April 1998

trower.jpg (11411 bytes)Robin Trower - Bridge of Sighs
Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab UDCD 684
Originally Released: 1974
Remastered Released: 1997

by Greg Smith

Sound Quality ***

[Reviewed on Gold CD]

Comparison Release:

Essential Robin Trower
Chrysalis F2 21853, 1991

Sound Quality ****1/2

The last time I heard Robin Trower outside of my own disc spinning was on the 4th of July. I was sitting in a McDonalds parking lot, munching on some fries and a caramel sunday (with some low-fat ice cream instead of the good stuff they used to serve, ack). The parking lot is a popular holiday hangout because it gives a good vantage point to observe the fireworks, while being far enough away from the mob up close on the lawn to make for a quick exodus after the grand finale. I saw a van pull up and a family emerge. The father had two home audio speakers sitting in the rear of the van, speakers that soon after their arrival began playing Bridge of Sighs at a high enough volume to be heard across the parking lot. I don't know about the rest of the crowd, but I thought that was pretty cool. Even under crummy conditions, with badly placed and generally poor speakers playing while driven by a questionable source, it's still a lot of fun to listen to music you like in a festive atmosphere.

When it comes time to listen to such things at home, though, I want the best possible reproduction of the original I can find. My main source for Trower power is a 1991 hits collection that I always thought sounded damn good, considering the original source was a 1974 recording. Diving into Mobile Fidelity's version revealed a host of details lost not only while listening in a parking lot, but on my own system playing an earlier mastering.

The title track, "Bridge of Sighs," sounds surprisingly good on the collection I’ve got. The tinkling bells in particular are very crisp for a 1974 album. Mobile Fidelity’s version refines those bells with a better defined echo and trailing edge. The bass is tightened up, with particularly solid drums. The cymbals are crisper, the background wind is more obvious, and the squeak of the kick drum is easier to pick out.

"Too Rolling Stoned" has always been my favorite Trower track; there’s just so much energy there. I had no complaints about the version of the recording I already had. The newly remastered copy adds a bit of extension on the bottom-end and a proper shimmer to the cymbals. Particularly notable was the lead guitar; it actually sounds like it was recorded in a room now.

If I was going to pick a track from my 1991 collection that was in need of improvement, "Lady Love" certainly qualifies. The cowbell during the opening is dead. While the vocals sound decent, the rest of the music is very compressed. It’s not nearly as lively as the other tracks. Mobile Fidelity cleans that whole mess up. The cowbell sounds real, while kick drum and bass guitar jump to life. In a grander sense, the dynamics are huge in comparison.

I don’t know if it would be worth your while to get the remastered version of Bridge of Sighs if you were going to play it back in a van while parked at a McDonalds. But if you’re looking for the best version of this CD for playback in a more discerning environment, Mobile Fidelity has just what you need.