VARIOUS ARTISTS – ” Crawling Up A Hill: A Journey Through The British Blues Boom 1966-71 “

Posted: November 12, 2020 in ALBUMS, MUSIC
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Beginning with John Mayall and his epochal Blues Breakers With Eric Clapton Grapefruit‘s roughly-chronological collection illustrates how the blues and its variants permeated the late 60s British music scene, happily highlighting the key players – often in more obscure settings – while providing examples of the lesser known, and near-forgotten, equally inspired by Mayall’s example.

The Fleetwood Mac clan are here in force; ‘Love That Burns’ from Mr. Wonderful; Peter Green guesting on Brunning Sunflower Blues Band’s ‘Ride With Your Daddy Tonight’; Jeremy Spencer’sMean Blues’ from his eponymous (and whacky) solo album; and The Christine Perfect Band’s out-take ‘It’s You I Miss’. Likewise Zeppelin; Page in ‘67 on a live Yardbirds ‘I’m A Man’; John Paul Jones guesting on ‘You Shook Me’ from Jeff Beck’s Truth; and Robert Plant in a short-lived trio with Alexis Korner.

Quiet Melon – whose ‘Diamond Joe’ is a revelation – turn out to be Art Wood plus a proto-Faces. The much-refried ‘Bring It On Home’ and ‘Baby Please Don’t Go’ are made fresh in versions from Bakerloo and Jasper. Siren’s ‘Gardener Man’, Steamhammer’s ‘Passing Through’, and Edgar Broughton’s ‘Old Gopher’ might have been equally at home on an I’m A Freak Baby collection, but sit happy here; like many of the later selections, of the blues but reaching beyond.

While there have been many British blues anthologies, the vast majority tend to be single-label projects rather than scene-wide curatorial efforts. This three-disc, 56-track box is the first attempt at a comprehensive overview. On disc one, the Bluesbreakers are represented by Willie Dixon’s and Otis Rush’s steamy, raw, “All Your Love.” The previously unissued title track is offered by with sass and verve by then-new and always unheralded Zany Woodruff Organization (who later hosted guitarist Allan Holdsworth). Tracks by Bond, Jeff Beck, Love Sculpture, and early Fleetwood Mac, Ten Years After, and the Deviants round it out. But there are surprises: Duster Bennett’s demo for “Jumping at Shadows,” made immortal by Fleetwood Mac, and the Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band delivering a scorching, humorous, barroom strutter called “Can Blue Men Sing the Whites?” There is a smouldering Korner jam here too, titled “Operator,” with a very young Robert Plant on vocals.

Disc two contains a smoking acoustic version of “Death Letter Blues” by Mike Cooper, as well as “It’s You I Miss,” by the Christine Perfect Band (aka Fleetwood Mac’s Christine McVie), the swampy, modal blues-rock of Levee Camp Moan on “I Just Can’t Keep from Crying,” Taste’s “Blister on the Moon,” revealing Rory Gallagher’s early guitar genius, and tracks by Blodwyn Pig and Chicken Shack, as well as a host of obscurities including Quiet Melon’s rarity “Diamond Joe,” featuring the pre-Faces Ronnie Wood, Kenny Jones, Rod Stewart, Ian McLagan, and Ronnie Lane. The final disc includes a scorching, live, “A Hard Way to Go” by Savoy Brown (with Chris Youlden), Stone the Crows’ “Raining in Your Heart,” the Edgar Broughton Band’s “Old Gopher,” Skid Row’s “The Man Who Never Was,” an early example of dual-lead proto-metal blues with guitarist Gary Moore (Phil Lynott was their original vocalist, but not here), and Status Quo’s early boogie exercise “Railroad,” with obscure numbers by Linda Hoyle (a rousing “Mr. Backlash”), a ragged “Road Runner” by Stack Waddy, and a rare live take of “I’m a Man,” by the pre-pop Yardbirds.

The set is adorned with copious, authoritative liner notes by compilation producer David Wells, and contains wonderful photos and brilliant sound. Crawling Up a Hill is essentially the definitive British blues compilation. Its amazing cross-licensing and skillful presentation leave very little out, yet covers all major and most minor artists on the scene with careful attention paid to stylistic variation.

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