Monday, June 29, 2009

Jimmy Dewar - Stumbledown Racer

You know Jimmy Dewar for his vocals on Robin Trower's first seven studio albums (plus "Robin Trower Live"). From 1973 to 1980 he was able to match the disoriented and spaced ruminations of Robin's guitar, with pained yet numbed vocals ("I Can't Wait Much Longer" being typical). He was also able to lead the charge on the galloping upbeat numbers that displayed real "Trower power."
On his extremely obscure solo disc, "Stumbledown Racer," you'll find him pursuing mainstream pop, personal and religious lyrics, and things lighter than heavy metal. If the title track sounds more suited to a Matthew Fisher solo album, it's because the disc was indeed produced by Mr. Fisher. While Fisher was able to work with Trower's style (they were in Procol Harum together, Fisher producing the "A Salty Dog" album) and was behind Robin's most successful records, he was also able to show the great versatility in Jimmy Dewar. The title track's notable for somber colors, regretful lyrics and pretty keyboard work. It's an original Fisher/Dewar tune, as is "Nature Child."
"Hosanna," a ballad with Biblical references to the newborn king, is also a serious departure from the world of Trower, and sounds more like a track from a Gary Brooker solo album...Brooker having dabbled so often in religious themes.
If you thought Dewar couldn't get farther away from Trower than that, hold on for "Bright Lights," with a chorus right out of the Elton John play book. Jimmy's pretty successful even though his voice is nowhere near an Elton John, or a Sedaka or Nick Gilder...the type of bright voice a pop tune usually requires. Another pop oddity is the rock chestnut "(Baby baby, you're) Out of Time," opening with some bright Farfisa-styled accents. "Heartbeat" is a croon with a Tex-Mex flavor, the kind of thing that Roy Orbison could've recorded during his MGM days. If you enjoy this, buying the CD itself would be a nice tribute to Jimmy, and you'll also be getting the liner notes, full musician credits and composer credits.
Yes, sometimes this rare find seems dated, but it's an interesting audio document. Fans of Trower may be disappointed, but those who admire the solo work of Procol's vocalists (Brooker and Fisher) will find this one sometimes in that league, and often similar in style to the era's Elton, Hall & Oates, Paul Rodgers and John Farnham albums.
Some facts about Dewar (October 12, 1942-May 16,2002) remain shrouded in mystery. Just why he left the Trower band hasn't been fully explained, nor the "progressive illness" (sometimes reported as brain damage) that began in 1987 and caused him to require constant medical care. Before his own death, his son passed away. And after Jimmy died, his wife soon followed. The grave marker is one of the many images you'll find at the bearing Jimmy Dewar's name.


Anonymous said...

In the early 1980s Jimmy checked into a Glasgow hospital for minor surgery to have a cyst removed from his skin. A botched job by the anesthesiologist caused Jimmy to begin having what can best be described as mini strokes while in surgery and for years to follow. His ongoing condition as a result of this hospital debacle was degenerative and left Jimmy unable to resume work with Robin Trower. Jimmy recommended long-time buddy Davey Pattison to take over his role in RTB and parted company with Robin on otherwise good terms. Eventually Jimmy's condition required full-time care residing at Dykebar hospital in Glasgow where he passed away in 2002. Allegedly he listening to the song "Long Misty Days" as he departed. Jimmy was an immense talent and a class act. He was remembered very fondly by those lucky enough to know and/or work with him. His family has suffered great loss with his passing as well as the passing of his wife Mattie and son Jim with in the span of only a few years. JD is survived by daughters Lisa, Laura and Wendy and a magnificent catalog of music.

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