What do you get when you combine classic rock guitar legend Robin Trower, reggae/R&B icon Maxi Priest, and esteemed musician/producer/mix engineer Livingstone Brown? These big-name groupings don’t always work, but in this case, the trio seems to have completely bought into their creative work together, and you get a truly always-on-point recording with broad-based appeal that’s a very cool, easy, enjoyable listen from beginning to end, quite possibly a must-have for your music collection, regardless of which of the three musicians your tastes are usually most closely aligned with.
Trower, Priest, and Brown kick things off with the title track, a funky, smooth, mid-tempo R&B number that flashes what would be a little danceable (if faster) beat that adds character and some guitar parts that draw your attention by slicing right through the rest of the music bed. “United State of Mind” is a great introduction to the style of music these have created. It’s a catchy, laid-back groove worth listening to with your eyes closed, one of my many favorite songs on this album.
Another favorite, the very next song, “Are We Just People,” slows things down but adds some urgency and a massively engaging, rhythmic, sexy musical hook.
“Hands to the Sky” has a big, open, cheerful, sunny-day vibe. The vocals, the phrasing, the upbeat rhythm, and the placement of the horns are all calming and smile-inducing.
“Good Day” showcases the sort of very cool, slow-rockin’ blues guitar-playing you’d hope and expect someone like Trower to bring to this project. It’s just one of several spots on this record that Trower’s guitarwork emphasizes the blues aspect of rhythm and blues.
“On Fire Like Zsa Zsa” is the kind of uptempo, kind-of-danceable number you might hear in the background of a film, perhaps during a montage while the protagonist is strutting through town getting things done or, really, during any montage segment that moves the story along quickly.
Next, the heartfelt, soulful, slow “Bring It All Back to You” is a powerful ballad. “Walking Wounded” follows, just as slow and powerful, but with a much darker tone, captured perfectly by the phrasing and emotion in Priest’s vocals. “Sunrise Revolution” carries the slower tempo through to a third straight song, but this with a hopeful message (“Maybe the time has come, where we should stand as one”), though its a message predicated on the less-than-stellar reality as a starting point. And “Where Our Love Came From” keeps the tone mellow, closing out the disc with plaintive guitar wails, pleading vocals, and a nice, calm fade-out.
Though Robin Trower, Maxi Priest, and Livingstone Brown may be a somewhat unexpected grouping of musicians, the result is a welcome addition to the pantheon of rock/blues/R&B music. It features strong songwriting, too many musical and vocal standout moments to count, and a cohesive-but-varied collection of songs. This is a smooth, relaxed R&B album with good, old-fashioned, big, rich, lush production, but still very song and artist-focused, able to appeal to a broad musical audience. So put the headphones on, sit back, relax, and let your ears enjoy.
You can find live performance listings for Robin Trower on the “Events” tab of his Facebook page or on the “Tours” page of his website. Robin currently has September and October U.S. tour dates listed, followed by an October date in Belgium and November gigs in the UK. Likewise, you can find upcoming show dates for Maxi Priest on the “Events” tab of his Facebook page. Currently, Maxi’s only listed upcoming show is a June 5th performance at the Bath Reggae Festival.