Thursday, 7 March 2013

Vale-Alvin Lee

Yesterday guitar legend Alvin Lee from British blues band Ten Years After passed away at the age of 68. For many Lee's name is familiar as the barnstorming guitarist who tore Woodstock a new rear end with a blistering rendition of I'm Going Home. It was a song I first heard on the cassette The Roots of Heavy Metal, it was a live version from their second album Undead, which was recorded at the small jazz club Klooks Kleek in London. I was blown away by Alvins' ferocious playing, it was loud and piercing in a way that I hadn't heard before.

Ten Years After were formed in Nottingham in the early 60's, it wasn't until 1966 that the band relocated to London to turn professional. On the basis of their growing live appeal the band were signed to the Deram label in 1967, their blues soaked self titled debut showed a band that shared similar qualities with other British R&B bands like Cream and early Fleetwood Mac. The band posessed a charismatic front man in Alvin Lee back by a rock solid rhythm section featuring Leo Lyons on bass, Chick Churchill on keyboards and Ric Lee (no relation) on drums. Chick Churchill for me is an underrated bass player, the group often played at a lightening pace and he maintained a busy style that always kept things intact.

Their third album Stonehenge saw the band begin to make significant inroads into the U.S market, the album features the rocking Hear Me Calling. The band toured the U.S constantly playing major festivals including the Newport Festival in 1969. The group began to reach their peak with the album Cricklewood Green which was released in 1970, it reached U.K #2 and U.S #14, it's an album that has ballsy rock and roll, and more progressive overtures on songs like 50,000 Miles Beneath My Brain.

A Space in Time which came out in 1971 signalled a change in the group's style, more acoustic and featuring more layers. I'd Love To Change The World featured the band at it's most confrontational.

Everywhere is freaks and hairies
Dykes and fairies
Tell me where is sanity
Tax the rich, feed the poor
Until there are no rich no more.

The album consolidated their success in the U.S but failed to sell in the U.K. The group continued to record and tour until 1974 when the band split. Lee cut the seminal On The Road To Freedom with American gospel singer Mylon LeFevre. It was recorded at George Harrison's house and featured an all star cast including Steve Winwood and Jim Capaldi from Traffic, Ron Wood and Mick Fleetwood also worked on the album. Lee continued to record and tour up until his death.

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