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Ten Years After

Ten Years After

℗ 1967 Deram Records SML 1015 / © Decca Records

℗ 2002 Deram Records 882 897

Ten Years After • 1967 • Ten Years After

Ten Years After actually started out as more of a fast jazz band: Leo Lyons was certainly a jazz bass player, and Alvin's fast'n'furious playing really fitted the jazz pattern much more than standard R'n'B. The track that opens their first album, McLeod's 'I Want To Know', really says it all: magnificent, entertaining, swift, funny guitar lines, a jazz rhythm and Alvin's nasal vocals quickly set the scene for an absolutely self-assured, tight and very raw bunch of covers and 'originals'. And I do mean these quotes: Alvin's contributions to this album are just standard blues melodies set to a different set of, often misogynistic, lyrics. In fact, the only problem the record suffers from is an obvious lack of songwriting skills. Besides that, the production is somewhat lame: the engineers, including future Elton John starmaker Gus Dudgeon, were probably told not to bother very much with this 'experimental' band. So it ends up sounding like a lot of this stuff was recorded with just a hand-held tape recorder, and the production is just as muddy and dizzy as the album cover. All the better: this really gives the effect of a raw, young, happy, energetic and powerful band letting go - unlike the later, much more polished records.

Some of the numbers are just extended bluesfests, and not very exciting at that. 'Spoonful', for instance, was done far more convincingly by Cream, and this particular version suffers horrendously because of muddy, 'undermixed' vocals and because they really overdid the instrumental bit - after all, Alvin Lee is no Eric Clapton when it comes to constructing a slow, calculated blues solo on record. Moreover, the main riff to the song, its usual main attraction, is for some strange reason donated to Mr Churchill who plays it on an organ and thus misses all the heavy bombast that was such a great fun on Cream's version. And the famous cover of Willie Dixon's 'Help Me', the band's most essential stage favourite from the album, does pick up steam near the end, but in the middle it's just a lengthy marathon of rather average soloing. I mean, Alvin does the 'tension build-up' bit rather well, steadily going from modest, self-contained licks to an all-out guitar hell, but ten minutes of tension build-up are a bit too much even for good-natured Blues Tolerators like me.

Most of the other songs, however, easily compensate for the lengthy wankfests - short, compact and snappy. My all-time favourite here is 'Losing The Dogs', co-written by Alvin with Gus Dudgeon: its intoxicating guitar rhythm interspersed with some piano boogie chops really lifts you off the ground, and (specially for all you haters of bleeding guitars) there's not even a tiny bit of soloing to be found - just those awesome guitars going in and out, in and out, in and out! Wow! And how can you beat such a great whistle section as is presented here in the beginning? Teenage boozy-bloozy fun with protest elements in the lyrics at its very, very best. Another cool number is the classic ballad 'I Can't Keep From Crying (Sometimes)' (credited to 'Kooper' in the liner notes; presumably the jazz-rock genius Al Kooper, I guess) - another jazzy number with fascinating organ in the background and a good jazzy solo that puts Jethro Tull's Mick Abrahams to shame. In concert they would stretch out the number, transforming it into a mini-rock symphony with lots of alternating fast and slow parts; here, though, they don't stray much too far from the source, giving you all the opportunities for simply sitting back and relaxing to that tasty guitar groove of Alvin's solo.

All the other tracks are minor efforts, but most are quite delectable. Churchill's solo spot - one more jazzy shuffle, this time the instrumental 'Adventures Of A Young Organ' - is quite hilarious, with some of his best, funniest organ passages; and the three Alvin Lee 'originals' on the second side are passable, acceptable blues numbers, especially the acoustic 'Don't Want You Woman' that borrows its melody from the traditional acoustic blues 'Hey Hey' (find it on Clapton's Unplugged, for istance, with Eric churning out exactly the same chords). The contrast between the cheerful, nonchalant atmosphere of this one and the immediately following gloomy, grizzly 'Help Me' is particularly stunning.

Indeed, even if this does not pretend to be anything more than a hardcore jazz/blues album, it is still different from any other hardcore jazz/blues albums. Now don't you bug me with useless questions - try as I may, I really couldn't guess what exactly makes this difference. I'll just content myself with the vague phrase that it definitely has that 'Ten-Years-Afterish' feel to it, which means it's much more raunchy, funny, uncompromised, memorable and just generally good than ninety-nine percent of such albums. Maybe it's Alvin's raucous vocals that do the trick. Maybe it's the rudimentary elements of studio gimmickry - like the mighty bass/drums line on 'Help Me'. Maybe it's the crystal clear (ah what the hell, forget all these things I've said about the bad production) electric and acoustic guitars obeying the hand of a real master. I dunno. But I highly recommend this debut album for everybody - even for those who don't have no freakin' penchant for blues music. Maybe this'll help you love it.

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Spoonful

(Willie Dixon)

Could fill spoons full of diamonds,
Could fill spoons full of gold.
Just a little spoon of your precious love
Will satisfy my soul.

Men lies about it.
Some of them cries about it.
Some of them dies about it.
Everything's a-fightin' about the spoonfull.
That spoon, that spoon, that spoonfull.
That spoon, that spoon, that spoonfull.
That spoon, that spoon, that spoonfull.
That spoon, that spoon, that spoonfull.

Could fill spoons full of coffee,
Could fill spoons full of tea.
Just a little spoon of your precious love;
Is that enough for me?

Men lies about it.
Some of them cries about it.
Some of them dies about it.
Everything's a-fightin' about the spoonfull.
That spoon, that spoon, that spoonfull.
That spoon, that spoon, that spoonfull.
That spoon, that spoon, that spoonfull.
That spoon, that spoon, that spoonfull.

Could fill spoons full of water,
Save them from the desert sands.
But a little spoon of your forty-five
Saved you from another man.

Men lies.
Some of them cries about it.
Some of them dies.
Everything's a-fightin' about it.
Everything's a-cryin' about it.
Everything's a-diein' about it.
Everything's a-cryin' about it.
Everything's a-liein' about it.

Little old, little old spoonfull.
Die'n about it
Cryin about it
That spoon, that spoon
Little old, little old spoonfull

That spoon, that spoon, that spoonfull.
That spoon, that spoon, that spoonfull.
Everything's a-diein' about it.