South African-born multi-instrumentalist, film composer and producer Trevor Rabin releases Rio, his first proper rock album in over 30 years, and it’s a cracker.
Trevor Rabin – Rio (InsideOut)
Release Date: 6 October 2023
Words: Robert Adams
Depending on your age or your preferred media, you will know Trevor Rabin either as the guy who saved Yes as a commercial entity in the late ’80s and early ’90s or the guy who scored mega movies like Con Air and National Treasure.
Rabin was the main creative force that was responsible for Yes’ Billboard chart-topping Owner Of A Lonely Heart single and the parent 90125 album. He left the band after the Talk album tour in 1993 to pursue a career as a film composer.
With over 50 film and TV credits to his name, it’s safe to say that he made the right career choice.
From 2016 to 2018, Rabin was part of Yes featuring ARW and played over 200 shows with the band. Rabin told MetalTalk, “That project was only supposed to be five or six shows, but after 200 shows, we called it quits. It certainly got my guitar chops back up to speed and my vocals.”
Rabin’s last full rock album was 1989’s Can’t Look Away, and after the Yes featuring ARW tour, Rabin realised it was time for him to do a new rock album.
Rio is that album, and it proves that Rabin has lost none of his creative genius when it comes to penning fantastic rock songs. “Over the past ten years, I was having ideas, concepts that I couldn’t implement due to my busy schedule,” Rabin said. “To be honest, those years flew by in a flurry. I knew that this was the time, and once I found my momentum, I worked on the album 24/7.”
The album opens with the first single Big Mistakes, and his Yes heritage is obvious right from the off. A soaring riff, wonderful singalong chorus and beautiful vocals reminiscent of Jon Anderson make you feel that you are in safe hands. This song “is essentially about surviving my late teens/twenties,” Rabin says, “hence the lyric, ‘We played in the fire, we danced in the rain. Up all night, we made Big Mistakes.’ I should have called the song I Can’t Believe I’m Alive.”
The first three tracks on Rio have been released as singles, with Push sounding like the best song Yes has produced in decades. This fact proves just how much Yes have missed Rabin since his departure in 1993.
“For this song, I was thinking of the horror of politics and politicians,” Rabin told us. “Once Vinnie Calaiuta played drums on this, it inspired me to redo some of the instrumentation. Vinnie‘s performance lifted this song beyond what I imagined. I utilised the strings at the end of the track to start the ARW live shows.”
Oklahoma is a more subtle and cinematic-sounding track which has a stunning video to accompany it. “In 1995, I wrote the germ of a lyric inspired by the devastating bombing in Oklahoma,” Rabin said. “It traumatised the entire nation and will always be a dark day for the country.
“Thirty-plus years later, I believed the time was right and okay to tackle the song I had written. It’s dedicated to family and friends who lost loved ones.”
Trevor Rabin is 69 years old, but his playing and especially his vocals would make you think he’s still in his 30s. The vocal performances throughout Rio are nothing short of staggering, and a special mention must go out to Tumbleweed, which starts with over one minute of sumptuous multi-layered vocal harmonies reminiscent of Queen or Jellyfish before any instrumentation appears. It’s just beautiful to hear.
Rabin gives his country chicken-picking chops a proper workout in Goodbye, which quickly turns into a proper hoedown track. Thandi has a schizophrenic start before settling into a more classic rock sound.
Rio’s longest track, Paradise, is a textbook exercise in quality and quantity. This track visits several styles throughout its seven-minute and three-second run time and never becomes boring.
The album closes with Toxic, which is a proper showcase of Rabin’s considerable talents as a guitar player, arranger and vocalist of supreme talent.
It’s been far too long since we’ve had a proper rock album from Trevor Rabin. To say that Rio is the best album that Yes has not released would be a fact but also a major disservice to Rabin’s songwriting, production and performance.
If you have even the remotest interest in progressive rock or even quality songwriting, then Rio should be part of your collection. This album will definitely be a major contender for my album of the year.
Trevor Rabin, Rio, is available from trevorrabin.lnk.to/Rio.
Trevor himself created the cover for the album. “I dabble with digital art, so I sent some images of mine to the label and was pleasantly surprised when they liked them,” he says.”
Rio marks Rabin’s first solo album of vocal material in 34 years and his first since signing with InsideOutMusic. “Signing to Inside Out was the most natural and happy signing,” Rabin says. “Thomas [Waber] and I have been friends for a while, and we’ve wanted to work together for a while. As I got close to completing the project, I called Thomas. It was that simple. I am extremely happy to be working with the Inside Out team and being part of the Sony family.”
“Working with Trevor is a big bucket list moment for me and the label,” InsideOutMusic label-head Thomas Waber said. “I became a fan of his signature writing style at the beginning of the ’80s and have been following him ever since. He is one of the true greats in Rock Music. Rio is everything we could have hoped for and more!”