Posts Tagged ‘Chrysalis Records’

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William The Conqueror have paid their damn dues. Like the sportsman cutting chipped teeth in the lower leagues before shooting to the very top, this band have lugged all the amps, placated the in-house sound guy for an easier life, their nails dirty, their hair unkempt. Enough. Naming yourself after one of British history’s most pivotal figures is a bold move, but then William The Conqueror could scarcely be accused of lacking ambition.

A group whose literary flair and in-depth musicality marks them out from the crowd, the three-piece set about constructing their new album last year.

Except it’s never enough, because despite their slinky, swampy, razor-sharp, blues-drenched, guitar thrashed alt. rock songs that form new album, Maverick Thinker and suggest that the door is opening for bigger rooms and broader audiences, it’s those sticky basement bar stages where the songs have always shed a skin and come alive. The record put the three piece behind the glass at Sound City Studios in LA, treading the same carpet as the likes of Nirvana, Johnny Cash, Neil Young, and Fleetwood Mac, and they might well have inhaled the spirit of them all.

William The Conqueror’s protagonist is Ruarri Joseph who knows his way around a melody and a verse. Joseph’s wryness suggests life just ain’t plain sailin’ and he fizzes that sigh and lament into something that breathes heavy with heart and with soul.

Pieced together as the world seemed to collapse, ‘Maverick Thinker’ is shot through with a don’t-look-back attitude, imbuing each song with a potent form of energy.

William The Conqueror began when Ruarri Joseph, a singer/songwriter in his own right, decided to retire his solo career after catching a glimpse of his own tour poster and realising the picture before him didn’t really represent reality. ‘It just seemed totally alien to me,’ he admits. ‘It didn’t seem like anything I’d done necessarily spoke of who I was.’ 

Soon after, he began experimenting with bassist, Naomi Holmes, and drummer, Harry Harding, examining themes from his childhood through the lens of a teenager named William. Starting out with secret gigs, Joseph emphasises the importance of playing those small venues and going back to their roots. ‘That was the cool thing about scrapping being a solo artist and starting completely from scratch, and building from the bottom all the way up. You’ve got no one looking over your shoulder. It takes away the insecurities I suppose.’

After their debut album Proud Disturber of the Peace, the band worked with esteemed producer, Ethan Johns, for their follow up, Bleeding on The Soundtrack, and recently signed to Chrysalis Records. Initially planning to make their latest release, Maverick Thinker, in a home studio, they were later persuaded to make a trip to Sound City Studios. The intention being to immerse themselves in the vibrant musical culture and artistic scene of Los Angeles, but, instead, found themselves in a ghost town as the pandemic hit. 

Despite the strange circumstances, William the Conqueror continued with their work. The album was self-produced by the band along with recording engineer, Joseph Lorge, who also, after the band were forced to fly home early, played the guitar solo for the title track. ‘Having an engineer you can trust, you can focus everything about yourself on the performance. He knew the studio inside out.’ Though the location may have changed, they took their customary recording approach of tracking live, capturing the spirit and integrity of their shows without losing themselves in the production.

For a three-piece, William the Conqueror live up to their name and fill an incredible amount of space – commanding your attention with the depth and vitality of a much larger outfit. ‘It was an economical thing to begin with,’ says Joseph. ‘I have this thing about working in threes. I like the format.’ So far, Joseph hasn’t been tempted into arranging beyond their current numbers, with the recorded output staying mainly faithful to their on-stage sound. ‘There’s something quite nice about some kind of creative restriction,’ he says – ‘it makes you think outside the box.’

‘Working in threes is always nice – a little treble approach with a three-piece band. I had the idea of a trilogy in my head – a child, father, mother kind of thing. Then I read something by Herman Hesse about the three stages of development in life being innocence, disillusionment, and faith – the idea, that we all go through that kind of journey.’

When it comes to song writing, Joseph takes a more relaxed approach which is evident in his colloquial vocal tone and conversational manner. ‘My favourite kind of writing is the stuff where you’re not really aware of what it is that’s going down on the paper at the time.’ The band’s recent single, Move On, was written in this way. ‘It came from the idea of being overwhelmed – drowning in ideas and not knowing where to begin.’ Together, with a roving bassline and restless high hats, the imagery depicts twists in the roads and towns by the coast. It was a retrospective realisation that the song was about a hitchhiking trip his mother had embarked on in her youth.

 Maverick Thinker’s second single, Jesus Died a Young Man, is an ode to some of Joseph’s early religious experiences and features staggered guitars and a mantra-like chorus that wouldn’t feel out of place at a faith healer show. Joseph’s vocals are dry and almost conversational – culminating in an exasperated wail, amidst the pounding rhythm section. ‘I was quite lost and looking for something to show me the way out of curiosity. Had I encountered a really good teacher, I probably would have fallen for it because of that charlatanism – drunk on the spirit, hands in the air kind of stuff,’ he says. ‘There’s something particularly sinister about televised evangelists – it’s a sort of next-level possession.’ Accompanied by a video featuring a channel flickering between swaggering televangelists, news channels and predatory nature clips, there’s a definite cynicism and an unsettling air.

As well as writing, recording and releasing music, Joseph has also authored an accompanying novel as well as producing a podcast adaptation. ‘The music and the book – they fit together. If you read the book and listen to the record, you can hear things crossing over.’ 

Joseph has been keeping himself busy during lockdown. When not writing songs, you can witness his other creative efforts through the band’s latest music videos including Wake Up – made entirely of 1920s horror movie footage. ‘That’s what you have to do when you’ve not got a budget for a music video. 

New album ‘Maverick Thinker’ out now

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Liz Phair addresses the romance between Lou Reed and Laurie Anderson, pondering how they might have felt and interacted privately in her new song “Hey Lou.” Produced by long time collaborator Brad Wood, it’s Phair’s first new song in two years following the Wood-produced “Good Side.” There’s more to come. Phair is all set to release her first album of new material in a decade, entitledSoberish”, following a deal struck with U.K. Chrysalis Records.

“Hey Lou” dropped at midnight and is accompanied with a fun, Toben Seymour-music video featuring music’s quirkiest pair and a cameo from Andy Warhol, all rendered as puppets. It’s the Chicago-based singer and songwriter’s first release since 2019’s “Good Side.” Have you ever wondered what love looks like for your favourite celebrity couple behind closed doors? Hey Lou imagines a day in the life of two music legends, whose union was an inspiration for rock fans

Due out at an unspecified date in 2021, “Soberish” will be supported this summer when Phair hits the road. 

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From 1976 to 1982  Deborah ‘Debbie’ Harry, her partner Chris Stein, Clem Burke, Jimmy Destri and Gary Valentine (there would be occasional line-up alterations) pioneered a pathway that began in New York’s new wave and punk environs. With each passing album, they expanded their horizons, sensed the beginnings of rap and embryonic hip hop and finally emerged as an act that could swing from polished disco to the highest grade of pure pop. On albums like “Plastic Letters”, “Parallel Lines” and “Eat to the Beat”, Harry got inside the self-conscious facade of pop and inhabited the world of the urban heroines she sang about. She was the era’s ‘It’ girl, the poster babe who gave the group their name when the others noticed passing truckers hailing her ‘Hey Blondie!’ But she was also beyond pin-up.

Blondie are one of the most successful legacy acts to come out of the mid-70s New York punk-club circuit. Born in a basement on Bowery in 1974, guitarist Chris Stein joined Debbie Harry’s early band the Stillettoes and the two would become lifelong creative partners. Together with keyboardist Jimmy Destri, drummer Clem Burke and bass player Gary Valentine, Blondie took the indie pop playbook and ripped it to shreds. Blondie were more successful in Europe and Australia than their hometown where their status was jealously guarded. Yet they couldn’t be tied down: they grew up with a love for pop history and wanted to make their own. Their singles were trailblazers; slices of pure plastic passion and the rest of the media fell into place.

Their roots lie in The Stilettos who operated in a post-New York Dolls environment, the Manhattan bar rock equivalent of British pub rock. Stein and Harry (she’d played in a folk group called The Wind in the Willows in the very late sixties) named themselves Angel and the Snakes but once that became Blondie everything else fell into place.

A musical paradox to critics and audiences alike, they stayed fit by running through various genre exercises on every album, always keeping you guessing. From underground punk act to new wave cool to alt-pop, they helped catalyze the pop revival, all while maintaining a level of enigmatic cool and downtown attitude that’s been copied by countless bands since. The debut album, “Blondie”, was released on the  independent Private Stock. 

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Richard Gottehrer producer of Blondie’s first two albums, Blondie and Plastic Letters had left his former label and was looking to put out a compilation of bands in the New York scene. Blondie had earned their punk stripes gigging at Max’s Kansas City and then CBGB’s and Gottehrer snatched them up, signing them to the indie label Private Stock and releasing their self-titled debut, Blondie in 1976. Not successful at first Blondie were snapped up by Chrysalis who reactivated the disc and put out a revised single – ‘Rip Her To Shreds’ and ‘X-Offender’ – whose video (the promo format was in its infancy) was a big hit Down Under. Meanwhile, the radio picked up on strong tracks like ‘Man Overboard’ and ‘In The Flesh’, both featuring vocal backups from Ellie Greenwich, the woman who discovered Neil Diamond and wrote classics hits for Phil Spector’s girl groups. In that sense, Blondie covered the bases. Evidently, they understood how to give past sounds and production values a modern twist and that made them a more reassuring proposition.

Representing Klein’s encyclopedic knowledge of cultural relics from the past, the album riffed on everything from B-movies, rockabilly culture, and most noticeably girl groups. From the very first track of “X Offender,” Debbie Harry does her best Shangri-Las impression except instead of singing about teenage romance, she’s singing about a cop and a sex worker – truly a love song for the times. Singing subverted teenage love songs at age 31 is just the kind of tongue-in-cheek appeal that made Harry such a charismatic frontwoman. Hailed as a new wave ingénue with looks to kill, Harry was too campy and too pop for the underground scene, they didn’t know what to make of her.

As much as the Ramones are given credit for subverting 60s pop and rock, Blondie is just as much responsible for making girl groups sound tragically hip. The album also spurned the group’s first hit, “In the Flesh” which first charted at No. 2 in Australia, which was another homage to the girl group sound but with more lustful undertones. While the record spawned many of their live favourites, it never cracked the charts in a major way.

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Plastic Letters 

While Private Stock was certainly a truly independent label, it wasn’t exactly the place to cultivate an “indie” sound. As soon as they signed to Chrysalis Records in 1977, the label reissued the first album and a year later they released their real breakthrough record, Plastic Letters.  With Gottehrer on producing duties, the album once again reconfigured the 60s sound. Their cover of Randy & The Rainbows “Denis” flipped the gender script and officially broke the band commercially in the UK. As Gottehrer put it, “Debbie sang part of it in French – I didn’t even know if the French was real, but it became their first hit in the UK. 

The Second album Plastic Letters was an instant hit and after hitting the UK’s top ten it would eventually go Platinum. Not hard to see why. Pop genius shone throughout.  ‘(I’m Always Touched by Your) Presence Dear’ (a parting gift from bassist Valentine) whose old school title couldn’t disguise a number that pointed to the band’s dance future. Meanwhile, the lesser-known cuts like the headline steal ‘Youth Nabbed As Sniper’ and ‘Contact in Red Square’ showed Stein and Destri adopting a cut-up lyrical method. The remaster is especially worthwhile since it includes the first known demo of future smash ‘Heart of Glass’ from 1975, even then known as ‘The Disco Song’

Like many of Blondie’s best songs, even the album title had double meaning, describing venue marquees and how your name is spelled out on a mugshot. While most of “Plastic Letters” shows a band perfecting their pop sound, “I’m On E” sounds almost like a call back to their low-fi, proto-punk sound and Harry’s coolly detached vocals. In the same vein, “Detroit 442” sounds like sped-up surf rock scuzz that channels a certain Stooges’ lust for life. The album also marked their first foray into reggae; with “Once I Had A Love” (AKA the Disco Song) that was later repacked and sped up for the chart-topping hit “Heart Of Glass.”

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Parallel Lines

Even with a few hits on their hands, Blondie were regarded as an underground band in the states until the release of their piece de la resistance “Parallel Lines” in 1978. While “Heart of Glass” would prove to be a major turning point for the band, it doesn’t even come up on the record until the 10th track.

It’s preceded by a few solid new wave covers including an infectiously catchy take on follow pop punks The Nerves “Hangin On The Telephone,” which once again takes on new meaning when flipped to the female perspective. Then there’s the driving guitars and Harry’s taunting vocals on “One Way Or Another,” now one of their most recognizable hits, which paved the way for many a band in the early noughties like the Strokes and the rest of their ilk. With hooks to die for and a knowing immersion in classic pop culture now replaced the last vestiges of art-rock. The album sold 20 million copies and contains a string of hits “ ‘Picture This’, ‘Hanging on the Telephone’, ‘Heart of Glass’, ‘Sunday Girl’ and ‘One Way or Another’. For anyone else, this would be a Greatest Hits. It remains a five-star event and is generally considered to be the moment when the USA finally ‘got’ the whole new wave thing. In that regard, Blondie opened the doors for an entire invasion. It’s worth noting too that ‘Heart of Glass’ signalled another sea change since it adapted rhythms from Kraftwerk and the Bee Gees long before anyone else would. The Deluxe Collector’s Edition includes Harry’s French-language vamp on ‘Sunday Girl’, excellent chanson, and stellar club remixes of which the dance floor take on ‘Fade Away’ and ‘Radiate’ makes it worth the price of admission alone. A seriously recommended investment.

The architect behind all these hits was producer Mark Chapman, who was recruited to clean up their sound and put Blondie through production boot camp. “Once I Had A Love” was reworked and rebooted, using synth stylings inspired by Kraftwerk and Giorgio Moroder, a drum beat cribbed from Saturday Night Fever by Clem Burke, and “Heart of Glass” was born. As Burke told Uncut Magazine, “Disco was the back-drop to punk rock. When you went out, they weren’t playing Iggy And The Stooges. They were playing disco records.”

The architect behind all these hits was producer Mark Chapman, who was recruited to clean up their sound and put Blondie through production boot camp. “Once I Had A Love” was reworked and rebooted, using synth stylings inspired by Kraftwerk and Giorgio Moroder, a drum beat cribbed from Saturday Night Fever by Clem Burke, and “Heart of Glass” was born. As Burke told Uncut Magazine, “Disco was the back-drop to punk rock. When you went out, they weren’t playing Iggy And The Stooges. They were playing disco records.”

Despite the Herculean task of narrowing down the essential tracks from this album full of gems, “Sunday Girl” is another standout, a piece of sweet pop perfection that sounds ever sweeter in French. Parallel Lines became a multi-platinum album that dragged punk into the mainstream kicking and screaming or as producer Mike Chapman called it just “modern rock and roll.”

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“Eat to the Beat” 

Blondie retained what some called their romantic fatalism for the equally successful “Eat to the Beat” (1979), spending a year on the US charts and hitting number one in Britain. Chapman now moved Blondie to The Power Plant in New York and was encouraged by Stein’s decision to incorporate the group towards reggae, funk and rap. The hits keep on coming: ‘Dreaming’, ‘Union City Blue’, ‘The Hardest Part’, ‘Call Me’ and ‘Atomic’.

Resistance was futile. Blondie had gone from club to cult to underground to word of mouth and were now the mainstream’s new big thing. The songs weren’t just great they had back-stories. ‘Atomic’ was a weird Spaghetti Western hybrid and ‘Call Me’ arrived via Harry’s collaboration with Giorgio Moroder on an idea he had called Man Machine. The finished song was used as the main title piece in the hit movie American Gigolo and became the group’s biggest-ever single.

As Blondie continued to set the bar impossibly high for themselves, “Eat to the Beat”, released in 1979, saw the group continue to experiment with styles and deliver the same side-eyed attitude with an emotional core. Chris Klein has admitted the track is essentially an homage to ABBA’s “Dancing Queen” and yet even this is eclipsed by “Atomic,” a no holds-bar disco dance rock song with cowboy guitar riffs that still has the power to move bodies instantly. The record had its tender moments as well, especially on songs like “Shayla” that featured Blondie at its most vulnerable.

“Autoamerican” and “American Gigolo”

“Autoamerican” (1980, recorded in Los Angeles) is another very cool diversion – Blondie’s ‘serious’ album. Themes including car culture and the polarity of the East and West Coast informed some material but there’s nothing tough to listen to, only more ravishing beauty in the shape of their reggae cover, ‘The Tide is High’, and the funk rock, jazz and rap of ‘Rapture’, a real ear-opener then and now. The lovely sax break is from Tom Scott and that’s Turtles Howard Kaylan and Mark Volman on ‘T-Birds’, written by Englishman Nigel Harrison (a recent recruit) and Debbie wearing her Californian hat.

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Blondie always reflected the subcultures of downtown New York and by the time the 80s rolled around, disco and punk were now giving way to new musical movements like hip-hop. Debbie Harry isn’t going to win a freestyle Olympics anytime soon but Blondie earned themselves a lifetime of goodwill in the hip-hop community for putting rap into a mainstream pop song and bringing the influence of Grandmaster Flash and the Fab Five Freddy to the rest of the world with their hit “Rapture.”

“Rapture” was the first and only “rap” track to hit No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100, that is until “Ice Ice Baby” in 1990. Even for a band whose reputation lies in experimentation, “Autoamerican” was still considered a conceptual album for Blondie. First rap on “Rapture” then ska and rocksteady on their cover of The Paragons’ hit “The Tide is High” and another disco hit with “Call Me,” co-written by then the world’s top disco producer, Giorgio Moroder. Written for the “American Gigolo” soundtrack, it oozed 80s excess and went on to be the biggest-selling single of 1980 in the US.

The Hunter 

After Autoamerican, Blondie struggled to find its footing in the 80s, with band infighting, personal health issues, and the rest. In 1981, Harry has also started her solo career and the band released their last album until 1999, The Hunter. 1982 would be Blondie’s last album of new material for five years and is loosely a concept. Although it marked the end of Blondie’s first era as a global pop fixture The Hunter is studded with great songs, albeit with an atmosphere of change in the ranks. ‘For Your Eyes Only’ was pitched as the theme song for the Bond film but it was the calypso-tinged ‘Island of Lost Souls’ and the stark ‘War Child’, written about unrest in the Middle East and Cambodia that got the airplay. Other goodies are hidden within; there’s a fabulous version of Smokey Robinson‘s’The Hunter Gets Captured by the Game’ and some of Harry’s most refined lyricism on ‘Orchid Club’, ‘Dragonfly’ and the Beatles lament, ‘English Boys’, written with John Lennon’s death in mind.

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Aside from the usual bonus cuts on the main body of albums, there are terrific collections to sample. “Atomic: The Very Best Of Blondie”Singles Collection: 1977 – 1982 and “Desperately Seeking Susan: The Original Blondie Hits”, are invaluable sources for commercial material, fantastic oddities and rare items. “Blondie at the BBC” offers great radio sessions.

The live albums “Live: Philadelphia 1978/Dallas 1980″ and “Picture This Live” capture this extraordinary group at the height of their powers.

Suffice to say that the best of Blondie never fades away. Pop music doesn’t get any better than this lot. Blondie struggled to find its footing in the 80s, with band infighting, personal health issues, and the rest. In 1981, Harry has also started her solo career and the band released their last album until 1999, After years 17 years of absence-driven speculation, the band regrouped and released their comeback album, “No Exit”, in 1999. With plenty of alt-rock riffs and ska/reggae songs that fit right in with what other bands like Garbage and No Doubt had been doing in their absence, Blondie returned to reclaim their throne.

Blondie in the 2000s

While it’s hard to play catch-up after such a lengthy sabbatical, the band bounced back with the guitar-driven hit “Maria” written by keyboardist Jimmy Destri, which charted in the UK. While No Exit aimed to recapture the cultural zeitgeist of the late 90s, The Curse Of Blondie was faced with the same challenge in 2003. After signing to Sony internationally, Blondie set its claim on the electro-pop landscape with “Good Boys,” which found the band “riding on the L til the sun comes up again.”

A decade into the new millennium found the band navigating the uncertain waters of nu-wave on their 2011 album, Panic of Girls and Blondie 4(0)-Ever: Greatest Hits Deluxe Redux/Ghosts of Download in 2013, which combined a remastering of their best songs and a dance punk album with special guests. As Blondie head into the studio once again, it’s remarkable how resilient the band are and their drive to continually reinvent themselves.

Blondie will always be a retro-modernist band who craft clever pop songs with a seedy underbelly. They helped to create the blueprint for what we know as modern pop rock and they did it with style, wit, and bravado – all while looking like they didn’t give a damn.

Cherry Red’s longtime association with Scottish rockers Big Country – which manifested in a release of the group’s last album The Journey in 2013 and continued with deluxe reissues of latter-day and live bootleg material in 2017 and 2018 – continues with another multi-disc anthology project due this September.

Cherry Red Records are pleased to announce the release of “Out Beyond The River: The Complete Compulsion Recordings”, a newly remastered six disc boxed set featuring the original classic line-up of Scottish rock giants Big Country, fronted by the late Stuart Adamson. A new 5 Disc boxed set anthology (5CDs / 1 DVD) celebrating the recordings of Big Country, made between 1993 and 1994 for Chrysalis Records imprint Compulsion. Featuring 71 tracks on five discs, including the albums ‘The Buffalo Skinners’ and the double live album ‘Without The Aid Of A Safety Net’, recorded at Barrowlands Ballroom in Glasgow on 29th December 1993. Includes rare B-Sides / bonus tracks, US radio mixes, previously unreleased instrumental demos, plus the original demo for every track on ‘The Buffalo Skinners’ album. DVD includes highlights from the Glasgow Barrowlands concert, together with promo videos for the singles ‘Ships’ and ‘Alone’ DVD is UK region PAL.

Out Beyond The River – The Compulsion Years Anthology showcases the group’s journey through the mid-’90s as they released The Buffalo Skinners, which was their sixth album, in 1993. After seeing all their albums reach the U.K. Top 10 in the ’80s (plus a No. 2 compilation, Through a Big Country, in 1990), the group fell on hard times as musical tastes shifted. They left long time label Phonogram for Vertigo in the U.K. and recorded the difficult No Place Like Home in 1991. Drummer Mark Brzezicki left the group during recording, leaving frontman Stuart Adamson, guitarist Bruce Watson and bassist Tony Butler to continue as a trio; following poor sales of 1988’s Peace In Our Time in America, the album was not released stateside.

But hope was around the corner: veteran A&R man Chris Briggs, who’d recently begun mentoring Robbie Williams of Take That fame, was lured to Chrysalis/EMI with the allowance to create Compulsion Records, a new label. His first signee: Big Country – a fitting reunion, as Briggs had signed the group to Phonogram more than a decade earlier. With a renewed sense of energy – the group produced this one themselves – The Buffalo Skinners was a return to and refreshment of the classic guitar-driven Big Country sound, continuing the group’s foray into pointed political lyrics (“What Are You Working For,” “The Selling Of America,” “We’re Not In Kansas” – the latter revisited after kicking off No Place Like Home). Best of all, the group returned to the U.K. Top 40 twice for the first time since 1989 with “Alone” and another re-recorded track from No Place, “Ships.” An American deal with 20th Century-Fox’s fledgling music arm yielded a moderate modern rock cut, “The One I Love.”

The group continued doing what they did best – namely, hitting the road. With Brzezicki back behind the drum kit, the quartet packed European theaters and American small clubs, rousing audiences with favourites new and old (and, in a nod to current rock trends, often offering an “unplugged” portion of the set – an accidental moment of brilliance after a venue they performed at that year lost power). At the close of 1993, Big Country performed a trio of dates in Scotland and England recorded for a live album and video, Without The Aid Of a Safety Net. Considered by fans to be one of the definitive concert documents of the group, the album earned them another U.K. Top 40 placement.

That rousing period, and everything in between, makes up Out Beyond The River. This 5CD/DVD set includes previously expanded editions of The Buffalo Skinners and Without The Aid Of a Safety Net issued by EMI in 2005 (the latter of which was presented across two discs for a complete concert experience). Another two bonus discs collect The Buffalo Skinners‘ various, uncompiled B-sides, remixes and early versions, including unreleased instrumental demos and monitor mixes alongside demos released on rare fan collections. The box wraps up with a DVD of the original Without The Aid Of a Safety Net film and two music videos. (Unfortunately, the DVD seems to be PAL-only.) Like previous Big Country boxes from Cherry Red, each disc is housed in its own mini-jacket, encased in a clamshell case.

Out Beyond The River is due September 25th.

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Robin Trower is one of the great English grandmasters of the guitar. A musician and songwriter with a celestial blues sound and deep spiritual roots, he achieved star billing in the 1970s when he scored a string of Top 10 albums in America. Trower grew up in Southend-on-Sea, where as a teenager he formed The Paramounts with singer and pianist Gary Brooker. A band that straddled both the beat and blues booms of the 1960s, The Paramounts enjoyed an early minor hit single with Poison Ivy in 1963,

You didn’t have to be a guitarist to appreciate Robin Trower’s talent. In the mid 1970’s, Robin Trower released a string of albums that rivaled everything else being released in the rock god guitarist genre. Smoking solos, killer riffs and great tunes defined the Robin Trower sound.

Trower joined old classmate and bandmate Gary Brooker in his new band Procul Harum in 1967 replacing departing guitarist Ray Royer. Trower played on the band’s first five albums, including “Shine on Brightly,” and “A Salty Dog” But he had an epiphany after hearing Jimi Hendrix at the Isle of Wight in August 1970 and left Procul Harum in 1971. After a short stint in Jude, a power trio with his future bass player and lead singer James Dewar, Trower formed the Robin Trower Band in 1973, with drummer Reg Isidore  (later Bill Lordan), and Dewar. After releasing “Twice Removed From Yesterday in 1973, Trower and the band hit the jackpot with a trio of Top 10 albums beginning with “Bridge of Sighs,” in 1974.

The title track was densely textured with a great opening riff that was a theme throughout the dark, ethereal song. “For Earth Below,” followed in 1975 and “Robin Trower Live,’ in 1976. Trower’s guitar work became more Hendrix-like over the years and the power trio gave him room to spread his wings in that direction. He closed out the 70s with the great “Caravan to Midnight,” (1978) with some powerful soloing on “My Love (Burning Love)” and “Fool.” In the early 1980s, Trower hooked up with Cream bassist Jack Bruce and his two former drummers Lordan and Isidore for two high powered albums “BLT,” (1981) and “Truce (1982).

These discs are well worth seeking out for the interplay between Bruce and Trower. Album sales began to flag after the 1983 release “Back it Up,” with Dewar returning to his lead vocal duties, and Trower was dropped from his label. But no matter, he had built up such a huge following that he has continued touring and recording to this day. Robin Trower is a titan – a guitar slinger extraordinaire.

 

Trower has nevertheless endured. Still writing and recording, he has always sought fresh horizons, and has just released and another new album, Time And Emotion. And he continues to tour, proudly showcasing a repertoire from the 1970s that runs like a thread of steel through the core of British blues-rock culture.

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Bridge Of Sighs – Chrysalis, 1974

Robin Trower’s breakthrough album, Bridge Of Sighs peaked at No.7 in the US and remains one of the pillars of his repertoire to this day. “Bridge of Sighs,” was a blockbuster album for Robin Trower. The album reached the top 10 album charts in 1973. Every track on the record was killer.

The song’s opening bass and drum groove sets in motion a monster rocking riff that is one for the ages, The dramatic time shift in the middle of the song set the way for another incredible Robin Trower guitar solo.

Beginning with the stuttering riff of Day Of The Eagle, the album combines urgency with gravitas. ‘A cold wind blows and gods look down in anger on this poor child,’ Dewar sings as the title track unfolds with a vast, slow momentum, like a planet drifting through the void. The song’s opening riff is classic Robin Trower. What separated Robin Trower from other rock guitarist like Jimmy Page, Ritchie Blackmore, Brian May, and so on was the way Trower used 9th’s and 11th’s in such a slick groove based way without shoving them down the listener’s throat. It was such brilliant playing.

Perhaps Trower’s most famous album is Bridge of Sighs (1974). This album remains one of the pillars of his repertoire to this day. Beginning with the stuttering riff of Day Of The Eagle, the album combines urgency with gravitas., along with his first and third solo albums, was produced by his former Procol Harum bandmate, organist Matthew Fisher. Lady Love is an irresistible, cowbell-grooved rocker and Too Rolling Stoned romps along until the incredible five-minute, one-bass-note run-out groove. Stoner blues‑rock redefined.

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For Earth Below – Chrysalis, 1975

With Matthew Fisher producing for the third time and Bill Lordan taking over on drums, this is the album where everything came together for Trower. Dewar is at his best on Fine Day and Gonna Be More Suspicious, while Lordan takes the band to a new level of rhythmic sophistication with the intricate cymbal figures and funky snare and hi-hat combinations of A Tale Untold and Confessin’ Midnight.

After the success of “Bridge of Sighs”, Robin Trower came roaring back one year later with another rocking blues infused album that was every bit as good as Bridge of Sighs. Robin Trower’s For Earth Below was even more successful than Bridge of Sighs as the record For Earth Below hit the number five-spot on the Billboard top 100 albums. “Confessin’ Midnight,” knocked listeners out with a heavy lick that resonated throughout the song and laid the groundwork for another blistering Robin Trower explosive guitar solo’s.

Trower’s songwriting and soloing takes the three musicians soaring across the musical cosmos, especially on the slow blues of the title track and the keening outro of A Tale Untold. Take a listen again to the standout track “Shame The Devil.” The killer album opener was simple proof that Robin Trower was on fire during the mid seventies.

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Long Misty Days – Chrysalis, 1976

Trower, Dewar and Lordan consolidated their magic touch with this bold and confident album. Emerging as a sure‑footed songwriting team, Trower and Dewar are co-credited on every song, apart from a gritty cover of the Sutherland Brothers’s epic singalong “Sailing”.

With its dense wash of overdriven guitar sound, the title track is testament to Trower’s skill as a manipulator of sonic textures. Delicate and graceful yet executed with crushing power, this sound influenced future generations of bands, from Hüsker Dü to Smashing Pumpkins. From the opening moments of this incredible piece of music, you know you’re in for something special. Robin Trower’s “Caledonia,” is among our favourite Robin Trower studio recording. The fast funky guitar riff that balances itself between Robin Trower’s solo guitar licks will make you want to buy every Robin Trower recording ever released. It’s that good and easily one of the best Robin Trower songs ever released on vinyl.

The Robin Trower song “Long Misty Days,” was the title track to Robin Trower’s fourth album. The record Long Misty Days was released in October of 1976. Of all the Robin Trower songs nestled in a slow blues groove, “Long Misty Days,” stand out among the best of them. This is a slow blues song, but there is this sublet driving force that fuels the groove into an arena of specter undiscovered by most artist. It’s what made Robin Trower so special.

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Twice Removed From Yesterday – Chrysalis, 1973

It may have been a pure coincidence that Trower’s first album was released in the same year Free split up, but the timing couldn’t have been better: it marked the arrival of a new guitar hero who evoked the spirit of the late Hendrix, together with a vocalist (Dewar) with an R&B timbre redolent of Paul Rodgers. Trower retained Dewar as his bassist, who took on lead vocals as well, and recruited drummer Reg Isidore (later replaced by Bill Lordan) to form the Robin Trower Band. Robin Trower’s “Sinner Song,” was released on his first solo album, Twice Removed From Yesterday.

The Robin Trower band was essentially a trio that consisted of Robin Trower on guitar, James Dewar on bass and lead vocals and Reg Isidore on drums. It could be argued that James Dewar might have been the most popular rock singer of the 1970’s that most people had never heard of. If you had never seen Robin Trower live, than you would have probably assumed that it was Robin Trower also handling the lead vocals. However, that was not the case and Dewar probably never got the recognition he deserved for the killer vocals tracks he recorded with the Robin Trower trio both in and out of the studio. Stevie Ray Vaughan had given much credit to Jimi Hendrix as inspiring so much of his playing. But if you are aware of both Robin Trower and Stevie Ray Vaughan’s catalogues, you can’t help but notice that Stevie Ray Vaughan was probably also listening to Trower.

The slow, drifting menace of opening cut I Can’t Wait Much Longer established an unhurried, Free-like template that carried through to songs such as Hannah, a reworking of BB King’s Rock Me Baby and the exquisite track Daydream.

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Robin Trower Live! – Chrysalis, 1976

Robin Trower Live would probably be among the top the list of live rock albums. Of there is The Rolling Stones Get Yer Ya Ya’s Out, Foghat’s Foghat Live, Led Zeppelin’s soundtrack to The Song Remains The Same, Rush, All The World’s A Stage, Lou Reed’s Rock and Roll Animal and Lynyrd Skynyrd’s One More From The Road but the 1975 Live album that Robin Trower released was one of the most smoking guitar records ever issued. This one cranks past eleven. The airy opening to “Daydream,” is a bit reminiscent of Jimi Hendrix’s “Little Wing.” However, the song than takes on its own spellbinding groove that simply mesmerized the audience. The songs unbelievable second solo will drop your jaw and bend your knees.From the opening high-energy rip through Too Rolling Stoned to the dense thundercloud chords of I Can’t Wait Much Longer, this Stockholm recording concert recording captures the classic Trower trio at an early, elemental peak of power.

Along with fast, muscular run-throughs of Lady Love, Alethea and Little Bit Of Sympathy, the album boasts the definitive recorded version of Daydream, with Trower lovingly sculpting the individual notes like clay on a potter’s wheel, and then whipping them into clusters in a swirling blizzard of sound.

The guitar work on the live performance of “Little Bit Of Symphony,” and “Rock Me Baby,”  was just so outstanding that it made it impossible to pick between these two killer performances. Both live tracks were released on Robin Trower’s magnificent earth shattering, Robin Trower “Live” album. The Live album stemmed from a radio broadcast from a stadium show in Sweden in 1975. The band is as loose at they could get and the interplay between Robin Trower and bassist James Dewar is astonishing.

On “Rock Me Baby,” , Robin Trower sounds as if he is playing lead guitar through the entire track. We would say this is Robin Trower’s peak moment, but the man has continued to perform and record brilliantly 40 years onward. However, if you’re looking to buy only one Robin Trower CD or at east looking for a place to star, we highly recommend Robin Trower Live.

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B.L.T. – Chrysalis, 1981

This was the first of many occasions when Trower teamed up with ex-Cream legend Jack Bruce. Their collaborations always produced something thoughtful and off the beaten path. With Bill Lordan on drums, the three-way musical interplay on Into Money and What It Is is strong, supple and undeniably funky.

Bruce applies his Glasgow bawl to tunes and lyrics mostly written by Trower and Keith Reid. No Island Lost has a Voodoo Chile (Slight Return) vibe, while Life On Earth recalls some vintage Cream moves. One of the great overlooked power trio albums.

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20th Century Blues – V-12, 1994

After a period of extended line-ups in the 1980s, Trower returned to the trio format with Livingstone Brown (vocals/bass) and Clive Mayuyu (drums), and got back to basics with 20th Century Blues, the first album released on his own V-12 label.

Brown’s voice and bass are modestly positioned in the mix, but he provides a solid backbone for Trower’s immense guitar excursions on songs such as Extermination Blues and Lowell Fulson’s Reconsider Baby. The rhythm section gets funky on Prisoner Of Blues while Trower plays some Shaft-style wah-wah.

A portrait of Robin Trower

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Ten Years After – 1968 – Who can ever forget Lee’s ground breaking 11-minute performance of “I’m Going Home,” at Woodstock? As the front man of the British Blues-Rock quartet Ten Years After” Lee (guitar), Chick Churchill (keyboards), Rick Lee (drums), and Leo Lyons (bass), Lee’s laser speed guitar pyrotechnics were instrumental in the success of the group earning him the title “the fastest guitarist in the West.” The band issued nine best-selling albums stateside between 1969-1974, among which were “Cricklewood Green” (1970), their biggest selling album featuring the hit single “Love Like A Man”, and “A Space in Time,” (1971) including the hit “I’d Love To Change the World,” Lee became disenchanted with the pop direction the band was moving after signing with Columbia Records. He recorded seven solo albums over the next decade, but never regained the success of his tenure with Ten Years After.

With a blend of raw, direct blues and haunting psychedelic drenched sounds,Ten Years After Songs showcases one of rock and roll’s most interesting – but also most criminally forgotten – bands.

Formed in 1966, and led by the late guitarist Alvin Lee, the band finally got people to take notice after their incendiary performance at the original Woodstock festival. From there, Lee – along with (non-related) Ric Lee on drums, Leo Lyons on bass and Chick Churchill on organ – pushed the boundaries of the blues-rock format and in the process made a string of classic albums.

The nucleus of Ten Years After coalesced in Nottingham, England in 1960 under the name Ivan Jay and the Jaycats (fronted, briefly, by their namesake). By ’62, Jay had gone, along with several other early members, paving the way for a name change in ’66 to The Ivy League, which featured the same four players who soon became TYA. Moving to London later that year, the band signed with manager (and later Chrysalis Records founder) Chris Wright, at which point they hit on the Ten Years After band name.

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Ten Years After

A residency at The Marquee Club—ground zero for all young U.K. R&B/blues acts of the day—led to a contract with Deram Records, which was then developing as Decca’s imprint for ambitious rock bands like The Move and the Moody Blues. Fifty years ago the company issued the band’s self-titled debut which stood out in two key ways—the skill of guitarist Alvin Lee and the depth of the band’s chops. While British blues deeply informed the album, no song sounded like another. The opener, I Want to Know had the bounce of jump-blues, A cover of The Blues Project’s 1966 classic I Can’t Keep from Crying Sometimes inspired a solo from Lee that mimicked the lilting smoothness of jazz guitarist Wes Montgomery, while the instrumental, Adventures of a Young Organ showed off the physicality of Churchill’s keyboard. The set also found room for a country blues (Don’t Want You Woman and a take on Willie Dixon’s Spoonful that showcased the hard inflections of Alvin Lee’s fingerings.

Undead (Re-Presents / Live)

Undead

Ten months after their debut, TYA issued a live album that idealized their early love of jazz. The band offered an original take on the genre, giving swing beats a rich blues hue, while adding the amphetamine-fueled solos of British rock. A cover of Woody Herman’s jazz standard At the Woodchopper’s Ball took an already upbeat piece and threatened to break the sound barrier with it. A version of Gershwin’s Summertime refigured it as the base for a blazing drum solo, with surprisingly buoyant results.

There was room, too, for deep blues in Spider In My Web as well as the debut of I’m Goin’ Home a rockabilly salute which the group never cut in the studio. Not only doesn’t Undead sound like any other Ten Years After release, it’s their most blistering live document, surging ahead in a photo finish with Live at the Fillmore East a 1970 recording which didn’t surface until 2001). The latter offers another side to the band, capturing them at their heaviest.

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Stonedhenge

On the band’s second album released in early 1969, Ten Years After upped their originality by relying on no outside writers. Lee dominated the credits, though the group equalized the instrumental input, dedicating one piece to Churchill’s keyboards, and another to Lee’s drums. The former’s I Can’t Live Without Lydia improbably mixed cocktail jazz with avant-garde dissonance, while Lee turned the children’s rhyme Three Blind Mice into a showcase for tribal percussion. Lee added timpani to his arsenal for a richer flourish, while Lyons augmented his electric bass with a stand-up version, the former evident in his workout in Faro Frontman Lee introduced his skill as a scat singer on Skoobly-Oobly-Doobob a technique he sprinkled through later performances. Elsewhere, Lee’s singing made clearer his love of Elvis, echoing The King’s hunka-hunka inflections. The band added a spacier element in Going to Try which opens with Pink Floyd-like sound effects, building to an organ solo as explorative as any by The Doors’ Ray Manzarek. The group used vocal harmonies for one of the only times in their career on Hear Me Calling pairing Lee with Mike Vernon, who produced the album, along with many by John Mayall and Savoy Brown. Here, and elsewhere, Lee’s tremolo is as sweet as that of Fleetwood Mac’s Danny Kirwan, while his proto-metal moves at the album’s end echo the breakthroughs of the Jeff Beck Group and Led Zeppelin that same year.

Moody and brilliant, “A Sad Song” is one of Ten Years After’s most haunting tunes. Alvin Lee sounds on the edge of total desperation as he recounts this tale of woe. As he sings, “the tears in my eyes are all that you’ll find, the scars on my face just deepen my mind,” you feel his pain, and the brutally sparse arrangement leaves room for his blues to shine. No wild solos, no studio trickery, no flash, just pure blues. This is as good as this style gets.

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Sssh

When Ten Years After released ‘Ssssh,’ their third studio album (and fourth overall, counting the live ‘Undead’) in August of 1969, the British quartet had no idea that their still-nascent career was about to accelerate into overdrive through a serendipitous set of circumstances — within and beyond their control.

In terms of the former, the new album represented an unconditional improvement upon the often tentative and unfocused releases that preceded it by dispensing with some of the myriad psychedelic distractions of the day in order to crystalize the definitive blues-rock direction that would become the signature Ten Years After sound.

The opening ‘Bad Scene’ alternated between frantic boogie and breath-catching breaks, before the remainder of side one began addressing band leader Alvin Lee’s wide-ranging suspicions about the opposite sex with growing intensity. First came the relatively tame and slippery, bite-sized ‘Two-Time Mama,’ then the more forceful, fierce, and fuzz-laden ‘Stoned Woman,’ and finally a fittingly lecherous cover of Sonny Boy Williamson’s ‘Good Morning Little Schoolgirl’ that duly evolved into an extended instrumental jam.

Side two opened in a more relaxed, almost pastoral fashion via the acoustic guitar-driven, slowly building ‘If You Should Love Me,’ before segueing into the rather Mod-ish ‘I Don’t Know that You Don’t Know My Name’ (showcasing Chick Churchill on piano and Ric Lee’s tribal bongos), the mumbling, stumbling groove of ‘The Stomp,’ and, wrapping things up, another gut wrenching, virtually proto-metallic reading of a classic blues grind — this time Lightnin’ Hopkins’ ‘I Woke Up This Morning.’

Like many of their contemporaries, Ten Years After began life as a no frills blues combo. One of the highlights of the band’s fourth album Ssssh, “Stoned Woman” tells the tale of a woman who is intent on keeping her man “stoned out his mind all the time.” The band kicks up quote a racket here with a suitably raunchy lead from Lee, some groovin’ organ work from Chick Churchill and the always dead-on rhythm section of bassist Leo Lyons and drummer Ric Lee. Like Cream or Fleetwood Mac, Ten Years After proved they could dish out unadulterated blues with the best of ’em.

As for circumstances beyond the band’s control: the same month of ‘Ssssh’s’ release found Ten Years After performing a career-making set at the historic Woodstock Festival, and the resulting publicity and acclaim put them on the map. Though Ten Years After had been kicking around the U.K. scene for a few years, it wasn’t until their appearance at Woodstock in the summer of 1969 that American rock fans took note. Even more attention was paid after the Woodstock movie and soundtrack LP were released in 1970. At that point, Alvin Lee and band were turning heads everywhere. Credit moments like “I’m Going Home,” a live staple in the band’s set for a couple years that was even released as a three-minute edited single. This lengthy Woodstock version is definitive.

What’s more, even the music fans who initially failed to recognize the significance of TYA’s Woodstock appearance amid the sheer hype surrounding megastars like the Who, Janis Joplin and Hendrix (or had missed out on the event, altogether), eventually “got the memo” when the festival’s official soundtrack LP emerged the following year, carrying the band’s sizzling blast through ‘I’m Going Home’ highlight.

By then, the men in Ten Years After were already busy promoting their next album of era-defining blues-rock, ‘Cricklewood Green,’ with many more creative and commercial benchmarks still ahead, waiting to solidify their legacy for the ages. But you could make strong case that this golden period began with ‘Ssssh’ and the one-of-a-kind circumstances surrounding it’s arrival.

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Cricklewood Green

TYA gained so much weight on their fourth studio album, they became one of the heaviest rock bands of the day. 1970’s Cricklewood Green named for an outskirt of London, kicked off the new decade with a deeper, darker, and harder sound than the band ever offered before. Downplaying their earlier explorations of jazz and blues, ‘Cricklewood’ became a rock touchstone and a fan favorite, climbing to No. 14 on the U.S. pop charts. In a perfect ’70s move, a cowbell clangs through the opening track, Sugar The Road while the organ burns with Memphis soul and Lee peels out one of his more muscular solos.

Sound effects waft through the tracks, offering coded signal to stoners. Some of the band’s most famous songs can be found here, including 50,000 Miles Beneath My Brain electrified by a harpsichord hook, Love Like a Man the band’s sole Top 10 U.K. hit, which appeared an interesting configuration. The A side of the single ran at the expected, 45 rpm rate (at a cut-down 3 minutes). The “b” side needed to be played at 33 and boasted a 7-and-a-half minute expanse, capturing a live version of the song from the Fillmore East. With a hypnotic riff propelling things, this growling groover burns bright for all of its eight minutes of glory. Ten Years After build intensity as they move along, something they were quite adept at – and once things get rolling, it’s full-on guitar heaven. There’s stellar interplay between Alvin Lee and organist Chick Churchill, and the band ebb and flow throughout. “Love Like a Man” was released in edited form as a single, and became their only UK hit, reaching the Top 10 in the summer of 1970.

While the set managed to carve space for a jazz-blues number Me and My Baby and a lovely acoustic reprieve Circles it culminates in a more representative, uber-heavy riff piece, As the Sun Still Burns Away a sexy come-on to the apocalypse.

A killer rock and roller from Ten Years After’s fifth album, “Working on the Road” is another take on the standard travelers tale, filled with a vibrant urgency that is irresistible. Highlighted by chorus that is both so simple and so perfect, “Working on the Road” is topped by a blazing solo as Ten Years After cook along with such force that they risk derailing before finally regaining composure by song’s end.

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Watt (2017 Remaster)

After the crossover acclaim of ‘Cricklewood Green’, critics found the band’s 1971 follow-up wanting. I’ve never understood why. Not only do parts of Watt generate as much coiled power as its predecessor, it’s a far more varied work. The throbbing, stop-start riff in the opening I’m Coming On couldn’t be sexier, aided by Lee’s full-throttle shout. The melody in My Baby Left Me ranks as one of Lee’s most engrossing, goosed by a beat that keeps building, while Think About The Times perfects the band’s balladry. For scope, TYA included a cheeky nod to spaghetti western scores in The Band With No Name. They offered one of their best jump blues nod in Gonna Run and added a pure rockabilly stomp to the live version of Chuck Berry’s Sweet Little Sixteen culled from the band’s performance at the Isle of Wight Festival the year before. For a capper, there’s a three-part wonder, She Lies In The Morning that evolves from a hip-shaking rocker to a ruminative jazz piece, a la Traffic, culminating in a psych-rock rave-up.

Brimming with a very pure pop style not usually associated with Ten Years After, “She Lies With the Morning Sun” comes together in a way that (almost) combines the melodic sweetness of Paul McCartney or Badfinger, before spiraling into this jazz interlude that totally changes the mood. Still, it works. The jazz gives way and the band surge back in full throttle, heading eight or so miles high. They once again land on jazz-filled water, never returning to the shore of pure pop this ship was launched from. It’s like three songs in one.

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A Space In Time

Ten Years After pulled a major switcheroo on their sixth studio album. They signed with a much larger label in the States, the mighty Columbia Records, lessened the electric solos, and based most of the songs on acoustic riffs. It’s a far less enveloping, or heady, sound than they presented on their Deram albums and it paid off commercially. The band enjoyed their best-known hit with I’d Love to Change the World a catchy Beatles nod, marred by a historically offensive lyrical couplet. The song opens with a line pondering the “insanity” of a world full of “dykes and fairies.” Can you imagine anyone writing a line like that today? Back in the benighted days of 1971, however, that whopper hit the charts without comment. At least the song boasted a lovely While My Guitar Gently Weeps like guitar line. He used his acoustic guitar to its best advantage in the fierce wind-up to Here They Come and even matched it to some unexpected orchestrations in Over the Hill A few nods to the past turn up in the jazz instrumental Uncle Jam and the heavy Let the Sky Fall but otherwise, the group ventured a step too far from their forte this time.

A strong, catchy riff is something Alvin Lee never seemed to be without. “Let The Sky Fall” dishes out yet another instantly catchy example to lure the listener in. Featuring a subtle, yet effective vocal, one of the Best Ten Years After Songs swings and sways with beauty. Check out the pretty backwards guitar lines, and how they mix in seamlessly with the more straight-ahead lead work.

Ten Years After’s sole entry into the Billboard Top 40 was this beautiful song. The ’60s were over, the hippie dream gone with them, and Alvin Lee joined others in trying to come to terms with a new decade and a new reality. “I’d Love to Change The World” surveys that landscape and, not surprisingly, comes up without a concrete answer. The song oozes with a certain sadness, and yet is achingly beautiful all the while. Lee also fashions one of his finest and most emotional leads here. For many, “I’d Love to Change The World” stands as the soundtrack to that post-Woodstock state of mind, and it’s still a staple on classic rock radio decades later.

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Rock ‘N Roll Music to The World

Small wonder the band did a reboot on their second Columbia album, this time focusing almost entirely on Lee’s charging guitar. Still, the songs, and the playing, weren’t nearly as adventurous as on earlier albums, offering more on straight boogie anthems like the title track. Luckily, a few moments stood out, like the jam in Convention Prevention which worked off a Sympathy For The Devil, style riff, and You Give Me Loving a jazz-blues jam that sounded like TYA’s answer to Whipping Post. 

The peak of this LP, “Religion” finds Lee and company questioning more than just the tangible world. The slow groove creeps in as Lee sings “I never really understood religion, except it seems a good excuse to kill.” At the time, religions, spirituality and self discovery were everywhere. In fact, Jesus was the subject of many a hit record at the time. Alvin Lee, however, has a different take on things – and, whether you agree or disagree with his views, the man could play some mighty fine guitar. The result is one of the 10 Best Ten Years After Songs of all time.

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Positive Vibrations

TYA saved the best of their Columbia years for last. It boasted the best written material and took the most chances of their releases for that label. Both the title track and Without You nailed the psych-country-rock balladry of Allman Brothers songs like Melissa while It’s Getting Harder soared on an expected accordion hook, fired by a funky clavinet. Unfortunately, a by-then fatigued band folded shortly after its release.

Fifteen years passed before the band reunited for the largely perfunctory About Time. Lee continued to release solo work of varying degrees of value, right up through his unexpected demise in 2013. He died during a routine operation to correct arterial damage, at age 68. While his finesse as a guitarist never left him, Lee never again enjoyed a unit as inspired, and tight, as the one that created the undying works in Ten Years After’s prime.

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The new wave of British heavy metal was just revving up. And it was during that transitional period when many of Europe’s most promising rock bands of the day were gaining notoriety Likee Jethro Tull, the Uriah Heeps, the Deep Purps, the Thin Lizzys and the like. It also was during that time when a fledgling progressive band from London began making its presence known on the international scene. And it was 45 years ago this month (May 1974), when UFO released one of its quintessential studio sets.

Produced by Leo Lyons, bassist for the legendary British band, Ten Years After, “Phenomenon” was the third record from UFO. Featuring founding members, vocalist Phil Mogg, bassist Pete Way and drummer Andy Parker, it marked the band’s debut for Chrysalis Records — the label that would release most of the iconic UFO catalog. “Phenomenon” also was noteworthy for being the first UFO LP to feature then-relatively unknown 19-year-old guitar ace, Michael Schenker sandwiched between his two stints with the Scorpions.

One of the most beautiful aspects of music, particularly rock music back in that day was that it was a time when music artists were afforded the freedom to be just that — artists. And although UFO would become known largely as a high-energy European metal band, Phenomenon represents a creative effort free of boundaries — a genuinely gorgeous piece of art painted with very broad brushstrokes.

Phil Mogg’s vocals were honest and pure, from start to finish. Parker’s efficient, dry-sounding drum work added a certain oomph to the record’s organic feel. And Schenker and Way’s raw guitar and bass contributions were simply magical. Yet, despite the authentic classic rock sound and the heart-stopping performances, what made Phenomenon truly special was the songs themselves — most of which were penned by Mogg and Schenker.

The ten-song slab kicks off nicely with the driving early BÖC-flavored, “Too Young to Know.” While not exactly reflective of the band’s future hard rock blueprint, the melodic, acoustic-based tunes, “Crystal Light” and “Time on My Hands” are both bona fide stand-outs.

Serving up several slices of less-tasted treats, including the down and dirty, Humble Pie-style remake of the Willie Dixon classic, “Built for Comfort,” Phenomenon also is arguably best known for its two signature staples, the arena-sized, hard rockin classics  “Doctor Doctor” and “Rock Bottom.”

Props are also owed to Schenker for his masterful job of pinning blistering lead work to melodic acoustic riffs on “Space Child,” as well as for his emotion-filled, biting work on “Queen of the Deep”— the record-closing epic that showcases Mogg’s most passionate performance.

In sum, while UFO has produced more than 20 celebrated studio records during its impressive 50-year career, Phenomenon just might remain the band’s strongest work to date — a compelling collection that’s well worth revisiting, or discovering for the very first time.

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The backlash began before Generation X had even put out their first album. Although the London group played fast and loud, they also had a knack for melody, and some of punk’s bands and fans weren’t certain that Generation X were the real thing. In the British music press, accusations flew that the quartet were “using” the nascent punk genre to become pop stars.

Yet the band had their punk credentials singer Billy Idol had been part of the Sex Pistols-backing “Bromley Contingent” and bassist Tony James had played with the Clash’s Mick Jones in the London S.S. Was it possible to simultaneously love punk rock and the Beatles and the Stones? Apparently such nuance was ill-advised in 1977-78.

Before, and during, the backlash, Generation X had steadily grown a healthy fan base in London, playing gigs opening up for the headline punk bands (including the Ramones) and joining bills with the next wave (such as the Jam and the Police). They signed a deal with Chrysalis Records, put out their debut single in the fall of 1977 and became the first of the punk groups to play the mainstream music TV program Top of the Pops – which both aided Generation X’s popularity and fueled the sell-out notions of the band’s detractors.

But it was clear that the band was made for TV, particularly singer Idol with his high cheekbones, shock of bleach-blond hair and Elvis-like sneer. On Top of the Pops, Idol bounced his way through “Your Generation,” a song that carried the influence of the Who in more than its title. Songwriters Idol and James were unabashed Who fans, as was Generation X’s newly recruited drummer Mark Laff, whose idol was Keith Moon.

Tony and I increasingly looked to the Who as a guide when attempting to suss out our development,” Idol recalled in his autobiography, Dancing With Myself. “I discovered a Pete Townshend Eel Pie songbook with notations for some incredible chords and progressions. I used this book as a guide, taking off from Townshend’s ideas with some of my own, making it up as I went along. I wanted our songs to ring out as if they were a call to arms.”

In a departure from the typical division of labor, singer Idol wrote the bulk of the music for Generation X songs, while James penned the majority of the lyrics. Drummer Laff and guitarist Bob “Derwood” Andrews brought their spin to the tunes when performing or recording.

After the release of a couple singles, the foursome went into T.W. Studios to spend two weeks making their debut LP with producer Martin Rushent, who had just helmed releases by the Stranglers and the Buzzcocks. T.W. was a small studio, in Fulham in West London, that had been converted from a garage into a recording space. Looking back, Idol thought that was appropriate.

“The first Generation X album was essentially our stage show with a few overdubs,” Idol wrote. “Recording it in a converted garage made it garage-rock, which was perfect for punk and our musical sensibilities at the time.”

Tracks recorded for the album included the melodic charge of “Ready Steady Go” (the LP’s lead single and a reference to a ’60s music show), “One Hundred Punks” (a song about loyal punk fans) and “From the Heart” (which Idol saw as a “punk love song”). “Promises, Promises” had its roots in early ’70s glam rock.

“It was inspired by Mott [the Hoople] and it’s a very Mott-type lyric,” James said in 2010. “Billy wrote a great tune for it. It was very heartfelt, but still played on that generational thing. Listening to it now … well it sounds too fast! But then everything was. It’s a nice tale of the moment.”

A punk band taking lessons from glam acts such as Mott, T. Rex or David Bowie wasn’t particularly unique (these were also references for the Pistols and the Clash, after all). But there probably weren’t too many of Generation X’s contemporaries being inspired by Born to Run.

Tony played me Bruce Springsteen’s ‘Jungleland,’ which rocked but also had a gripping storyline and several moving parts that led to a crescendo,” Idol recalled. “I dug the idea of a narrative culled from his personal history; it inspired me to dig deep and come up with my own equivalent from the raw materials of my life.”

The result was “Kiss Me Deadly,” perhaps the lead “punk”-sounding song on the album, with its slow build, talk-sung beginning and four-and-a-half-minute length. Idol wrote the music to James’s words, drawing on Springsteen’s widescreen songwriting, as well as the Who’s multi-part story songs.

When Generation X’s self-titled debut arrived on March 17th, 1978, it didn’t convince the naysayers, but it did prove successful – going to No. 29 on the U.K. chart with “Ready Steady Go” topping out at No. 47 on the singles spread. In the U.S., Generation X was issued with a different track listing, substituting some singles and B-sides for album tracks and slapping on the band’s ska-addled cover of John Lennon’s ”Gimme Some Truth” as an opener (which likely didn’t help the band’s punk persona, even if Idol saw the former Beatle as a punk-adjacent figure).

To promote the LP overseas, Chrysalis refused to send the entire band, so only Idol made the trip to New York and California, hanging out with American punk heroes such as Patti Smith and Darby Crash. Although Generation X would stay together for a few more years (and for two more LPs), Idol has claimed that the promotional trek marked the beginning of his notions of being a solo star.

GENERATION X - DEBUT ALBUM (DELUXE EDITION)

This is the Deluxe Edition of Generation X, the self-titled 1978 debut album of one of the great British punk bands of the late 1970s.

Generation X’s story is deeply rooted in the London punk scene. Brian James who went on to form The Clash and The Damned respectively. Both Idol and Tony James joined punk band Chelsea in early 1976 before leaving to form Generation X.

The Generation X expanded deluxe edition CD set has been newly remastered from the original production tapes and includes 11 previously unreleased recordings. CD1 contains the original UK 11 track album with CD2 including all the A and B-sides of their singles from the period, 11 previously unreleased outtakes, a single mix and a number of mixes made by engineer Alan Winstanley (Madness, Elvis Costello, Morrissey).

This 2CD is an 8-Panel Digipak with O-Card and 12-page booklet, with previously unseen photos and newly commissioned sleeve notes by journalist Adrian Thrills.

The expanded deluxe edition vinyl box set has also been newly remastered and cut from the original production tapes. LP1 contains the original UK 11 track album, LP2 includes all the A and B-sides of their singles from the period and LP3 contains 11 previously unreleased outtakes.

10 years

Ten Years After were an English blues rock band who, between 1968 and 1973, had eight albums in the UK Top 40 albums chart and twelve albums in the US Billboard 200. Vocalist, guitarist and principle songwriter Alvin Lee formed The Jaybirds with bassist Leo Lyons in England in the early 1960s. Joined by Chick Churchill on keyboards and Ric Lee on bass, they switched their name to Ten Years After in 1966; a reference to the birth of rock ‘n’ roll with Elvis Presley a decade earlier.

This limited LP on green vinyl is Exclusive for RSD and the first of a handful of releases to comemorate the 50th Anniversary of the bands legendary appearance at Woodstock in 1969. The Cap Ferrat Sessions took place during the recording of their ‘ Rock & Roll Music To The World’ album and first appeared on the 2017 10CD Box Set ‘ 1969-1974’ . This is the first release outside the box set and first time on vinyl.

Tracklist:
Look At Yourself (2017 Remaster)
Running Around (2017 Remaster)
Holy Shit (2017 Remaster)
There’s A Feeling (2017 Remaster)
I Hear You Calling My Name (2017 Remaster)