“Bridge of Sighs” by Robin Trower (1974)
In 2009, my friend Rich and I went to the Palace Theater in Greensburg, PA, to see a concert by a 64-year-old guitarist.
There was a long delay between the opening act wrapping up and the featured group starting to play. We joked that because of the guitarist’s advanced age, he might be having some trouble making it to the stage.
We learned after the fact that Robin Trower, indeed, had been suffering from some kind of health issues and an ambulance was called. But he recovered and put on a heck of a show.
As Procol Harum’s guitarist in the late ’60s, Trower kind of took a back seat to Matthew Fisher and his Hammond organ, especailly because the latter instrument is so prominent in thE band’s signature “A Whiter Shade of Pale.” In fact, Trower wasn’t even aboard yet when that song was recorded.
After Fisher left Procol Harum in 1969, Trower’s guitar became the dominant instrument for the subsequent releases “Home” and “Broken Barricades.” The latter directly focused the spotlight on Trower with his heavy-duty fretwork on “Simple Sister” and Hendrix-influenced playing on “Song for a Dreamer.”
Trower went solo after “Broken Barricades” and gained a modicum of attention with his debut, “Twice Removed from Yesterday.” Then came his magnum opus.
“Bridge of Sighs” started to move up the charts following its 1974 release on the strength of “Too Rolling Stoned,” an FM-radio hit that combined the elements of a catchy riff and chorus, exceptional vocals by the late James Dewar, an extended Trower guitar jam and, of course, the cool title.
Listeners soon discovered other gems: the opening “Day of the Eagle,” the closing “Little Bit of Sympathy” and the spooky title track, on which Trower really defines his effects-laden style. And the guitar is well-positioned in the album’s mix, thanks to the efforts of the producer, none other than former bandmate Fisher.
The album ended up peaking at No. 7 on the U.S. charts, making Trower (briefly) a superstar; by the time of the followup, “For Earth Below,” popular tastes in music had started shifting far away from guitar-based rock.
But he still has plenty of fans into the 21st century: The Palace Theater was packed the night he almost didn’t make it to the stage.