1974

July to December

TEN YEARS AFTER / ALVIN LEE - Newspaper Articles

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ALVIN LEE:
TEN YEARS AFTER LEBT !

Ten Years After am Ende? Viele glauben es. Auch Alvin Lee hatte lange Zeit von seinen drei Mitmusikern die Schnauze gestrichen voll. Doch bevor sie offiziell auseinander gehen wollten, traten sie noch eine letzte Welttournee an, um ihren vielen Fans diesseits und jenseits des Atlantiks Lebewohl und Dankeschön zu sagen. Dabei geschah es: Erst stand jeder der vier stramm in seiner Bühnenecke rum, dann lächelte man sich zaghaft an, und plötzlich war der Funke wieder da, der Ten Years After einst zu einer der besten und explosivsten Live Bands machte. Und kaum war in den USA das letzte "Goodbye Concert" gegeben und die Gruppe nach England zurückgekehrt, rief Alvin Lee auch schon bei unserer Londoner Korrespondentin Margot an "Unsere Abschiedstour wurde zum neuen Anfang."

Finster war die Meldung: Alvin Lee hatte sich mit Organist Chick Churchill in die Wolle gekriegt . Es drehte sich ums Geld, von dem Chick meinte dass Alvin zuviel und er zuwenig davon bekäme. Hitziges Hin und Her, ein paar sarkastische Bemerkungen von Alvin Lee, Rempeleien und dann zack zack - hatte Alvin plötzlich eine vielleicht auch mehrere Ohrfeige (n) weg. So beobachtet in einem Hamburger Hotel während der letzten Ten Years After Tour.

Das war natürlich Wasser auf die Mühlen all derer, die Ten Years After schon längst als wandelnde Leiche sahen. Immerhin an diesem Tag in Hamburg war die Stimmung unter den vier Musikern wirklich saumäßig, keiner sprach mit keinem, und erst nach dem Konzert tauten sie etwas auf und unternahmen zaghafte Annäherungsversuche untereinander.

Inzwischen aber ist bei den vier Jungs aus Nottingham die Stimmung "Going Home" und zwar separat verflogen. Heute lacht Alvin Lee darüber, hat anscheinend alles was war vergessen und sieht die Zukunft von Ten Years After wieder in den rosigsten Farben: Warum denn sollen wir uns auflösen? OK, es gibt Gerüchte dass wir uns nicht besonders gut vertragen und letztes Jahr als wir eine grössere Pause einlegten und ich mit Mylon Le Fevre ein Solo Album aufnahm, spekulierten viele, dass wir als Gruppe erledigt seien. Aber das sind eben nur Gerüchte. Wir hatten noch nicht mal ein Wortgefecht im Dressing - Room, ehrlich wir haben uns noch nie gestritten".
Sein Manager Chris Briggs von Chrysalis sagt das etwas anders: "Wir geben zu dass es gelegentlich zu Reibereien zwischen den Mitgliedern der Gruppe kam, aber jetzt ist bei ihnen wieder alles in Ordnung."

Eins jedenfalls steht fest: Ihre letzte Welttournee hat Ten Years After wieder zusammengebracht. Jetzt planen sie bereits ihr nächstes Album. Sie bleiben uns also erhalten, und das ist die Hauptsache.

 

                             


Alvin Lee: Ten Years After Is Alive!


Make Up After Fight: Ten Years After Continue

 


POP No. 16, 1974

The Band Members Come To Blows and Then Make Amends!   

From Pop Magazine 1974

 

 

 

CIRCUS RAVES 

JULY 1974 ISSUE

ALVIN LEE’S  “VIBRATIONS”

TEN YEARS AFTER’S BREAK FROM SHOW BIZ 

  In the world of show business they like to say that every performer must pay his dues. Paying dues is the endless time spent trying to get a break, trying to make money, trying to be famous. Paying dues are the wasted years, the years a musician spends eating beans out of a can and huddling in cold basements with the other guy’s in his band. Paying dues are skipping out on motel bills you don’t have enough money to pay. Paying dues is terrible.

 

Ten Years After knows all of this, but like so few others of their ilk, paying dues has paid off.

Alvin Lee, Ten Years After’s masterful guitarist, now has enough money to purchase any kind of lifestyle he wants. But where most rock-stars in his situation would tend to buy themselves into a heavier rock and roll existence, Alvin Lee has something else in mind.

No fancy cars for Alvin, no flashy clothes, and no money-hungry loose men and women.

Alvin has long been frustrated by what he terms “the entire business side” of the recording industry. He began to devote his time, work and money towards one goal – the day when he could withdraw from the industry’s influences and make “his own music.”

He started towards that achievement with “On the Road To Freedom”, when Alvin and Mylon raised each other’s spirits and gave each other the motivation to go on with their careers.

Still, Alvin recently said “I wanted it to be like it was in the olden days, back when we just made music for the fun of it and that was all that mattered.”

To accomplish such a task was simply a matter of putting out “positive vibrations as opposed to the negative vibes the industry so often puts out.” The struggle for these positive vibes was long and hard, but it seems to have finally made itself present in the form of the aptly titled LP “Positive Vibrations” (on Columbia Records). Alvin’s latest entry with Ten Years After.

 

The road to recording the album wasn’t an easy one, according to the guitarist whose playing is so fast that it frequently takes an instant reply machine just to hear a chord or two.

“The things which went on in the industry were just really beginning to get me down,” he intimated, “my perspective and the band’s were so closed that it became harder and harder to produce something fresh as time went on. We never had that problem when we were first getting started, but then in those days we were working only for ourselves.”

  BURST of BLUES:
Alas, in those early days the record industry itself wasn’t what we’ve come to know it as, much less the bands which provide its sustenance. Ten Years After, for one, was a struggling young quartet back in 1966, hustling night and day for the opportunity to prove themselves, but never committed to their ideal of recreating the music of Elvis Presley and others. The band was happy then, “We were doing exactly what we wanted to do and nothing else,” explained Lee. Creating vibrant, exciting material was simply a matter of dropping an old fifties song on the turntable, giving it a couple of spins and then getting your buddies together to re-work it.

Within the next two years of Alvin Lee’s life, however, something altogether new and different swept England. There was a sudden rebirth of the blues, that so changed the face of British rock that even the Beatles didn’t know what hit them. The blues had been an indulgence once confined to the basement rehearsal rooms of then non-entities like Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck and Jimmy Page. Overnight, the blues became a sensation, and every band in England began working feverishly over the tattered remnants of B.B. King records.

“We were obviously quite affected by what went on around us at that time,” Lee notes in what could only be termed the grossest of understatements. As it turns out, the band worked and slaved at their new interest harder than any of the competition, for it was something that they’d grown to love, and as Lee put it, “we never had any problem doing a good job on material we really care about.” Soon the band’s repertoire and reputation began to spin around London like wildfire, and before the band knew it they had a recording contract with England’s Decca Records.

“When we went into the studio we were young and energetic and not in the least bit knowledgeable of the sophisticated equipment available to us in the studio. We relied on feeling to get us across on that first record,” remembered Lee of the session for the band’s first Ten Years After album.

It was a smoldering collection of tracks, with blues riffs hot enough to melt a box of crayons, and it was obvious that the levels of energy and creativity were high within Ten Years After’s framework.

    

Boogie Blues Trap:

As if to prove that the band wasn’t about to be locked in a hard-and-fast categorization, Ten Years After attempted many new and different things on their next two efforts, imparting an ethereality to their sound with the jazzy subtleties of their second Undead LP and the tonal and rhythmic variations of Stonedhenge, the group’s third album.

“In those days we were really unfettered by the demands of the industry,” Lee explained, “We made albums when we wanted to, which in our case was whenever we felt we had worthy material for the public’s ears. In a situation like that it’s not at all hard to be creative – to constantly be searching for a fresh, new approach to things.”

Then came the albums that set the stage for Ten Years After’s ascension into the ranks of the super-great. Ssssh and Cricklewood Green. These were powerful efforts that many consider to be the band’s all-time best efforts. While Lee also considers them as milestones in the groups development, he still remembers the albums as the time in which Ten Years After’s popular image became a hard-and-fast conception of a methedrine-fast blues-boogie lick machine.

“That was alright as long as it was what we wanted to do,” he says, “but after a while we really got tired of it.”                       Perhaps nothing so cemented Ten Years After’s image as their infamous appearance at the Woodstock festival in 1969, where they tore down the house with their incredible version of “I’m Goin´ Home.” Lee looks back at that memorable gig with considerable sadness, noting that “the festival did more to lock us into an inescapable image than anything else. For many people it was their first exposure to our music, and since we were so good that night, that’s all everyone who saw our act remembered. “I’m Goin´ Home.” – I think we’ve played that song ten thousand times – I’m tired of doing it all the time.”

But the public wasn’t tired of it – it in fact begged for more of the same, and with the prospect of an incredible superstar act upon them, their record company began to put pressure on Ten Years After to record more “stompin´, screamin´boogie numbers, and to do it more frequently.

This clashed violently with the band’s leisurely but dedicated pace, and thus a trail od bad blood and bad vibrations was begun.

    

Throwbacks:

One “forced, contrived” album followed, then the band split from Decca to Chrysalis and a new measure of artistic freedom. They recorded A Space In Time, a radical change in direction but something the band was very proud of and enthusiastic about. Tragically it failed to impress an audience screaming for more boogie, and the record company soon made its wishes known on the group’s musical direction. The result was two “throwback albums,” journeys back into the old style but without the heart that characterized the earlier labours of their kind. After Rock and Roll Music to the World (1972) and Ten Years After Live (1973), through, Lee decided to make a break with everything; he retired to his country estate, recorded a radically different album with Mylon LeFevre, and has now progressed to the point where only “positive vibrations” influence his life.  

New Vibes:

“My musical tastes have matured and so the album is much deeper than anything Ten Years After has done,” Lee offers in explanation of the album’s format. “It took seven weeks to complete, and like my album with Mylon I produced it at my own studio.”  “There’s a lot less hard-rock and a lot more simple rock and roll,” he continued. Some of the songs are extremely personal in nature, such as “Nowhere To Run,” which details how the band came to feel trapped by the popular conception of their material. The title track similarly details the long climb back from the depths of despair and disillusionment with the music biz to a situation where “Positive Vibrations” dominate their lives.

”There’s a love song called “Without You” on the album”, Lee continued, as well as a “good ole fashioned rocker on which I used a guitar to play saxophone lines. We wired it up so that the signal would overload the recording console, and ended up getting a perfect simulation of a baritone sax. It was something I really looked forward to doing, and I’m quite pleased with it.”

  As long as Lee looks forward to his work, work that he wants to do and can put his soul into, then fans of Ten Years After can look forward to different kinds of albums, but always albums that capture the heart and soul of the band that made the boogie famous. “We may never again go into a heavy boogie trip-the vibes just aren’t right,” Lee notes. But as long as the vibes are right and the resulting music reflects it, Ten Years After’s many fans will doubtless have no problems relating to any new directions their favourite band might wish to pursue. 

  Article written by Gordon Fletcher

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rolling Stone  7/ 18/ 74  

Positive Vibrations Ten Years After  

In their long and checkered career, Ten Years After have played many different kinds of music, a little jazz, some blues, a lot of high-energy boogie. Sometimes they played it well (as on Ssssh and Cricklewood Green ), sometimes abysmally (as on Watt and A Space in Time). Perhaps in an effort to re-establish their rapidly flagging career, TYA here try to do all of the above simultaneously - only most of the time abysmally. But TYA have changed musical directions so often in the past that they’ve never been able to develop a comfortable sound within any field, so now they sound as though they’re merely dabbling in various styles. Not even an old Little Richard number can save this one from the blanket snore. Alvin Lee & Co. have stuck their fingers into so many musical pies that they’re now as confused as anyone attempting to follow their music.   

 By Gordon Fletcher

 

   

 

 

 

The Speak-Easy Show was short lived. For a few months in 1974. Hosted by Chip Monck

 

It was a very unique T.V. talk show with footage that offers a close-up look at some of the 1970’s most interesting and influential musical personalities, in conversation and informal, in-studio performances.

 From Billboard Magazine, July 27, 1974 – New York: “Speakeasy.” The syndicated rock-talk T.V. series, is now in 66 markets. Chip Monck is the host, and among the guest performers are: The Beach Boys, Emerson, Lake and Palmer and Alvin Lee of Ten Years After.

 On the Speakeasy show, Alvin Lee was interviewed by Chip Monck and then performed with Al Kooper and Mike Bloomfield. The three all played each others instruments and then Michael demonstrated his fire-eating routine. The show aired nationwide on different dates through November 1974, and was probably recorded in April when Michael appeared at the Bottom Line in New York City. The show aired August 17, 1974 on KRON in the San Francisco bay area. The show was broadcast in the New York area on August 3, 1974. The songs performed were, Lawdy Miss Clawdy 4:11 – Untitled Slow Blues Instrumental 4:11

 



 

New Musical Express - August 17, 1974

Lee Goes Solo – But Stays With TYA

Following months of rumour and denial, Alvin Lee is to be launched as a solo artist, but he stays with Ten Years After. This is the result of a world-wide seven figure deal concluded by his manager Dee Anthony with Columbia Records for the United States, Canada and South America and Chris Wright of Chrysalis Records for the rest of the world. Says Dee Anthony:

“This is the first major step in starting Alvin on a new career, which will enable him to develop a new dimension to his musical career, and we intend to give him the artistic freedom he deserves”. Alvin will still record and gig with Ten Years After, but will also work with a new band. He is currently mixing his solo album and intends taking his new band on a world tour, starting in Europe mid-October, returning, and returning to the U.K. for selected dates in late Autumn before setting out on a major United States Tour, starting in Miami in January 1975. “It’s not a matter of Ten Years After splitting”, states Alvin Lee. “The music I make from here on will reflect my personal taste, and this is a major shot at something new”.

 

 

 

 

Melody Maker – August 17, 1974

Alvin Lee is to embark on a full solo career, but he will also remain with Ten Years After!

It will be a situation, said a Chrysalis spokesman, “parallel to Rod Stewart and the Faces.”

The one difference, however, appears to be that Lee will tour without Ten Years After as well as doing concerts with them. Lee, now managed by Dee Anthony, has signed a deal with CBS for the United States, while Chrysalis will continue to reissue his records in Britain. He has a double album, “Solo Flight” (In Flight) due out in mid-October and he will tour Europe with a new band at the same time prior to an eight-date British tour in the autumn. Lee and his band will then fly to the States to open a tour in Miami on January 10th after which, they’ll go on to play Australia and the Far East. Personal of his band is likely to be based around the musicians who played on his debut solo concert at London’s Rainbow Theatre earlier in the year. The band will include Ian Wallace (drums) and Mel Collins (sax). His work with Ten Years After includes a tour in the new year, and a new Ten Years After album. Alvin Lee is also likely to work again with Mylon LeFever, with whom he recorded an album last year.

 

 

 

 

 

Sounds Magazine – September 7, 1974

Ten Years After, Dead or Alive?

Steve Peacock gets the Lowdown from Ric Lee.

Ric: “It’s Up To Alvin”

 

Last Time Ric Lee heard from Alvin Lee was about two months ago. He phoned up. “He was very irate about the road managers being fired,” says Ric. “But there didn’t really seem to be any point in keeping on a road crew if you weren’t going on the road”. Seems fair. Ric Lee, in common with Alvin (no relation) is now getting his own band together. “I don’t see the point in hanging around this year, I did that last Summer when Alvin was doing his Mylon things, and I just got thoroughly bored. I could see it coming off again this Summer, so I thought balls to it, I’ll get something done”. And that friends is the situation with Ten Years After.

Mr. A. Lee plans for solo ventures are now well advanced with the live album, (recorded at the Rainbow concert) finished and ready to go, and an American tour set up, Alvin seems to spend most of his time these days commuting between London and New York for meetings with his manager Dee Anthony. Meanwhile, Mr. Ric Lee drummer in the same group, commutes between London and Kent, getting together rehearsals for his new band. Leo Lyons has been working as a producer mostly, and Chick Churchill has his own music and has been doing some arranging. There’s suppose to be a Ten Years After album recorded sometime around Christmas, and there are suppose to be gigs sometime. But you can kiss goodbye to those for a good few months yet, if I read the signs right. One thing puzzles me, inspector – why bother to keep Ten Years After together at all? There’s a question of contracts, of course, “As far as I’m aware, the situation with contracts wouldn’t create a big problem,” says Ric. “because it wouldn’t be in the record company’s interest to say “you have to do this” just to get a product. They’d be pushing together four people who didn’t want to be together. When the Ten Years After album is made, it’ll be because the time is right and because we want to do it”. Then of course, there’s the argument that keeping Ten Years After together is a sound move. It makes money, and the money provides the where-with-al to do solo projects. “There’s no denying that”. But he adds, that that wouldn’t be the only reason – they wouldn’t do it just for that. In the end, whether there’s a Ten Years After or not comes down to:

“It’s Up To Alvin. I’m quite prepared to get a phone call next week saying it’s all over, but at the moment I haven’t left the band and nor has Alvin, as far as I’m aware.

 

We’ll come together again, when the time is right”. Right. The line-up of his band will be him, a bass player and a guitar player, who both sing, but who can’t be named for contractual reasons. A piano player called Mike Humble, another percussionist called Bob Howes, playing tympani and “all the toys”. He can see it working quite happily “in parallel with Ten Years After, fulfilling different needs for him. Ten Years After is good for a good bash, but this is more involving, more challenging for him musically. Which is what Alvin says about his stuff. Ten Years After then becomes a kind of black funk style leaning into jazz and Latin areas. I’d always thought though, that Ten Years After could have pushed into other areas of music, more than they did. “I agree. But there were certain mental blocks. Not from the audience so much as within the band. I think Ten Years After as a band could have gone in any direction it wanted to, having established itself – loads of other people have done it. The Floyd have kept progressing all the time”. So why not them? (TYA) 

“I think that possibly that Alvin finds it easier to express himself with other people. I think he liked Ten Years After the way it was, the way it is – as a vehicle for the guitar then it’s limited. “Then again, the things that he’s doing now – like the Rainbow Concert he did, the earlier part of the set was a lot of things, that I don’t think Ten Years After would have played very well at all. In fact, a lot of them were songs that Alvin had played to the rest of us as potential Ten Years After album tracks, that we’d turned down. We’re not really into laid back country music, and that’s the kind of feeling I thought it had”.

One of the problems for Ten Years After, as seen by Ric, is that they worked for so long without a producer: “I think anybody who produces with a band, doing both sides of the glass, and apart from obvious major exceptions, isn’t objective enough. Alvin’s great from my point of view, because he coaxes things out of me that I might not of thought about, but it’s very difficult for me to coax things out of Alvin when he’s producing as well. One of the things that buggered it for us in the beginning was that we had a producer in the early days, who didn’t give us a lot of confidence in what a producer’s job was about. “I think, with a really good producer, we could have bridged that gap between stage and record, but that’s where we did fall short. There’s that definite gap between us on stage, and us on record. What does he feel the band achieved? “I think we took the blues a step further – “British Blues”. We came out of the “Blues Boom,” and a lot of the bands that came out with us seemed to fall by the wayside, but I think we made it a lot more exciting, visually and musically, within the confines of the twelve bar”.

Another problem for the band was material: “I think one of the problems was that, we always had the one writer. Alvin would always consider other people’s songs, but really he didn’t want to know about it. That’s not a put-down, if the guys got to sing it, (meaning Alvin) then he has the right to choose it. But I think at the same time, Chick was writing some good things, that we probably could have incorporated. We did in fact do a number on stage, for awhile, that Alvin and Chick wrote, and we did it for -  four or five performances and it didn’t go down all that well, so we dropped it, but I think, if we persevered with it, we could have got some good thing out of it”. The balance of power within the group was about 75% to Alvin and 25% between the other three, so in effect, they were sidemen”. “On the surface, it would appear that way, but I don’t think it’s true. There’s a very strong personality there to fight with, and it can get to the pitch where for the sake of getting a product out of any sort, then one swallows the aggravation to save not having a product at all. Take that how you like”. From the way he talks, Ten Years After sounds like a thing of the past. “It sounds that way because I’m so much into what I’m doing now with the new band. But as far as what’s going on with Ten Years After is concerned, I really have no more clue than do from reading the papers. I’m really not that informed and I’m really not that bothered at this stage anyway to be getting in touch. “There are a lot of under-currents going on, as you can well imagine, and I just don’t want to get into all that. They’re usually about such petty things, I just didn’t want to get into all that again – I just came off the road in America, and thought “right, let’s get into something new”.  “But, if he phoned up tomorrow, I wouldn’t put the phone down on him”. 

 Note: The road managers were indeed fired. Alvin was very pissed-off about it, and in fact decided they would be paid out of his own pocket.          

 

 

 

 

Melody Maker October 19, 1974

Alvin Lee will be playing a series of solo concerts in Britain this winter! And Focus are also set to tour this country early in the New Year. Lee’s concerts come as part of a European tour, which starts in Holland on November 144th. His backing band to be called. “Alvin Lee and Company”. Will include Mel Collins (horns) Ian Wallace (drums) Alan Spenner (bass) and Neil Hubbard (guitar). The same musicians, together with Tim Hinkley (keyboards), are featured on Lee’s first solo album, “In Flight,” which will be released on November 1st as a prelude to the tour. Lee will be playing a brief series of British dates, including one major London concert at the Royal Festival Hall on December 10th

 


 

Woodstock Nation – Where Are They Now?

 

Ten Years After – Certainly one of the biggest hits of the show and fronted the indoctrination of the British Blues onto the mass exposure of America. They went over as ferociously then as they do now. No change what-so-ever. The Woodstock generation has outgrown them like old shoes, but they fit the younger feet now.

 

 

 

 

  

October 19, 1974

Edited By: Derek Johnson

Alvin Lee Solo LP & Tour    

 Alvin Lee sets out on a world tour in mid-November with his own backing group. His itinerary extends through and until next spring, and will include several concert appearences in this country during December. As a prelude to his tour, Lee’s first solo album – a double set titled “In Flight” and comprising of twenty tracks – is released by Chrysalis on November 1st at the special budget price of three pounds 42. Appearing on the album which was recorded at Lee’s own studio in Berkshire – are Mel Collins (horns) Ian Wallace (drums) Alan Spenner and Neil Hubbard (guitars) and Tim Hinckley (piano). It is expected that the majority of these musicians will be accompanying Lee on his tour.

Billed as Alvin Lee & Company, the band opens in Amsterdam on November 14, 1974 and the European leg of their schedule also takes in France, Scandinavia, Belgium, Switzerland and Germany. A date at London Royal Festival Hall is set for December 10th with other British gigs to follow soon afterwards. Lee and the band visit America after Christmas, with the likelihood of a Far East Tour – including Japan and Australia – after the U.S.

Despite their solo activities, it is still being emphasised that Lee is not leaving Ten Years After, and that Ten Years After is not splitting. A spokesman commented: “No doubt Ten Years After will be back with a big splash as soon as Alvin has completed his world jaunt”.

 

 

 

 

Record Mirror – October 19, 1974

Alvin Takes Off With Solo LP

Alvin Lee has a solo album, “In Flight” released on November 1st. It’s a specially priced double album set of twenty cuts, which will sell for three pounds forty two. The double album was mixed and produced at Alvin Lee’s Space Studios in Berkshire, and the musicians on the album include: Mel Collins, Ian Wallace, Alan Spenner, Neil Hubbard and Tim Hinkley.

A world tour is set for the band, Alvin Lee and Company, which starts on November 14th in

Amsterdam. They then move through France, Scandinavia, Belgium, Switzerland and Germany. A London date is being finalised for the beginning of December before the band goes to America. 

 

 

 

   

  New Musical Express  - November 2, 1974

Method in Lee’s mad capers---Exclusive Preview      

Alvin Lee & Co: “In Flight” (Chrysalis)   

The last thing you’d expect from an established musician about to launch a solo career, is for him to front a band put together just ten days before the debut gig, and then chance his arm even further by releasing a double album of the one-off (hit or miss) concert. Sounds like professional suicide to me, but that’s precisely what Alvin Lee has done;  against all odds, he damn well managed to pull off most of this mad caper. When approaching this album, therefore, don’t base your expectations on Lee’s past form. If you’re expecting Captain Speed fingers to gird his loins, grit his teeth and faster than the speed of sound, boogie over, under, sideways down through four layers of vinyl ,then you’d better stick to your Ten Years After albums.    

Alvin hasn’t come to consolidate his reputation as the fastest guitarist this side of the credibility gap, but to help bury the myth of him as a power-crazed rock n’ roll Adonis. If anything, it’s saxist Mel Collins who is handed the majority of leads and solo breaks, besides being afforded ample room to stretch out on Allen Toussaint’s  “Freedom For The Stallion”. In fact, it’s Collins who is not only responsible for giving “and co.” a highly distinctive sound, but also introducing a great deal of spontaneous enthusiasm.    

Collins and Lee produce a mellow buzz akin to a southern beer n’ pretzels road house bar band - easy on the arrangements, but well disposed to some raw-edged natural funk.  When Mr. Lee does step to the fore he’s content to peel off short, highly effective guitar riffs and nothing more. 

In support, Tim Hinkley (keyboards), Alan Spenner (bass) and Ian Wallace (drums) kick up plenty of dust to which Neil Hubbard contributes some nifty rhythm guitar chops. To complete the band the Kokomo Kids - Dyan, Paddie and Frank  -  add the right amount of  throaty contrast to Alvin’s strained nasal vocals.  The full impact of this highly professional combination is heard to effect  on such smooth chug-a-lugs as “Got To Keep Movin”, “I’m Writing You A Letter”, and “Let’s Get Back”, while the more lyrical side of Alvin Lee’s personality comes across best on “Going Through The Door”, which benefits from the good riff.   When it comes to flashbacks Lee & Co. pick numbers like “Don’t Be Cruel”, “Money Honey”, “Mystery Train” And “Slow Down”. Everything comes off the bone; while nothing new is added to the songs, they certainly aren’t diminished in any way. The only occasion they stray into TYA territory is for the jump band arrangement of “I’ve Got Eyes For You Baby” A first cousin to “Down The Road Apiece”.    

Like any live album “In Flight” has its flaws, but on the bonus side it demonstrates that there’s much more to Alvin Lee than being the front man for a concrete-reinforced blood n’ guts boogie band. There are glimmers here which reveal that Lee Can shoot as straight as the best of them. If this is the kind of new found finesse and vitality that a ten day old band can knock out on its first gig, then with a bit of thought and some road work there’s really no telling what Alvin Lee and Co. are capable of. The blowin’ power is there, but a few really strong numbers could work wonders.    

By Roy Carr   

 

 

New Musical Express  - November  9,  1974  

  • With Some people you’ve really got to watch what you’re saying, otherwise before you know it they’ll have you by the gonad wires.  Hari Georgeson’s ( AKA George Harrison)  affable aide-de-camp Terry Doran is like that. Give him half a chance and he’ll delight in turning the most innocent small-talk into a full-tilt debate. For instance, if the well meaning Terry hadn’t shoved his oar into a discussion involving Alvin Lee round at Hari’s homestead one evening, then the guitarist would have quite probably regressed even further into his recently assumed role of Recluse. Apparently, innumerable treks across the vast North American continent with Ten Years After had mind-blasted Captain Speed-Fingers into a state of inertia, acute heavy-metal battle fatigue, being the diagnosis. All that Lee now wanted to do was hide away from the rest of the world in—yes, you guessed it right first time—a Secluded Country Cottage. To put it mildly, Alvin Lee was knackered with a capital F.  

Friar Park
George Harrison's home and studio 1970-2001

  • An album cut with Mylon Le Fevre and chums had been of some therapeutic value to both parties, but the fact remains that Lee was quite content to waste his days away doing Absolutely Nothing, Zilch.  

  • Back to the rap. On the evening in question, the conversation suddenly homed-in on the subject of a rock star’s role as Free Agent, with Doran insisting that most rock musicians don’t possess sufficient independence to follow the direction of their own choosing.

  • “Well,” said Lee, not realising what he was about to let himself in for, “I can do whatever I want, when I want.”  “No you can’t.” said Doran. “Yes I can,” retorted Lee. It continued like this for awhile. Suddenly, Doran called the guitarist’s bluff, “O.K. Alvin,” he began, “ if you’re as independent as you say you are, then why don’t you put on your own solo concert at the Rainbow?”

  • An electrified silence fell over the assembled company and, realising that it was too late to turn back, Lee somewhat reluctantly accepted the challenge. Initially, he wanted to do a couple of nights at the Finsbury Park Fun Palace, but soon discovered that the only available date was March 22nd, which left him exactly four short weeks to prepare himself for such a trial by ordeal.

  • “I only finished the actual personal of the band 10 days before the gig,” he now admits. Originally , ‘Boz Burrell’ was in the line-up, which included Mel Collins (saxes) Ian Wallace (drums) and Tim Hinkley (keyboards), but was quickly replaced---by bassists Alan Spenner and his cohort Neil Hubbard (guitar) ---when the boisterous Boz was suddenly whisked away to instant fame and eventual fortune with Bad Company.  

  • With just over one week to go, Lee then assembled everyone together at his newly-constructed 16-track Space-Productions recording studios in the grounds of his Reading estate. “I had a whole bunch of songs which had been the overlap from the last three years of recording, songs that weren’t really suited to Ten Years After’s high-energy approach ,” he says. However before a single note could be sounded, photographs had to be taken to help promote the event through the media. A photo-call was arranged for nine in the morning and everyone did their best to incarnate. Within two hours the musicians were in the studio where they were to remain incarcerated for the next 50 hours, during which time they rehearsed and arranged almost two-thirds of the 23 numbers Lee had tentatively scheduled. After that, rehearsals were taken at a far more leisurely gait until, with 48 hours to go, it was decided to bring in Dyan Birch, Frank Collins and Paddie McHugh—the Kokomo singers—to intensify the vocals.  

  • In retrospect, Lee agrees that at the time he must have been verging on the brink of temporary insanity to take such a wild gamble, “but even though I’d never been so nervous in all my born natural as the night I walked on the stage at the Rainbow---I even had to have a cue card—there was never a thought in anyone’s mind that we’d blow it.”   

  • As it transpires, the gig came pretty close to back-firing on the participants. Seeing as the event was being recorded for an album, plans had been carefully drawn-up for the band to spend the entire day of the concert doing a complete “dress” rehearsal and sound check at the theatre.

  • With this in mind, Lee’s Marauders assembled on the front door step of Chez Alvin in time to catch the milkman making his early morning delivery, but just as they were about to dump their cases into the back of a privately-commandeered luxury coach, the vehicle suddenly sprang into life and tore off down the desolate country lane at alarming speed and vanished clear out of sight. Thirty minutes later a phone call revealed that the driver had suddenly been stricken  with acute appendicitis and had driven himself to the nearest hospital for emergency treatment.

  • “In the end, we had to drive up to town in a convoy of vans, jeeps, and rattle-traps, by the time we reached the Rainbow we only had time to run through five numbers.”

  • Having stumbled so close to the edge  as to automatically make himself eligible in the rock ‘n’ roll casualty sweepstake, Alvin Lee feels that with this new venture he’s regained his equilibrium. It is his opinion that Ten Years After achieved what it set out to do; but as an individual he realised that there was much more to life than pounding out “Goin’ Home” most nights of the week. “If Ten Years After had been my lot,” he muses, “then I suppose I’d have been quite happy revelling in it, but suddenly I found myself spending all my free time between those terribly exhausting tours recording things on my Revox that I personally prefer.”

  • Rainbow Theatre, Finsbury Park, London

  •  

  • Putting Ten Years After in mothballs wasn’t a snap decision. Attempts had been made to manoeuvre the band into a more lyrical environment, but it just didn’t work. “We all agreed that Ten Years After did what it did best without really trying to do anything.” In his summation, “Ten Years After was just a blowing band. We could do a Chuck Berry or Little Richard number in just one take and it’d be great. You couldn’t fault the band on that score. Now, as soon as you even attempted to get everyone to try and remember choruses, verses and solos you’d immediately lose that spontaneity.

  • “Ten Years After had a loose format, so loose that in the end it proved to be a real disadvantage ---because, however loose something becomes, it inevitably gets repetitive, and that’s precisely what happened to us.”  

  • Suppose you’ve got to give them an ‘A’ for effort, but no matter how hard they attempted to resolve the predicament they were in, there was absolutely no getting away from the fact that the public’s image of Ten Years After, and in particular, Alvin Lee, was frozen for posterity in just 10 minutes of “Woodstock” footage. Lee concedes that, technically, it was an excellent sequence  but not at all representative of the band’s full set. “That was our grand-slam finale, but after the film was released, everyone came along to our gigs and just waited for us to get around to performing ‘Going Home’. I suppose secretly they were hoping that it would just be like the movie.”  

  • How to rekindle the spirit of Woodstock without having to endure three days of dysentery and discomfort? 

  • Having been type-cast as chisel-featured Captain Speed-Fingers, the man behind the facade is aware that when he takes his new band to the States in the New Year he might well be confronted with a problem whereby the audiences will expect their hero to perform all his old tricks. “What I think could be some cause for concern,” he says with apprehension, “is that a large part of the crowd will still want to get into the pyrotechnics of Ten Years After. “Yer know, the Whip-lashing…the Searing Volume…the Violent Thrashing…and…Gritting of Teeth. Well, my attitude is we’ll do what we’ll do and that’s it.”  

  • But is it?

  • “Obviously. If I feel that the audience really wants something more then, I’ll have to arrive at some satisfactory compromise, ‘cause I know it’s gonna happen on some of our dates and I’m just going to want to blast right into something fantastic because of that feedback from the crowd. However, the way things are with this band we can incorporate that into the structure without getting trapped.”  

  • So now a situation presents itself whereby, for the first time in ages, Alvin Lee is actually enthusiastic about the idea of putting in some roadwork. However, this time out, it won’t be the more familiar deluxe route of travelling in separate limos and crashing out in the best hotel suite in town. In Lee’s own words: “It’s just gonna be a bunch of the lads out on the road and having some fun.”

  • In a concerted effort to get right back to the basic fundamentals, Alvin Lee and Co. will intentionally avoid being booked into gigantic ice hockey rinks and baseball stadiums… open- plan acoustic dungeons where the musicians have to battle against a six second echo delay and a thick blue line of police between them and their audience. “In those conditions, you just have to hope you don’t miss a beat and, if you do, you don’t realise it until it’s too late. I know from bitter experience that when you cram 20,000 kids into a place like…Madison Square Gardens…it just becomes that kind of event. The minute you walk on stage and go ‘dong’ on your guitar the crowd cheers like mad and mass hysteria takes over. The reason why a band is there in front of the audience suddenly becomes totally irrelevant, for all that’s going on around you, the band might just as well be thumping out ‘Cumberland Gap’. In most of these places you’re so far away from the kids that you don’t make contact. You spend most of the set playing to a bunch of officials, cameramen, hotdog sellers and tough cop with plugs in their ears. None of these places were acoustically designed. If anything they’re built to carry small sounds a long way, but most bands tend to ignore this and blast away for all they are worth.

  • “With Ten Years After,” Lee confesses, “I had to have a 500 watt monitor system to cut through the noise we were making just so I could hear what I was singing, and it didn’t stop there. In the end we had to have everyone in the group heavily monitored until…” he breaks off and does an impression of a 747 jet gunning its motors. “In a way, I suppose I did love it for a while—but all that heavy equipment just adds to the confusion.  

  • If I’m to be honest, I didn’t originally become a musician to do what I did with Ten Years After. Personally, a lot of things went much too far for my liking. I mean, what’s the use in staying in the best hotels in the world and being forced to eat in your hotel room because they’d never let you into their restaurants without a tie and jacket. I feel more at home checking into the local Holiday Inn Travel Lodge and having a hamburger.”     

  • In Alvin Lee’s candid opinion, being a rock ‘n’ roll star (or whatever you want to call it) isn’t what it’s cracked up to be, and he can fully appreciate the motives that drive many bands systematically to wreck their hotel rooms. “It’s the sheer boredom of touring.” He says, “Believe me, the thrill of playing before 20,000 fans every night soon tarnishes and even worse is that you don’t get off on it. You just become a machine that churns out rock music to order, and you accept it as being all very normal—and when you’re on the road for 14 straight weeks it can do some very strange things to you. I think Leo (Lyons) put things in the correct perspective when he said: “Ten Years After play for free and get paid for travelling”.

  • “The gigs are great. It’s the touring that eventually does you in.”        

 



New  Musical  Express  November  9, 1974

 

 

New Musical Express –  November  9,  1974

Alvin Lee’s solo London concert is now officially confirmed for Kilburn Gaumont on Saturday, December 14th, his originally announced appearance at the Royal Festival Hall on December 10th having now been cancelled. The concert is the final date of a European tour by Alvin Lee & Company, which opens in Amsterdam on November 14th, and it will be his only performance in this country. A spokesman explained: “It was impossible to fit in anymore British dates into Alvin’s schedule at this time”. Support act on all the European concerts, including London, will be Peter Frampton and his band. The line-up of Alvin’s backing band is finalised as former Stone The Crows members Steve Thompson (bass) and Ronnie Leahy

(keyboards), plus Mel Collins (horns) and Ian Wallace (drums) with Alvin himself on guitar and vocals. He hopes also to include girl singers for his London concert, which will include material from the outfit’s double live album “In Flight”, released this weekend.

As reported three weeks ago, Alvin’s European dates are the first leg of a solo world tour which after Christmas, will take in dates in the United States, Japan and Australia.

Tickets for the London concert are available now, priced at one pound sixty five, one pound thirty five and one pound.

 

 

 

 

Record Mirror  - November  9,  1974

 

In Flight: Alvin Lee: In Flight (Chrysalis CTY 1069)   

Sheet mon, this is rock n’ roll. Taken from his Rainbow concert, here’s four sides of vocal and guitar artistry from The Ten Years After Star. It’s all no nonsense, straight ahead music and from an exceptionally fine band. Apart from Alvin’s unrivalled feel for the rock n’ roll classics, there is some inspired blowing from Mel Collins. OK, it’s another live double album quite a handicap, but this lot deliver ze goods. OK?    

By P.H.   

 

 

 

 

Disc  - November  16,  1974  

Alvin Lee & Co. In Flight (Chrysalis CTY 1069.     

I’ve always had a strange notion about live recordings. Quite simply put, it is, I don’t usually like ‘em. And the reason Is that, it is very rarely that the essential atmosphere of  live performance is caught on disc. so it was with caution that I approached this double album from Alvin Lee and I must admit to being very pleasantly surprised at the contents. The album was recorded at the Rainbow, London, and it manages to capture a lot of the feel of live performance. The sound throughout from all angles, vocals and instrumentals ect.. is exceptional. Lee and his band are very tight, almost faultless.   Best track for me was I’m Writing You A Letter. With its infectious boogie guitar beat, it must have gone down a treat at the concert. The oldies, Don’t Be Cruel, Keep A Knocking, and Slow Down all stand out. In all, the four sides house twenty tracks, and there are very few bad ‘uns. Side four is particularly dynamic. Well worth a place in any collection.    

Four Stars  

By H.D.  

 

 

 

 

Melody Maker - November  16,  1974

Recorded Live At The Rainbow Theatre, London 1974

Alvin Lays Back  

Clap yo’ hands and stomp those feet, here’s some funky music, you can’t beat. Pardon the decent into verse, but if you’re feeling confused, bored, listless, drained of energy and bemused by the demands of the capitalist, imperialist, middle- of-the-road music world, then cast an ear to Alvin and heavy friends blowing the blues away.    

For here is the man they used to slag, he of Ten Years After, the guitar speed king, laying back and getting stuck into some first-class music making. Freed of the natural restrictions of a successful band like TYA Alvin has blossomed forth a dash and vigour that is a joy to hear.    

This is a double album set that recaptures the excitement of Alvin’s concert at  the Rainbow, London, earlier this year. He had around him les enfants terribles of the jamming scene, but this is not in the least a self-indulgent mess. The tunes are short, concise, punchy and well rehearsed. And Alvin gets immaculate support from the super-funk drumming of Ian Wallace, Alan Spenner’s fat bass and Tim Hinkley’s  sophisticated keyboard work. Special mention must also be made of the wide-toned saxophone of Mel Collins, outstanding on “Freedom For The Stallion.” They lock together with fervent power, born of years of experience in playing together. And Alvin slots into their well-established groove with the greatest ease.

The challenge provided by his new associates has obviously brought out the best in his playing, although he by no means hogs all the solo space. But when he gets into action, as on the final choruses of the steam-rolling “I’m Writing You A Letter,” then he re-affirms the faith of his loyal fans as one of our best rock guitarist. Alvin’s singing too takes on a new authority sounding much more convincing  and at home on the emotional “Every Blues You’ve Ever Heard,” and the pretty “All Life’s Trials,” so beautifully enhanced by Collins’ flute.

The recording quality is uniformly excellent, and there is an electrifying presence, that puts  the listener somewhere above the stage and out-front of the audience. This is undoubtedly one of the most successful and worthwhile solo projects of the year, and these are the most satisfying four sides I’ve had the pleasure of listening to from British rock musicians in months.

By C.W.

 

 

 

 

 Saturday - December  7,  1974 - Alvin Lee & Co. at "Stadthalle Heidelberg"

 

 

 

Written By Lorna Read for Beat Instrumental Magazine

From December 1974

 Last year Alvin Lee reached the end of the line, musically speaking. He suddenly found he was lacking any sort of musical stimulus and needed a total rethink about his career. “The stopping point came when I felt I’d written every song I could think of with Ten Years After and played every solo,” he said in a previous interview with Beat Instrumental. All I was doing was pinching bits from this and that and putting them together differently and it was starting to get repetitive.”

For several months after that it looked like he was experimenting madly with just about every musical variation he could think of that might invigorate a tired brain. At one and the same time he had Ten Years After, various recording projects of his own with Mylon LeFevre and musicians , friends, and neighbours such as George Harrison, Stevie Winwood, out of which came the “On the Road to Freedom” album, his studio, his production company, even last March’s Rainbow gig, which was the result of a friend’s dare.

  Now at last some sort of order seems apparent in the chaos. It’s Alvin resurgent with his old travelling companions, the bestickered Gibson  335, a new solo album, “In Flight” and quite a lot of future plans to look forward to.

  His mansion, which he purchased from tycoon Charles Clore for an astronomical sum, looms on the Berkshire horizon like Hampton Court, topped with lines of twisted Tudor chimneys and flanked with decaying outbuildings whose sagging, mossy tiled roofs reach almost down to the ground. Alvin sat in his enormous kitchen like some feudal lord, the epitome of the pop aristocracy, blond hair curling on his shoulders, being served tea by Suzanne, the lady of the manor. A bevy of dogs and cats of various sizes and breeds surrounded him and he looked very well and relaxed, as he waited for his musicians to arrive for a rehearsal in the studio.

If his material surroundings are anything to go by, his mansion, his studio, the tasteful antique objects dotted round the place, his decade with Ten Years After has certainly set him up comfortably. “I wouldn’t like to have to move to the States,” he grimaced, looking round the spacious kitchen with its heavy oak timbers. “I know lots of people are moving out of England for tax reasons but I wouldn’t like money to rule my life too much.” Musicians seem to be divided into two schools, the first being the people who play for playing’s sake, and wouldn’t take any other job even if they were starving in the gutter, and the others who, while they enjoy playing, also see it as a means to an end, a worthwhile way to earn a lot of money.

Alvin places himself in the first category. “I never set out to be a millionaire or anything. I’m not. I don’t have four Rolls-Royces or anything like that. Some money comes in and then have to reinvest it in whatever you’re interested in.” 

 More than 50,000 pounds of his money has been invested in the recording studio built in one of his barns. Great care went into the construction of what is in effect a room within a room. A soundproofed studio through which protrude the ancient timbers of the five-hundred-year-old barn. “Those timbers were ship’s timbers even before they were used to build the barn. Who knows what Armadas they may have repelled,” conjectured Alvin. It was a very delicate job, but the builders succeeded admirably and the studio has a very good sound, according to Alvin. A control room has been constructed in the rafters, looking down into the studio. This features an 18-channel Helios desk with two channels for reproduction and monitor facilities.  

The recorders consist of a 16-track Studer with Dolby M16, a Studer two-track and two Revox machines, both Tannoy and JBL monitor speakers are used. Alvin remarked that he’s adding things all the while.  

As far as returns on his investment are concerned, to date his company, “Space Productions”, have issued “On the Road to Freedom”, and his “In Flight” album, the album of that Rainbow gig. Lee has been so involved with work on these that, although he has found some musicians whom he’d really like to record and produce, he hasn’t a spare moment to do it. It’s obvious that the technicalities of sound recording and the possibilities of the studio are totally monopolising his working hours at present.  

“I’m really into electronics, but it hasn’t come into the music as yet. One night I just plugged the 16-track back into itself and left it playing itself all night. The result was amazing”. He demonstrated with some ear-splitting vocal sound effects.

It seems that working as engineer on your own album not only makes you a perfectionist as to the sound quality but also has the unfortunate effect of robbing you of any enjoyment in listening to it.

  Since Alvin’s album with Mylon LeFevre has gone back to Georgia, where he is working on a solo album in Alan Toussaint’s studio. “There’s something big happening in the South, in Georgia,” remarked Alvin. “It looks like the music there is at last getting the recognition it deserves.

And Ten Years After? “Ten Years After aren’t functioning at the moment.”

Thence followed a pregnant pause. “It’s a very long story. It goes back two or three years really. My plan originally was to continue gigging with Ten Years After but to do my own things in between. That was my plan, but then what happened was…well I don’t like going over this really because it was all a bit grim. They sacked the road crew. Who’s they? Ten Years After whoever that may be, you know what I mean?

“They all went over to Chrysalis one week for their wages and they said, we’re not paying you any more. I still don’t know quite how to take that one. I mean John and Andy had been with us for six years. So I took the roadies over.”

He didn’t want to talk any more on that subject. Obviously there’s a very sore point there but Chrysalis, the company to whom Ten Years After are signed, state that Lee is still signed to them with Ten Years After, although there are no records or tours scheduled. The band are, as they say, “resting”.

  In the meantime, Alvin has assembled “Alvin Lee & Co. consisting of Mel Collins on sax and flute, and Ian Wallace on drums, both of whom accompanied him at the Rainbow, Steve Thompson on bass, Ronnie Leahy on keyboards both ex-Stone the Crows, and four girl singers, Stellina Macarthy, whom Alvin thinks is a fantastic singer, Donnie Perkins, Jeanette Tavernier and Joanna White. Alvin also had plans for incorporating another guitarist. He had a short-list, but at the time of going to press he still hadn’t made a decision. He also thought he might add a South American guy he knew on congas.

 

That afternoon they got down to some very hard , serious rehearsing for the tour. Thompson is a very fluid bass player –“what I was looking for was someone with some good fingerwork rather than a thumper”, Alvin remarked – and Ronnie Leahy, who wrote the song “Queen of the Night” for Maggie Bell, is a very chordy, constructive, keyboard man. “It’s fantastic working with new musicians after working purely with Ten Years After for so long. It’s a great stimulus to my song writing as well. When I was bringing in the Kokomo singers for the Rainbow gig, I was able to give them ideas for three or four numbers just off the top of my head which would go with that sort of background. I’m not usually a prolific writer, by any means. I write best to a deadline. “Steve and Ronnie have put a whole different light on the music I’m doing. It’s an extension of what we did at the Rainbow, that sort of thing, and about half the numbers are the same, but it’s changed even in a few months.”

In what way? “Difficult to say. Maybe it’s a little more like the real thing, if that means anything to you. It sounds better, I feel more relaxed”.

There is no form of contract between him and the band. They are signed to him for the tour and it’s all pretty free and easy. “I’ve been through all that binding contract stuff and I know how it is,” said Alvin, with a weary shrug. “You never get any respect from tying anybody up and if they want to leave they leave anyway and all you’ve got is a big legal hassle. If there’s nothing official in it, you get the advantage of the enthusiasm that comes from working with different musicians who are changing all the time.”

  I left them still hard at work at the studio. It all sounded like a big jam, something like the atmosphere that prevailed at the “Rainbow”, where everyone was out to have a good time and Alvin was out to prove he could conquer the Rainbow after ten day’s rehearsal. “We’ll get all the basic numbers off this week,” he promised. As I said, it sounded like a happy jam, but every so often Alvin would stop playing and round on someone and suggest an alteration in what they had been playing. It’s obvious that Lee’s in command. He knows exactly what he wants, his batteries are recharged now, his waning enthusiasm re-fired and that old magic’s back in the flying fingers, though in a funkier vein than he’s ever played before.

It certainly looks as if Alvin has entered into a brand new stage in his musical development.       

 

   

 

1972 begann Alvin Lee an seinem damaligen Wohnsitz in Checkendon (in der Nähe von Henley-on-Thames und Reading) sein eigenes Studio einzurichten.
Ab dann war es ihm natürlich möglich jederzeit Musik aufzunehmen. In den Space Studios sind zunächst einmal das Album «On The Road To Freedom», dann «Positive Vibrations» entstanden, aber auch die Platte der Soul-Funk Band FBI, natürlich Proben und Jams - in einem Interview mit dem englischen Magazin «Guitarist» vom April 1987 erwähnte Alvin Lee, dass er bis dato wohl über 500 Stunden Musik auf Tape habe.

FBI  (Produced by Alvin Lee)  read more...

 

 

 

 

EXKLUSIV AUS MUSIK EXPRES MAGAZINE !!!
FROM DECEMBER 1974 - Nr. 12
TEN YEARS AFTER - GIBT'S NICHT MEHR!
ALVIN LEE MIT GEORGE HARRISON IM STUDIO!

 

 

 

 

 

Musik Expres war mit George Harrison zu Besuch in Alvin Lee's SPACESTUDIOS
Als erste Popzeitschrift der Welt erfuhr Musik Express bei einem Besuch in Alvin Lee's "Space Studios" die sicherlich schockierende Neuigkeit, dass Ten Years After endgültig aufgehört hat zu existieren. Trotzdem trafen wir einen nicht gerade unglücklichen Alvin Lee an, der mit seiner neuen Gruppe "Alvin Lee & Co." Die Songs für die große Europa-Tournee einstudierte, die in diesem Monat über die Bühnen rollt. Wie wir während unseres Aufenthalts beim Ex- TYA - Boss auch noch Bekanntschaft mit George Harrison machen konnten, das verrät die Reportage auf diesen Seiten:

An den Gerüchten war was dran!
Monatelang kursierten eigentlich schon widersprüchliche Meldungen und Gerüchte, die eine kurz bevorstehende Ten Years After - Auflösung vermuten ließen. Jetzt gibt es keinen Zweifel mehr! Die Gruppe, die jahrelang unter der Leitung ihres Super-Gitarristen Alvin Lee in der ganzen Welt triumphale Erfolge feiern konnte und die den Höhepunkt ihrer Karriere zweifellos auf dem legendären Woodstock-Festival erlebte, diese Gruppe gibt es jetzt nicht mehr. Sicher werden unzählige Fans ganz schön traurig sein über diese Tatsache, obwohl es ja auch einige unter ihnen geben soll, die genau wie Alvin Lee der Meinung sind, dass die Zeit reif ist für "was Neues". Wie es sich für einen weitsichtigen und verantwortungsvollen Chef einer Rock n´ Roll Band gehört, hat Alvin die Entscheidung, Ten Years After aufzulösen, natürlich solange geheim gehalten, bis sowohl er als auch die anderen Mitglieder der Band konkrete Pläne für die nächste Zukunft ausgearbeitet hatten.

NEUES LIVE-ALBUM

Das ist inzwischen geschehen. Ric Lee stellt momentan seine eigene Gruppe zusammen, zu der außer ihm noch ein weiterer Drummer gehört, Leo Lyons will von jetzt ab nur als Plattenproduzent in Erscheinung treten (Bisher produzierte er unter anderem eine LP mit Bridget St. John) und Chick Churchill konzentriert sich als Arrangeur auf Studioarbeit mit Streichmusikern. Alvin hat natürlich schon lange kommen sehen, dass die Ten Years After-Tage gezählt sein würden.

Deshalb hat er bereits im Februar damit begonnen sich seine neuen Musiker auszusuchen. Diesen Sommer stellte er sie erstmals während eines Aufsehen erregenden Konzerts im Londoner Rainbow Theatre vor. Der Auftritt wurde auf einer Live-LP festgehalten, die jetzt gerade unter dem Titel "In Flight" auf den Markt gekommen ist. Die neue Band, die den einprägsamen Namen "Alvin Lee & Co." abbekommen hat, besteht aus den beiden früheren King Crimson Mitgliedern Mel Collins (Saxophone) und Ian Wallace (Drums) sowie den Stone The Crows-Leuten Steve Thompson (Bass) und Ronnie Leahy (Piano). Alvin spielt natürlich Gitarre und singt.

BIG GEORGE IS COMING!

Wir besuchten Alvin Lee ein paar Tage lang auf seinem Bauernhof in der Nähe von London, in dessen umgebauter Scheune sich jetzt die "Space Studios" befinden, die Alvin für sich und die Gruppen, die er produziert, benutzt. Hier wurden unter anderem einige Songs seiner ersten Solo-LP "On The Road To Freedom" sowie das allerletzte TYA-Album "Positive Vibrations" aufgenommen.
Als wir Alvin an seinem häuslichen Arbeitsplatz begegneten, war er mit seiner neuen Gruppe noch fleißig damit beschäftigt, ein paar Songs durchzuproben, schließlich stand ja die inzwischen angelaufene Tournee vor der Tür. Dann kam der "magische" Augenblick, von dem man nicht einmal zu träumen gewagt hätte. Plötzlich klingelte nämlich das Telefon, und als Alvin den Hörer wieder auflegte verriet er uns mit freudestrahlendem Gesicht: "Big George is coming!"

EIN EX-BEATLE IM BMW

Bevor wir einigermaßen begriffen hatten, was los war, fuhr draußen ein BMW vor. Wir glaubten unseren Augen kaum zu trauen, als der Fahrer zur Tür reinkam - es war George Harrison! Der Ex-Beatle war genau wie wir gekommen, um sich Alvin's neue Band anzuhören. Natürlich dauerte es nicht lange, bis auch er `ne Gitarre unterm Arm hatte und zusammen mit Alvin & Co. eine wahnsinnige Jam-Session hinlegte. Bei der Gelegenheit hörten wir dann unter anderem Titel wie "Goin´ Through The Door", "Don't Be Cruel", (alter Elvis Presley Song!), "Money Honey", "Writing You A Letter", und "Freedom For The Stallion", die zum neuen "Alvin Lee & Co" - Repertoire gehören und größtenteils auch auf dem "In Flight" - Album wieder zu finden sind. Seit der Mitwirkung George Harrisons an Alvin's erstem Solo-Album dürfte es sich wohl herumgesprochen haben, dass die Beiden sehr eng miteinander befreundet sind. Inzwischen hat Alvin Lee sich für die musikalische Hilfestellung des Ex-Beatle auf seiner "On The Road To Freedom" - LP dadurch "revanchiert", dass er auf der ersten LP der Gruppe " Splinter" mitmischte, die von George Harrison entdeckt wurde.

 




BIG BEN "komponierte" die neue Harrison-Single

In den frühen Morgenstunden, als die Musiker aus Alvin's Band längst den Heimweg angetreten hatten, fanden wir uns mit George Harrison und Alvin Lee in dessen Küche wieder. Dort wurde ununterbrochen weitergejammt. George spielte zwischendurch ein paar nagelneue Songs wie "Far East Man", "Maja Love", und "Bye Bye Love" (Der alte Everley Brothers-Titel), die auf seiner folgenden Anfang 1975 erscheinenden LP vorkommen sollen. Ein weiterer neuer Harrison - Titel nannte sich "Ding-Dong". Die Melodie hat George von den Glockenschlägen des Londoner "Big Ben" übernommen, und wie wir jetzt schon erfahren konnten, soll der Song schon sehr bald auf `ner Single erscheinen.

Um unsere Leser wissen zu lassen, dass wir ihnen keinen Bären aufbinden, drückte der kamerascheue George schließlich ein Auge zu und ließ sich von uns in Alvin Lee's Küche bereitwillig fotografieren.

Erst um 1 Uhr morgens stieg er mit seiner Freundin (deren Namen wir, weil wir's versprochen haben, geheim halten müssen) wieder in den für einen Ex Beatle eigentlich recht bescheiden wirkenden BMW und fuhr nach Hause. George und Alvin wohnen übrigens nur sechs Kilometer auseinander.

Kurz vor Redaktionsschluss rief Alvin Lee an, um uns mitzuteilen, dass er inzwischen auch noch vier schwarze Sängerinnen und einen Conga-Spieler auftreiben konnte, die er während der Dezember-Tournee mit auf die Bühne bringen wird, Außerdem verriet er uns, dass er noch vor der Tour im Amsterdamer Paradiso inkognito ein unangekündigtes Probe-Konzert mit seiner neuen Gruppe geben will.
Darüber berichten wir dann ein anderes Mal.

Alvin Lee in George Harrison's studio. 

To Quote Alvin Lee: "George Harrison was also a pleasure to work with. He was one of the most famous people I've ever known, but in spite of that fame, he was such a nice and friendly guy". 

 

 


 

 

 

Sounds Magazine - December 14, 1974

“Out Of The Gym” – Steve Peacock – In Frankfurt, Germany

The man from German Phonogram doesn’t carry the best of omens around with him.

“Ten Years After?” he says, and sticks a couple of thumbs up as he nods. “Alvin Lee?”

The nose wrinkles and the eyebrows raise. If he’d known the word, he’d have said the prospects were dodgy. So, Alvin Lee, kicking the dust of  Ten Years After from his shoes and getting out with his own band is something of a bold move. It’s also about time. The man who has described his old band as a good place for a work out on guitar, is now out of the musical gymnasium, and on the road with a band playing music that is much more to his taste, and to mine incidentally. As a prelude to their British date at Kilburn State, London on December 14th, and an American tour in the new year, Alvin Lee and Company have been on tour in Europe: while it isn’t exactly starting at the bottom again, they have been doing concert halls rather than huge stadiums, and people aren’t really sure what to expect. The “In Flight” album is only just out, hence the Phonogrammer’s insecurity about the box office, rather than musical performance.

However, the hall in Frankfurt is fairly large and fairly full. The audience says Alvin, is louder than they’ve had on the rest of the tour, and a high percentage of American servicemen among them, accounts for many of the calls for Alvin to wail out in the usual Ten Years After manner. Is this what it’s going to be like in America? They seem pleased enough with the new music though, as well they should be, and they get their reward in the end. The set is mostly taken from the numbers on the “In Flight” album, that was recorded live at the Rainbow Theatre in London, but the band has substantially changed since then. Ian Wallace, drums and influenza, and Mel Collins, saxes and flute, remain: Ronnie Leahy, on keyboards, Steve Thompson, on bass guitar, Brother James on percussion, and two back-up singers are also new.

While the Rainbow concert was enjoyable, I suspect my enjoyment was partly a sense of relief  that Alvin Lee was resisting the temptation to take the easy way out. Frankfurt was enjoyable and much more so than the Rainbow show, because Alvin Lee is now part of a very good band playing music that ranges from the listenable to the excellent. Obviously, it’s his band and he’s in control, but equal weight on stage falls on Mel Collins, whose arrangement of Allen Toussaint’s “Freedom For The Stallion” is featured early in the set, and who steps forward again for “Percy’s Roots” which develops into a percussion extravaganza, which is a kind of gathering point for the band before they go into the final build up of the set. His solo’s through the set are identifiable high points, particularly his soprano on “Let The Sea Burn Down” on which Ronnie Leahy also played some outstanding piano and on “Time And Space”. The lack of a second guitarist has put Alvin on the spot, rather more than he was at the Rainbow concert, and consequently, he plays with far more sense of band, rather than solo, and with a great deal more imagination: There’s a vast difference between a guitarist and a soloist, and it is one in which Alvin is currently exploring very profitably. His singing is also much more expressive than before. Perhaps “Going Through The Door” is the best example of both. The shadow of Ten Years After, gained definition only during the encore, when Alvin flashed out a bit on guitar, sliding the neck against his microphone stand that brought cheers from the expatriate Americans. It seemed very out of context with the rest of the evening, but fun enough.

Footnote: According to Mr. Keith Altham, publicist for the group, they performed several numbers called – “Fuknose”.

 


 

New Musical Express - December 14, 1974

 

Alvin On Music, Big Red and Talks About Playing   

Okay Alvin, be a good guitar hero and tell the folks how at the age of three Muddy Waters done your head in and Ya-hadda be a blues star and scraped all the polish off the dinning room table with a pen-knife  until yer Mum bought you a trainer-guitar. (You know, the type with two wheels on the back). Whaddya  mean, you started with a clarinet?  

“My parents were musical and they said, “What do you want to play?’ I had just seen a clarinet and thought they were rather amazing, so I said that. Played it for a year and didn’t get anywhere… “I used to listen to Benny Goodman, and through that heard Charlie Christian, who played guitar with him, and I got more into the guitar. “So I swapped the clarinet for a guitar and started again. “The first thing I had was just some basic lessons with  chords….all the major chords and sevenths, and strumming. I played strum charts. I progressed to jazzy standards like ‘A Nightingale Sang In Berkeley Square’. This was all in the first year or so, I was very quick,  very keen. I used to practice about four hours a day, and sometimes I’d practice all day. I was very keen to play.  If anything I was too keen, because I skimped  a lot of basic knowledge and started to play by ear.  

 “When I got my rhythm and all my chords I used to pick bits out of chords, and there were all sorts of different influences I went through, from Charlie Christian and Barney Kessel and George Benson and all those jazz guys. Django, of course.” All this, mind you, when Alvin was a nipper of twelve.  “The guitar was my thing. I didn’t take any notice of lessons at school. I had a six-inch fret board and I used to  practice my fingering in class. The last few years were just wasting time for me. I went to see the careers  officer and said, “I want to be a musician’.”  To which came the reply, ‘Oh, all we have is the Royal Marines.’  

 Ah yes, the fantasies of what might have been: the fastest fingers to ever touch a licorice stick, or the R.M.’s  first electric guitarist , with a wallah to carry the amp, no doubt. “You know, those young years, the learning years between 12 and 16. If you can use that energy then and put it into learning…..I couldn’t do it now, I wouldn’t have the energy to really push myself. “You have to really feel  you’re going there to do it. You have to know where you’re going. I had no other option but to be a musician;  I didn’t have anything else going for me.”  

Before you conclude that Alvin is really a jazzer who picked up his blues licks from Blue Horizon records  when he saw that it could keep him in cigarette money, it should be noted that Alvin’s father was collecting 78’s  of Big Bill Broonzy and chain gang songs, as well as traditional jazz, which led to skiffle. This later trend  coincided with Alvin’s first walks along the fret-board, but even then he thought its simplicity a bit “corny”. “What turned me around a lot was Chuck Berry. I got off on the rhythm, and I got into a Chuck Berry-ish style. That’s what got me off chords and jazz.”  Alvin was at this time in Nottingham, so obviously he wasn’t getting his  rock and roll from freighters docked in the Mersey. An aunt in Canada was the source,, Alvin writing to her for the records he wanted. His first group happened by the time he was 13; he answered an ad in the paper for a lead guitarist and therein  met Leo Lyons. The fare was basic Shadows. Hank Marvin providing further influence, but Alvin was still enough  of a purist to discount most contemporary rock music, especially the re-workings of R n’ B and blues originals.  

 One wonders if a kid of 15,weaned on the records of his older brothers and sisters, reacts the same way on hearing  the Elvis re-workings on “In Flight”.  “I was into Scotty Moore more than Elvis. I joined Elvis’ fan club to get  a picture of Scotty Moore’s guitar. I always wanted one like it.”  And what was this axe that so beautifully  understated all of Elvis’ Sun releases? Why, nought but a “really thick old Gibson.” Aha! Could this be an  influence in the Lee choice of axe?  “Partly,”  he admits with a grin. Say, Alvin, this looks like a good point for some info on that cherry red buss bomb  you tote onstage.

 “It’s a Gibson 335; about 15 years old. Bought it for 45 quid. I’ve adapted it a lot: put Fender pick-ups on it and changed this and that. It’s my Number One guitar because I can get any sound on it. “I use a 15 watt WEM  Dominator amp, and take a feed from that to a bigger one so that I can hear it.  It’s a very basic little amp, but  I like that. I like that tight valve sound of little valves distorting. I used to have a 50 watt Marshall, but I ---ummmm ---lost it. You don’t ever seem to get the same sound with the new stuff as you do with the old.  Moving on from that golden phrase that must make Messrs. Gibson, Fender, Marshall ect. all cringe every time  a rock star says it (in just about every interview of this type), what about other guitars in the Lee collection?  “Oh I’ve got lots, but mostly for recording. Every guitar that you play changes you. I’ve got a Fender Telecaster that’s got a clean, nippy sound and it makes you play in a clean nippy style.”  

 So each guitar changes your style?  “Well it changes your approach. If you have lots of sustain, like on a Gibson, you play long, drawn out notes, whereas if it has a twangy, nippy sound, it’s all short notes; a different attitude to playing.”   

   Okay, the 64,000 dollar question: What about all that speed? “Yeah (sigh). I never consciously tried to play all that fast. The music being loud and raucous, I go over enthusiastic myself. The more I played, the more….practised I became. When the band have played 400 times it  it doesn’t take much effort to just play automatically. Like all this stuff about my playing to see how fast I could play…I was just playing it the way it came out. With the audience  and the excitement  it used to speed things up.”  Questioned on his contemporary tastes, Alvin immediately mentions the Mahavishnu  Orchestra, but confesses    to being somewhat reactionary. “McLaughlin suits my taste at certain times, but it’s something a bit neurotic.   I like a bit of everything…I still listen to the original Little Richard’s and Jerry Lee’s early Sun Elvis. Now I’m getting turned on to black artists I missed out on. Cronell Dupree who I have a videotape of……amazing I do try to keep up with what’s happening, but just to listen to. “John McLaughlin with Billy Cobham and Jerry Goldman made me realise that there was a new movement  here which was much further out than I was capable of, which gave me the incentive  to become better. I  have a videotape of Mahavashnu from the BBC, and every time I watch it I have to go and practise because  it makes me feel that I’m not getting very far.”  

  So you don’t see yourself as ever peaking?   “Perhaps in one style, but I’ll go on to something else. I happen to be quite an ardent country picker, which hasn’t come out much yet. There’s always different pickings and tunings. I’ve never said to myself, ‘I can  play now’, because there’s always so much more to learn. “The more you know the more there is to find out, and so it goes on. If anybody says, ‘I’m good at this, so I don’t have to do anything’---that’s the wrong attitude. You can be the best rock guitarist in the world and then listen to George Benson and realise you don’t really know very much.   “Like that guitarist in The Crusaders (Larry Carlton). I went to see him and he blew my mind. All these  really good jazz musicians play twice as fast as I could ever play, but it’s so fluid.” 

  And tips for the budding guitarist? “Practice is essential. Time, patience  and practise.  Perserverance. Following one’s head rather than fashion. You have to really learn the instrument for two or three years before you can expect to play in a style. Just copy other people until you have a lot of different styles at your fingertips, and then your own style starts to come  through, using the techniques you picked up from other people.  I used to copy The Shadows, and Buddy Holly solos I could get off note for note.   “When the other kids used to go out looning around. I would stay in and practice the guitar. It took some doing and there was a lot of temptation to leave it, but I pressed on. “It gives me satisfaction to do that, and when I’ve got a new chord worked in or whatever, it gives me a sense of achievement. “My own style came out of Chuck Berry, really….and rhythm ‘n’ blues. Some of those simple players were the best. “It’s not a question of what’s good and bad. Just because I don’t like  most classical music isn’t to say it’s bad…It’s all involved, with your mind.  If your mind is involved with music then your mind develops.  “Really, all you have to do is keep your mind involved, and practice, and it all takes care of itself. But I don’t hold much hope for the person who sits down and becomes a guitarist to be a rock star----because you can take those short cuts, but it’s the wrong motivation. You have to be interested in music, really, to get anything out of it.  

  “Being a rock star is okay for a year or two, and you can have a loon, but it’s hardly a satisfying experience.” 

   

 

 

 


 

New  Musical  Express  12/ 28/ 74

 

ALVIN LEE is a deceptive character. He’s never really worked at making his presence felt in the way Rod Stewart or Elton John have done, nor has he really quested for any Spokesman of the Guitar award. Critics find him generally dismissable –especially in America—and yet TYA could fill any of that country’s  20,000 seat Hippodromes with ease.   

All in all one could go through life and never really know anything about the guy except his name, his face and that sequence in “Woodstock”.  Then you meet the guy. He ain’t too tall, but no photo captures the solidity and bulk of his shoulders and chest or the prominence of his features. It gives him a sort of intense vitality, a real focus of energy. He likes   his tea, and in Frankfurt it always comes in a silver service with Limoges tea cups, giving the whole ritual a very civilised air. And he proves to be a really nice person with whom you can actually hold an interesting conversation. You just never know.    

You can take it from Alvin that TYA are not so much in mothballs as in a mortuary. With the results of his solo Concert at London’s Rainbow last March now available as a rather tasty album, “In Flight”, Alvin Lee and Co. (that’s the name of his new band, of course) are touring Europe prior to a concert at the Kilburn State on December 14th, followed by a tour of the U.S. in January, and then Japan and Australia.

Lee has purposely kept it at medium size halls, working for a Holiday Inn level of hostelry, through the Park Hotel was supposed to be Frankfurt’s finest.    

Frankfurt is a really boring looking city, offering little visible entertainment apart from streets of sex emporiums and cabarets of monotonous lust. There are several US Army bases in the area, and their occupants were at the concert en-masse, consuming about 75 percent of available ground space. It was really weird seeing that much short hair in one place and projecting its feelings of being out of place amongst the freaks. In this context, clenched fists and peace signs had very real meaning.    

  The air looked like it came courtesy of a fog machine and the smell was pretty exotic. One G.I. was quite openly cooking an impressive sized chunk which disappeared into cool jays of admirable proportions, and all the time there were two MP’s  leaning against a wall ten feet away just watching Alvin.  

  THE ACOUSTICS: of the hall made an aural jigsaw puzzle of the sound. Mel Collins stood by Alvin, functioning as a foil, taking a lot of the load. His playing was immaculate, and “Freedom For The Stallion” early in the set brought standing ovations from some properly enthusiastic G.I.’s.  The fourth song out and Alvin soloed for the first time, picking slow sustained notes, with the two girl singers providing counterpoint while a spot zeroed in on his hands; the audience cheered madly. They cheered at every flourish that approached a solo. But he was teasing them, not getting too out there for awhile, ignoring all the yelling between numbers for “Going Home” and a one rather strident point easing into a really slow blues,   leaving all the virtuoso stuff to Collins.  A bit later a short Lee solo was taken over by pianist Ronnie Leahy (whose power increased throughout the  performance) then thrown to Collins and finally back to Lee. This was not the only time an emotional rush was set up, and Lee frequently buried his pyrotechnics   into the ensemble orgasm. It was really a band at work. But these  bozos kept yelling for “Going Home”. “Fuck Off,” replied Lee.  

  He then proceeded to get into some real Chicago style—Leahy whipping off a classic solo before ol’ Speedfingers got it down. Nothing approaching the sound barrier, of course but enough to wake up even the most overdosed G.I., masterfully building up the tension before chopping it and hitting the verse faster than the eye can see. It was magic, and really got the shouters into their stride. An Ian Wallace drum solo---somewhat spectacular--- was rewarded with a roar of approval.  For the encore, Lee gave in and really gave it to them---contorting his face in proper rock star manner, rubbing the guitar neck   along the microphone stand, his fingers defying the laws of time and space.  An idiot dancer led a boogying regiment down front, the whole place exploding with sustained cheering, clenched fists and peace signs hitting the air. It’s so nice to see people get what they want.

  THE SCENE: shifts to a flamboyant restaurant where roadies seduce young ladies while their elder statesmen  looked on. Large quantities of Brandy Alexander’s  are being consumed, and about halfway down the table Alvin Lee is being loquacious for the assembled members of the Fourth Estate. “I’ve always maintained a fairly low profile, especially in England,” he says. “I want to be able to walk down the High Street without being bothered. Also, I want to be playing music when I’m 70, like my blues heroes, and not some burned out wreck. “I’ve found that a lot of that hysteria that surrounds a ‘star’ is created. Like, if you roar up to the stage door in a flurry of limousines all the fans go berserk, but if you drive up calmly and just step out, everyone stays calm. “I was in a limousine in America once and the driver was really flying, barely missing people. I was yelling at the top of my voice for him to slow down and he said, ‘What’s wrong? Elvis loved it when I did this for him’”.  

  But Alvin isn’t entirely without his trappings. He drives a Porsche 911 and has a 40 room medieval manor house, with studio to call home. “But that’s just a fantasy, and realising them is never as good as the fantasy. Oh, it’s nice having things, but they aren’t as satisfying as playing music.” Not that he’s complaining ; a man has never looked more content talking about his abode, and the penurious  scribes look properly envious. “My place is nothing—you should see George Harrison’s. It’s a 100 room  Abbey, a real Victorian folly. The fireplaces have incantations carved into them, and the light switches are  friars, with the switches as his nose. “My studio is very funky and functional, but in his the desk has all this amazing carving, and all the speaker cabinets are carved. His studio is fantastic---16, 8; 4 and 2 track.”  

  Talk about Harrison continues for some time. Lee gives him the vote as a Good Guy, laughing at George’s  propensity to expound upon his metaphysical views. Lee has played on Harrison’s new record, and says it’s better than the last outing—pointing to the inclusion of “Bye Bye Love” as a sign that the man isn’t quite the  religioso – drongo some would have us believe. The general consensus is that it would be nice for Hari to let the world into his life a bit.  

  Alvin talks about being on the road: “After a while I began to really feel as if I was just vegetating in the house. Like, your biggest problem is related to what you happen to be doing at the time. Sitting at home, my biggest problem was that the boiler might go out and I would have to re-light it. And that gets to be a very boring existence.”  Now that he’s off his ass, the new musical lease of life is very appealing, seeing as it gives him ample opportunity  to expose facets beyond the fastest fingers in the West. The songs from “In Flight” date back as far as three years.  Ten Years After had tried recording them, but it didn’t work out. “Also, I was getting into a funky, black style which didn’t wash with the Ten Years After style. A lot of my more  melodic numbers were getting shelved.” And with that he attacked his escargot.

  

New Musical Express  December 28, 1974

“What’s a good looking folkie like you doing on an album like this?“ Logical question, I feel. I mean, how many residents of Cousins club, in Soho, turn up on albums produced by heavies like Greg Lake and Pete Sinfield? Keith Christmas, to whom I address my remark, says that he does relatively few folk gigs now and that he’s been support act on bills with rock bands for many years. But I’ve heard the new album, it’s called

“Brighter Day” by the way, and despite the heavy friends, it’s still pretty folksy, has lots of acoustic strumming and includes “Robin Head,” an acid-folk-joke that Christmas has been kicking around since his coffee-bar-cowboy days. Get out of that then.

“Oh, that song is bound to come out sounding folksy – it’s got a classic story line and all the characters in it are readily identifiable – all that sort of thing. Honestly, I’m not sure which direction I’m heading in, there are so many different things you can do with a song. “The Bargees” (also on the album) is folksy as well, but I’m doing it with a band now and it’s sort of country and up tempo. Then I’m doing “Could Do Better” and more funky stuff. “I’d like my next album to be more even, I’d like to pull the extremes in a little. “Brighter Day” is too diverse”.

Slowly the story behind the album emerges. It seems Christmas was thrown into the recording scene when still an undergrad on an engineering course at Bath University, and made three albums during this time. The first being “Stimulus” (RCA – 1969. This, like “Fable Of The Wings” and “Pigmy” – which followed in a space of about eighteen months, were produced by Sandy Robertson. But Kaycee claims that he had little to do with any of them, after the initial recording sessions. His University course took up so much time, that he wasn’t around for the mixing sessions or anything like that. But he was fitting in folk gigs, mainly at Les Cousins in Soho’s Greek Street and Bristol’s Troubadour. And he retains a certain affection for those days.  

“It seemed there was a kind of yearly thing, I can’t get all the names and dates right. First of all there was Jansch and Renbourn, then Davy Graham and I think, Stefan Grossman and maybe Stefan was a little later.

They were followed by Al Stewart, Roy Harper, Mike Chapman and Ralph McTell, who formed the next batch. Then it was Mike and Sally Oldfield with Sallyangie, Mike Cooper and myself. I think I was about the last to come off that scene. “Certainly I did the last all-nighter at Cousins and then the club closed down, not more than twelve months later. I began doing gigs with bands about the time folk clubs were closing down right, left and centre. “I remember the first gig I ever did with a band, at Cardiff University with Argent (Rod Argent). I was terrified and convinced I was going to get slaughtered. But it turned out to be a riot. (great time). “Then Sandy phoned me up and told me he’d booked me to do two gigs with “The Who” in Sheffield and Leicester. When I went on at Sheffield City Hall, I was really shaking, and there were 2,500 people inside, and another 1,000 outside being turned away. The energy was something like a short fuse on a powder keg, and it proved to be a tremendous gig.

 “With my third album out, I did two tours with “Ten Years After” and “King Crimson” and the vibes around the business were great. Then I did a really silly (crazy) tour with Glenn Cornick’s  band (Wild Turkey) and Mick Abrahams. They went around the universities but didn’t pull in an audience, and all-in-all they were bad gigs. “And that was it, after three or four months of real expectations, I was nothing….out, finished, as far as everyone was concerned. Don’t ask me how that happened, because I was too busy bloody touring to keep an eye on things”.

So while “Pigmy” didn’t sell at all badly, doing over 6,500 – Christmas went to ground somewhere near Frome in Somerset, and there the story could have ended in “whatever happened to” fashion, but for the fact that Pete Sinfield moved to the nearby Shepton Mallet area and renewed a friendship, struck up on the Crimson tour. They wrote a song called “Hangin´ Fire” which Sinfield put on tape and took it to Greg Lake, of Emerson, Lake and Palmer. He liked it and took it further up the Manti-core chain of command.

Eventually Kaycee returned to London once more and went into Command Studios, laying down four tracks, including: “Foothills” – “The Bargees” – “Robin Head” – and – “Lovers Cabaret” with Greg Lake and ELP’s engineer Andy Hendrickson. Two months later, he completed the album with Pete Sinfield and Mike Cooper, who were responsible for the final mix – and an impressive supporting cast was assembled en route, including:

Alan Spenner, Ian Wallace, Neil Hubbard, Ray Warleigh, Mel Collins, Pete Solly, Darryl Runswick and Henry Lowther being just some of the names involved. (Note – many of these same people would later show up the same year, as the issue of this magazine (1974) on Alvin Lee’s Rainbow concert – the subsequent  “In Flight” and “Pump Iron” albums, released in 1974- 1975 respectively. Also some of them were in Joe Cocker’s “Grease Band” that played at Woodstock 1969).

 Naturally Christmas is happy at such a return from obscurity. “This is the first album I’ve ever done that’s got a bit of class to it, and even though by Pete’s own standards, it was cheaply done”. Christmas says he can only write from personal experience. One such instance is “Country Farm” which relates to a gig he did at the Sherman Theatre in Cardiff. “It was a brand new theatre then, and it was the first time they’d ever put on a rock concert. The woman in the office had on something like a long evening dress, and a sort of white lace thing. The ushers were all immaculately dressed, and there were all these trippers staggering around with silly grins on their faces, making peace signs and things. They were laying around in the foyer during the break, and it really was extraordinary. “At the end of the gig this woman handed me a bunch of mangled banknotes, (money) and the management kept on apologising to me for the standard (poor condition) of the money!

“The Bargees’’ is another personal thing. Sarah Ward (she ain’t `arf  lovely) asked me how long I’d lived with the barge-people to be able to write such a song. So I told her, “About three hours on a Saturday afternoon!” It was the truth, because I did a gig in Birmingham the night before and stayed with some people who took me down to the basin at Gas Street, and I really couldn’t believe it! “I got such a series of visual hits out of the scene, that I just had to write a song”.

 

The Keith Christmas future still seems to be a trifle hazy. He’s been gigging with his own band at last, and has even made the transition to electric guitar. But a hoped for trip to the States, to appear with PFM has blown out, and the folk circuit hasn’t entirely lost his talents. “I’ll do the odd solo gig now and again, you’ve got to keep your hand in”.

 

 

 

 

 



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