For Earth Below, released in 1974 and introducing Bell Lourden on drums, was distinguished only by its painful similiarity to the preceeding albums. Critics who formerly praised Trower were now ready to bury him. But crys of “Trower’s shot his wad” failed to keep the 1p from becoming his gold hat trick. Robin Trower Live did likewise but raised hope in many corners that this stopgap album would be a prelude to a creative upswing.
Unfortunatley, the subsequent Long Misty Days was no better than a good try with word going out that yet another rock star was about to supernova out.
Trower went into creative seclusion to sort things out a bit. While the band hadn’t been imitating the sound of trainwrecks, it was a safe bet that something new in the way of a spark was needed.
Robin began the operation by grafting in new bassist Rustee Allen; whose duties with Sly Stone’s funkier efforts were dulely noted. This, in turn, released Dewar for full tilt singing duties.
The new and improved Robin Trower Band moved into Miami’s Criteria studios with producer Don Davis and emerged with In City Dreams; a semi radical departure that finds Trower forging his musical metal with a generous slice of the black man’s burden.
Trower commented on this new move. “This album was the first time I sat down and thought about preparing for an album in any kind of serious manner. I spent a lot of time working on the musical side of the new material, and then Jimmy and I got together and worked on the lyrics. We were totally prepared before we went into the studio.
“What was interesting on this album was that Rustee and Bill had not heard the material prior to us going into the studio. That was an idea I came up with in order to keep a jam-like feel to the album. The result was a rather loose, sloppy feel rather than a very structured, sterile feel.”
Trower’s newfound funky side is quickly evidenced as side one’s “Somebody Calling” strikes an ominous black tone. The song’s tasty intro has Robin playing some lazy, funneled licks to an unchacteristically danceable beat. Dewar’s emerging vocals move Trower’s riff-to dual leads as well as muted backing. All of which provides a stark haunting quality to what is the closest thing to a listenable disco cut to come from either side of the color line.
Trower’s forte has always been the progressive route, but with “Sweet Wine Of Love” we find his best bet yet for a top 40 single. The song mixes blues and pop elements into a comfortable platform for Dewar’s bluesey refrain. “Wine” is one of those no pain/no strain type of songs; the kind that usually become commercial hits.
The album’s title cut, however, proves this disc’s monster and a sure sign that Trower’s once again found his chops. “In City Dreams” combines a muted marching backing with electric overtones of city life set to a fantasy music soundtrack. No, your ears aren’t deceiving you. “In City Dreams” bears astonishing vocal and instrumental similiarities to the classic, “On Broadway.”
So there you have it, dear heart. Robin Trower has not shot his wad.
In City Dreams proves he was only reloading.