Robin Trower's first rock, as opposed to blues, studio album in five years, returns the guitarist to the fluid, Hendrix-infused trio sound of his salad days. While the songwriting isn't quite up to the quality of his '70s work, Trower's snaky, echoed, languid guitar and his powerful duo's sympathetic backing make this a welcome addition to his extensive catalog. While the smooth, soulful whisky-soaked vocals of original singer Jimmy Dewer are sorely missed (Trower, who handles some of the singing here is at best adequate), the songs still shimmer with the uniquely silvery quality fans have come to expect from the guitarist.
Of all the various best-ofs and compilations that have come out over time that cover the Go-Go's career, this one is the clearest winner, by a long shot. Though by default it doesn't tell the full story, appearing as it did in 1994, in terms of containing both the famous hits and a slew of rarities and unreleased tracks, Return to the Valley of the Go-Go's is equally valuable for both neophytes and hardcore fans. The first 11 tracks alone make for an entertaining peek into the band's earliest days, with a slew of live cuts from both early rehearsals and gigs, including a number of songs taped at the legendary SF punk venue the Mabuhay Gardens. Everything's rough, energetic, and merry fun – while it's no surprise why some compositions remained unheard in later years, it's still worth hearing how the group pureed everything from straight-up punk to spaghetti Western guitar and girl group right from the start. A real treat is a romp through "Johnny, Are You Queer?" which would later get a more famous (and much more sedate!) take by Josie Cotton. Plenty of rare B-sides from the group's commercially dominant days surface here and there, and as for the big hits, they're available a-plenty: "We Got the Beat," "Vacation," "Our Lips Are Sealed," "Head Over Heels," "Turn to You," and more. Choice album cuts include "Skidmarks on My Heart" and "This Town".