Photo credit: Hristo Shindov

Album Review: Trevor Rabin, Rio

Photo credit: Hristo Shindov

From the first three power chords of Rio’s opening track and single, “Big Mistakes,” we were smitten. The vibe was one part Tom Petty’s “Jammin’ Me” and two parts Yes’s “The Calling,” and the record just got better and better as we made our way through numerous listens on repeat.

Fans of Rabin-era Yes and his decades-old, vocal solo record, Can’t Look Away, will find tons to love on Rio. The first half of this record is precisely what Yes could have been had that classic lineup remained beyond Talk. But on Trevor Rabin’s new solo vocal record, he combines his classic prog rock musicianship with decades of subsequent work composing and scoring the soundtracks to a number of Hollywood’s biggest motion pictures ranging from Armageddon to National Treasure and beyond.

A master of nearly all instruments with strings (to find out which ones he doesn’t play, check out our in-depth conversation on YouTube or below), Trevor is simply an incomparable beast on guitar, dobro, pedal steel, mandolin, and more. And when it comes to his bass playing, years in Yes definitely left a mark as you could practically feel him channeling the late Chris Squire on a number of tracks. But then there’s his piano chops. Let’s just say that most of us simply won’t be able to play them and leave it at that.

And while songs like “Push” will leave you spellbound with the virtuosic performances, anchored by equally impressive drumming from Vinnie Colaiuta, which then morph into motion picture soundscapes, don’t be misled into thinking this is a shred-first rock record. That’s just the smallest part of it. But don’t worry. This record is chock full of plenty of incredible stuff you’ll merely aspire to play.

Trevor Rabin, Rio
Genre: Prog Rock, Soundtrack, Country, Jazz & More
Production & Engineering:
Overall Rating:

Rabin demonstrates his mastery of so many styles of music on this one record, it’s easy to understand why he’s been such a massive success in Hollywood. Styles across the songs range from rock to country to Americana to classical to world beat, jazz, and more. By its very definition, you’d have to call this a progressive rock record because no artist in any other genre would ever get away with putting out such a genre-defying body of work.

All of the amazing orchestration you hear scattered around this record, and on display front-and-center throughout the emotional, heart-wrenching ballad, “Oklahoma,” comes from a variety of fantastic orchestral players who have worked with Rabin throughout his Hollywood tenure.

While Rabin’s previous solo record, Jacaranda, was a fusion-esque, instrumental record, this one is all about vocal songs, and wow, Trevor Rabin really kills it here, too! His vocals are in top form, and he delivers nearly all the vocals on this record. Fans of Yes will love the big vocal harmonies. Treat your ears to “Paradise,” a country song (well, the first half, anyway) that sounds like Shania Twain meets ELO before morphing into a Spock’s Beard vocal breakdown, an Irish jig, and then finally ending in classical jazz. No song can be assumed to be anything on Rio, as Rabin is a master of taking you on a musical journey from the start of a song to its often unexpected finish.

Rio is easily one of the most impressive records we’ve heard in quite some time, and the combination of clever songwriting and exemplary musicianship add up to a "Must Listen" recommendation. If you appreciate high-quality rock and pop with a ton of curve balls thrown in to keep it fresh and exciting from start to finish, Rio is one record you’ll be giving plenty of repeat listens to. It’s truly one for the road trip or focused listening experience, as there is a lot to absorb and appreciate. For the gift of this long awaited (34 years!) follow-up to Can't Look Away, Trevor, we thank you. Bravo!

Check out our lengthy conversation with Trevor Rabin all about Rio and more on your next daily drive:

Music Videos from Rio:

Big Mistakes

Need even more Trevor Rabin content? 
Check out our previous, extensive interview with Rabin regarding the making of his instrumental record, Jacaranda, and a look back at his entire career. Yes fans will find some amazing, previously untold stories here!
Soundtracks, Jacaranda, and, Oh, Yes...

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