This excellent album was showcased at a global online launch. It had its moments of awkwardness but was a really interesting event, attended by fans, friends and media folk from the four corners. It was hosted by the amiable Livingstone Brown from his studio, who acted as DJ on the night playing album tracks. They had been introduced by one of the three co-creators: Maxi Priest appearing via zoom – his face filling the screen in front of a United States of Mind backcloth, wearing shades, otherwise dressed for winter in coat and big woollen hat – and Robin Trower via phone.
After a long and quite emotional introduction by Maxi Priest, which at one point verged on covering his whole life story, there was the music, interspersed with questions from the assembled throng, which provided many amusing moments. Including Robin Trower being asked whether this collaboration was similar to his 1981 album with Jack Bruce and Bill Lordan (BLT). I hadn’t heard this (have played it since, pretty good actually, if you don’t mind Jack Bruce’s vocals – which I find can wear thin after a while) at the time. But even a cursory play of “United States of Mind” and a vague idea of what 80s power trios sound like should have given pause for thought. The question brought a terse “they’re nothing alike”. I’m sure Robin was thinking of a longer response involving more colourful language.
He was similarly restrained when someone else asked him “you must have been relieved not to have to do the singing on this one (subtext, “thanks for giving us all a rest from your vocals”).
Livingstone was totally charming when another publication (Bluesdoodles would never make such a faux pas) asked whether one song was inspired by an Everything But The Girl song of the same name. There was a glorious moment of total bemusement until the producer said, helping him out, “yes, I think I know what you mean but that’s just a line in their song, it’s called something completely different.” Some strained laughter by the questioner while Livingstone must have been thinking is there a least likely group to have been an inspiration for us? What’s he on? I hope we get some better questions than this, what a twit….
The same guy asked another question on behalf of someone who couldn’t attend: “Ask Robin about Lewisham Odeon”, which received a brief “I haven’t a clue what you mean”. Having not bothered to check what was behind the question (you would, wouldn’t you?) we were all left none the wiser. It was priceless! There was no likelihood of any real enlightenment of the sort you can strive for in a one to one interview but it was all quite jolly.
So, was the fanfare worth it? I hear you ask? Yes, for sure. The trio has created something I feel that will stand out as a proud highlight in their careers, despite their many previous individual triumphs. The almost unique blend of talents has created something quite special.
United State of Mind – Simon’s thoughts on the album
The opening and title track “United State of Mind” establishes the mood and feel of the album straight away. A lazy backbeat, overlaid by very cleverly arranged string samples – reminiscent of the sort of luxuriant backing that you recall from Barry White’s Love Unlimited Orchestra among others, creates a relaxed, groovy ambiance. The smooth vocals of Maxi Priest on top are as silky as liquid chocolate, imperious above the classy backing. I confess that while familiar with Maxi Priest’s reputation, apart from associating him with reggae music (pretty poor I know), I realise I knew next to nothing about his output. He had spoken about his interest in a wide range of music at the start of the launch event. On the evidence of this album he can stake a claim as a really talented soul singer in the vein of someone like Bobby Womack. It’s a voice that is very easy on the ear; definitely made to be the background to a seductive evening with the lights down low. The combination of his sweet soulful timbre and the laidback playing of Robin Trower is a marriage made in heaven and makes you wonder why more artists haven’t crossed genres to create something as enjoyable as this. Robin Trower’s guitar sound is just ridiculously fat toned; his wide, slow bends on two or three notes conveying more feeling than a thousand notes from other flashier (but emotionally dumb) players. His occasional restrained use of the whammy bar to create an unexpected note is beautiful to behold.
The track, Sunrise Revolution, is one of my favourite tracks and has a simply infectious groove, underpinned by a melodic picked descending guitar motif, accompanied by a gorgeously subtle and sensitive horn arrangement. Lovely soloing and fills from Mr Trower, who really is almost unparalleled in the quality of the tone he achieves.
The whole ten-track collection has a musically cohesive feel, the tracks flowing smoothly into each other, as well as a thematic message of the need for togetherness in a troubled world.
The arrangements and production by Livingstone Brown are the glue that holds everything together, creating a joyfully relaxed vibe. Reading his resume as a musician, engineer, and producer is like reading a who’s who of popular music. He knows his onions! He was also responsible, like a musical matchmaker, for bringing the singer and guitarist together as a creative partnership, having worked with both.
While they come from different branches of the musical tree, they have a geographical bond in common, having been born only two miles apart in South London, Robin in Catford and Maxi in Lewisham. While they come from the same London tribe their music is a universal message to the global tribe of music lovers. This deserves to be a huge success and we can only hope leads to a follow-up collaboration in due course.
Bluesdoodles rating: A Wonderful album that will bring added ENJOYMENT to your collection
1. United State of Mind
2. Are We Just People
3. Hand To The Sky
4. Good Day
5. On Fire Like Zsa Zsa
6. Bring It All Back To You
7. Walking Wounded
8. Sunrise Revolution
9. Where OUr Love Came From