SAVOY BROWN – ” The First Eight Albums ” 1966-1972

Posted: September 22, 2018 in ALBUMS, MUSIC
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Savoy Brown has never had a song on the pop charts and none of their albums have ever inched above the top thirty anywhere in the world. Yet, for aficionados of British blues, they hold a unique place. Between 1967 and 1974, Savoy Brown released nearly a dozen notable albums that took a holistic approach to the blues, snaking through an ever-evolving mix of boogie, R&B, jazz, and psychedelic rock.

The story of how those albums came to be contains a drama rife with personality clashes, exacerbated by a pitched resistance to the slickness of pop stardom. Over the years, the band switched line-ups as often as Imelda Marcos changed shoes. Yet their music achieved a consistent quality that deserves a rehearing by anybody who appreciates blues with a hard rocking edge.

Since they began, more than 60 musicians have played in the band. Simmonds has fronted the group as a trio since 2012 with bassist Pat DeSalvo and drummer Garnet Grimm. Formed in London in 1965. They became a fixture on the burgeoning blues-rock scene in the UK in the second half of the decade. Savoy Brown never achieved the record success in their own country that was enjoyed by such proponents of the genre as Fleetwood Mac or John Mayall; indeed their UK chart life consisted of precisely one week at No. 50 for 1970’s Decca album Looking In.

In advance of a new studio project, Savoy Brown recently released Still Live After 50 Years, Vol. 2,which follows 2015’s first volume. It marks the 50th anniversary of their debut album on Decca, Shake Downwhich showcased their blues pedigree with covers of B.B. King, John Lee Hooker and Willie Dixon.

No automatic alt text available.

Kim Simmonds was Savoy Brown’s stalwart leader, and sole consistent member—rates as one of the most emotive and flexible guitar heroes Britain has ever produced. His love of the blues began after he heard the American pioneers featured in his brother’s record collection. “It was the honesty of the music that attracted me,” the guitarist said. “There was none of the nonsense of pop. It’s simple music, yet at the same time there’s great art in it.”

Simmonds and Savoy Brown never achieved the stardom of their contemporaries, maintaining an underground status and establishing their reputation with energized live performances that continue to the present day. Like a phoenix, Simmonds always rose from the ashes of critical band member departures and forged ahead, creating engaging blues oriented rock music with a long list of talented musicians. Following their initial success in the mid-1960s, as a traditional blues band featuring the dynamic Chris Youlden on vocals, Youlden departed and the band began heading in a more hard rock/boogie band direction, releasing several memorable albums.

Image may contain: 4 people, people standing

Shake Down (September 1967)

Kim Simmonds formed his baby step version of Savoy Brown in 1965, when he was just 18. Their initial line-up featured six players, including harmonica player John O’Leary, and singer Bryce Portius, perhaps the first black musician to be part of a British rock band. The latter hire reflected Simmonds‘ upbringing in a racially mixed area of South London. In their early gigs, Savoy played the same clubs as Fleetwood Mac, opened for Cream at some of that group’s earliest shows and even served as John Lee Hooker’s band on a full U.K. tour. Their growing reputation as a live act got them a deal with Decca Records. But by the time they cut their first album, , they had already replaced two of their initial players and added a second guitarist: Martin Stone. The band’s debut album , ‘Shake Down’, released in September of ’67, featured production from Mike Vernon, blues-rock’s ultimate go-to guy for his work with John Mayall, Fleetwood Mac, and later, Ten Years After. 
Image may contain: 4 people
Cover versions of classic blues songs ate up their debut, with the exception of one cut written by Stone. From the album’s first song, the focus fell on Simmonds‘ shivering tone and limber leads. Yet only one track gave him room to stretch out, a final 6 minute take on the traditional blues “Shakedown”.
Image may contain: 1 person, smiling, sunglasses and close-up

Getting to the Point (July 1968)

The band’s tentative first-steps necessitated a strong rethink before Simmonds cut album No. 2. Four of the band’s six members got pink slipped, leaving only their leader and pianist Bob Hall. (For a blink-and-you-missed-it moment, Savoy had at its drummer Bill Bruford, who went on to great success with Yes). The band’s more defining hires turned out to be second guitarist “Lonesome” Dave Peverette, a friend of Simmonds‘ from childhood, and frontman Chris Youlden. Though he owns one of rock’s burliest, and most emotive voices, Youlden lacked the look of a showman. So the band’s manager (Simmonds‘ brother Harry) created an image for him, outfitting the frontman with a distinct bowler hat and a monocle. The unit’s debut release Getting To The Point , was released in July of ’68, bold-faced their reboot with eight original pieces. The slow blues Flood In Houston, , offered a nice showcase for Youlden’s inventive vocals, as well as Simmond’s intuitive guitar. But a cover track Of Willie Dixons You Need Love , has intrigued historians most. Youlden’s cry of “deep down inside, woman, you need love,” later struck some listeners as a precursor to Robert Plant’s famous use of those lines in “Whole Lotta Love”  , released one year later. Simmonds believes some of his licks also had an influence on that track. “We did dates with The  Yardbirds when Jimmy Page was in the band,” Simmonds said. “I wouldn’t doubt that he heard some of that material.”

Blue Matter (May 1969)

Blue Matter was the bands third album and shows off British Blues at it’s finest and includes the stunning ‘Train To Nowhere’ This track, which leads off the band’s third album Blue Matter (their first album of 1969), rumbles along to thumping beat, with Simmonds’ guitar picking up steam along the way, driving the song home to its train whistle-punctuated finish.. Savoy Brown greatly widened their melodic reach on 1969’s “Blue Matter” . The key track, Train To Nowhere, threaded four muted trombones behind Simmonds’ valiant solo, while the vocal from Youlden nailed the existential pull of the lyric.

The band devoted half of the album to live tracks were recorded on December 6th, 1968, at the now defunct City of Leicester College of Education because the band was scheduled to tour the US and needed additional tracks to complete the album in time for the tour. The booking at the college represented their only chance to record the extra tracks in a live venue before embarking on the tour. An offer to perform the concert free of charge was accepted by Chris Green, the college Social Secretary, who had made the original booking, and the concert was duly recorded, a number of the live tracks being added to the album.  which Youlden missed due to a bad case of tonsillitis. His loss gave the band two gains: Guitarist Peverette got to show off his own skills as a vocalist, and the musicians got to stretch out on tracks that lasted up to nine minutes. The concert format re-emphasized Savoy’s forte as a live band. Subsequently, the group began to concentrate on touring, particularly in the U.S., where they headlined the Fillmore East and West several times.

Image may contain: one or more people

This is one of the concert recordings found on the half studio/half live Blue Matter album. Savoy Brown here takes this Muddy Waters tune on a wild nine-minute adventure, which is highlighted by Simmonds’ massive and monumental guitar solo that commands the middle of the song. You can see why they were known for their live performances.

Very heavy blues for the time. David Anstey’s cover fits perfectly with the music. Some of Kim’s best, most ferocious guitar playing. Black Cat Bone’s “Barbed Wire Sandwich” had the same feel. Guitarist Rod Price, from Black Cat Bones, would later go on to play in Foghat, made up of ex Savoy Brown members.

Image may contain: 4 people, plant, tree and outdoor

A Step Further (September 1969)

A Step Further was released later that year, and introduced bassist Tony Stevens replacing Jobe. They developed a loyal core following in the United States, due to songs such as “I’m Tired,” a driving, melodic song from the album.

Youlden more than compensated for his absence on the live part of ‘Blue Matter’ by dominating the writing on the first side one of the band’s next album “A Step Further”, released in late ’69. He proved a striking songwriter, even on the instrumental track Waiting In The Bamboo Groove, which was fired by a charging horn section.

Filling up the entire second side of Savoy Brown’s fourth album, this mammoth live number clocks in at over 22 minutes. As the band boogies along, they detour into “I Feel So Good,” “Whole Lotta Shakin’,” “Little Queenie,” “Purple Haze,” and “Hernando’s Hideaway.” The guys impressively never lose their way due to the tremendous guitar-work of Simmonds and Lonesome Dave Peverett and the entertaining showmanship of frontman Chris Youden.

Chris Youlden was at that time one of the best vocalist’s I’d ever heard. With the wonderful guitars of Peverett and Simmonds. SAVOY BROWN in the sixties were one of the best English. My favourite song of this record is ‘ Life’s One Act Play ‘. INCREDIBLE FEELING.

This funky little workout, hailing from Savoy Brown’s second album of 1969, reached No. 74 on the Billboard Hot 100. Kicking off dramatically with a blast of horns, it weaves in some Jimi Hendrix and Yardbirds influences while showcasing Simmonds’ nimble fretwork and singer Youden’s soulful vocals.

Raw Sienna  (April 1970)

The band made an even greater leap on their fifth album “Raw Sienna”, , resulting in what some see as their studio masterpiece. Released in March of 1970, ‘Raw Sienna’ seemed to provide a U.K. answer to the jazz-rock trend exploding out of America in bands like Blood Sweat & Tears and Chicago. In fact, Simmonds took his inspiration from Ray Charles, Little Milton and the classic recordings of Blue Note. The full-bodied horn section, used throughout, added muscle to the best compositions of Youlden and Simmonds‘ careers. Youlden wrote six songs, including the heartfelt “I’m Crying” and the sexy “Stay While The Night Is long” while Simmonds contributed the emotive “That Same Feelin”, along with the album’s most animated track, Master Hare . A jazz-rock instrumental, “Hare” suggested a caffeinated version of a Dave Brubeck classic. Regardless, the album underperformed on the charts,

Image may contain: text
For another blow, Youlden announced right after finishing recording that he was finished with the group as well. “He wanted to go in a more singer-songwriter direction, and I wanted to go more towards the guitar,” Simmonds said. Personal problems also contributed to the split. “We didn’t get along too well,” the band leader said.
Image may contain: 4 people, text
Savoy Brown packs a big punch into this early ‘70s FM mini-hit that only pushes just past the two-minute mark. Propelled by Tony Stevens’ bass, the band hits a Santana-like Latin-blues groove that is elevated by Simmonds’ smooth and (for him) short for him guitar solo.

No automatic alt text available.

Looking In  (October 1970)

Lonesome Dave Peverett took over from Chris Youlden on vocals who had recently left the band on this 1970 album. One of their best we reckon!

Luckily, the band had Peverette in their back pocket as a vocalist. More, Simmonds had already written material he knew was among his strongest for a potential follow-up work. Released just seven months after ‘Raw Sienna’, in October of 1970, the album “Looking In” not only revealed a new lead singer but a whole new sound. With its tighter, four man line-up, Savoy Brown set its sights on hard rock, giving the music more punch and weight. After opening with a gorgeous solo guitar piece from Simmonds, the band launched into “Poor Girl”, a titanic rocker that honed the new tone. Peverette, a formerly shy singer, presented a newly assertive vocal style, while Simmonds kept the songwriting level high with the slinky “Money Can’t Save Your Soul” and the jazz-tinged title track. The latter boasted dueling guitars from Simmonds and Peverette that wouldn’t be out of place in the Allman Brothers catalouge . Together, it gave the band the highest chart score of its career, cracking the American Top 40 for the first, and only time.

No automatic alt text available.

Street Corner Talking  (September 1971)

You’d think that success would encourage Simmonds to stick with the formula. But, in an exceptionally gutsy move, he challenged the other players to explore something dramatically different for their follow-up. “I wanted to go for a tighter, R&B sound.” he said. The one thing about Savoy Brown they were an always evolving band, each album different from the last, each album consisted of a ever changing line up. I have no favourite , they seem to jam longer on the tracks on this album,
This album caught nearly everyone by surprise and brought Savoy Brown their first international hit and much greater exposure than ever before. Tracks from this album like “Tell Mama,” “Street Comer Talking,” and the band’s take on the Motown classic, “I Can’t Get Next To You,” all received extensive FM radio exposure. The album went platinum and the band found themselves playing before wildly enthusiastic audiences in America and Europe.

When the rest of the band proved ill equipped, or unwilling, to make that change, he fired all of them. The three—Peverette, bassist Tone Stevens and drummer Earle took some ideas Simmonds had blueprinted and used them to form a new group, Foghat. By buffing up the sound, and simplifying their approach, Foghat became a huge act in the U.S. Their willingness to standardize Savoy’s style, offers a key explanation for why they, rather than Simmonds’ group, achieved sustained stardom. Simmonds insists he “was very happy for them. And we remained great friends. I still get a thrill when I hear “Slow Ride” on the Nike commercial,” he said.

“All I Can Do” This song isn’t the old Etta James tune, although it shares the same line “All I can do is cry.” On this Savoy Brown original, the guys show off their mellower side and, at nearly 11 minutes, gives everyone – guitarist Simmonds, singer Walker, keyboardist Paul Raymond, bassist Andy Silvester and drummer Dave Bidwell – a chance to shine.

A shake-up in a fellow blues band helped the resourceful Simmonds rebound from the three man loss. As it happened, Stan Webb, czar of the Brit blues at Chicken Shack, had just jettisoned three members of his band. Recognizing an opportunity, Simmonds hired every one of them. The new line-up jelled remarkably well, especially with the addition of singer Dave Walker, whose deep voice had some of the throaty command of Youlden. The unit’s debut, “Street Corner Talking”, released in September of ’71, made good on Simmonds‘ goal to bring steely R&B to the blues, evident in a convincing cover of Motowns Temptations I Can’t get Next To You” The Temptations’ . The song received wide play on FM rock stations as did a catchy original, Tell Mama . Both cuts showcased a slicker, more streamlined production sound.

No automatic alt text available.

Hellbound Train  (February 1972)

The groove on ‘Street Corner’ proved deep enough to inspire a strong restatement on its follow-up, “Hellbound Train” , released just five months later. The album found a highlight in the nine minute title cut, which remains a part of Savoy Brown’s set to this day. The mix of R&B, boogie and blues hit a trifecta with the next album ‘Lion’s Share’, released late in ’72. But, like all shades of Savoy Brown, this was another incarnation that wasn’t built to last.

By the end of that year, frontman Walker bolted to join the equally peripatetic Fleetwood Mac. His replacement, Jackie Lynton, proved a pale substitute, something the group tried to camouflage by surrounding him with scores of female backup singers on his sole album with them, ‘Jack The Toad’. After Lynton left, Simmonds made another ballsy move by hooking up with peer Stan Webb for a double-guitar assault of an album, ‘Boogie Brothers’ in 1974. After that, Simmonds himself took over the singing, though he never considered himself a top vocalist. Savoy Brown’s audience began to taper at that point, a trend which didn’t dissuade Simmonds from continuing to lead some version of his brand through all the decades since. Along the way, he has released scores of albums and toured regularly.

In the 50 years since Savoy Brown released their debut, they’ve run through over 60 (!) musicians, with Simmonds serving as their sole through line. “I can be a difficult person,” the band leader admitted. “And I don’t want to stand still. Once I’ve climbed a mountain, I want to climb another. If a band weren’t willing to do that, I would get another band.”

The subsequent roller-coaster ride hasn’t deterred Simmonds. For the band’s fiftieth anniversary this fall, Simmonds will release yet another new Savoy Brown album and tour to back it. “I have a strong motivation to continue,’ he said. “A famous poet once said “the deed can never be done without need.’ There’s something in me that’s gotta come out. Through all of it—the band’s changes, the music, and the fifty years the one tie-in is my guitar playing. That’s what keeps it all going.”

Image may contain: 4 people, people sitting and outdoor

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.