and influence.

Two giants of ’60s-oriented guitar pyrotechnics.

Jack Bruce formed one angle of the equilateral triangle that was Cream, and his nigh-lead bass playing matched Eric Clapton's considerable firepower flat-round for round-wound. More, his songwriting sensibility, his haunting use of the blue note in his vocalizing and the abstract, even weird poetic images of his best songs ("Tales of Brave Ulysses") and ear for a riff ("Sunshine of Your Love") made Cream much more than a next evolution-of-the-blues for Clapton. Later he would investigate jazz-fusion (in rhythm sections that paired him with drummers Tony Williams and Billy Cobham) and jam-out with other sterling axe-masters like Leslie West and Vernon Reid.

Trower was a guitarist in early Procol Harum, a band whose keyboard-dominated "Whiter Shade of Pale" might have rendered the guitar superfluous within their group context (though Trower was given space to let loose on the group's debut long-player, heard most sacramentally in "Repent Walpurgis"). He would spend five albums with the band, but it was as a solo artist in the '70s, especially on his Bridge of Sighs collection, that he made his mark, demonstrating his mastery of Jimi Hendrix 'thick supple tone and chord shapes, perhaps to the detriment of his reputation as an innovator. Still, Jimi is no mean starting point (Stevie Ray Vaughn may be the final stop on the express); and watching Trower play at the old Academy of Music on E. 14th St., in the mid-'70s, the grace of his fingers on the fretboard, along with his innate modesty as a guitarist and the respectful purity of his lines, his sense of the right bend of the note, gave him an honesty that puts him on a par with other bedrock guitar heroes, like Rory Gallagher or Roy Buchanan. (Hey, what is it with those first two letters that gift overt guitar talent? Let's ask Robbie Robertson or Robert Johnson…).

Together, Bruce and Trower make a good match, virtuosos inspiring and complementing each other. This is not the first time they've joined forces (a power trio named B.L.T. came together for a couple of albums in the early '80s); but if there is little tension or desperation in their current melding (as befits English rock nobility), there's a pervasive sense that all is right with who they've become, that they've understood themselves as musicians and humans. There are straightforward blues settings ("Perfect Place," "Lives of Clay"), fantasia atmospherics ("Distant Places of the Heart," "Just Another Day") and a title track unmistakable in who you're listening to, and why.