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Non-Prog CD Reviews

Ten Years After

Cricklewood Green

Review by Larry Toering

Ten Years After came full circle on Cricklewood Green, achieving something they hadn't before or since, as none of their albums pack quite this sonic quality. They were at a point where they pulled off a masterpiece between two more widely popular albums. This one still tends to fly under the radar somehow. Out of nowhere Alvin Lee pulled out all the proverbial stops, along with equally valiant efforts from Chick Churchill on keys, Leo Lyons on bass and Ric Lee on drums. Together they outdid themselves in a way they never would again on record. This was a direction that could have stood a few more releases in the same vein. Instead they left it in a class all by itself. Of course, the year was 1970 and that was a very formative and instrumental year in the history of rock. This stands the test of time with the best of them. There have been a few alternate releases including hybrid and extra material issues, but this is just how it was meant to sound, as the production by the band and engineering from Andy Johns alone is a bright rendering of timeless beauty.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2011  Volume 6 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Sugar The Road

This features to begin with, one of the most cosmic intros on a rock album ever. A spacey warble opens with an increasing volume, followed by a menacing percussion complete with cowbell, into a searing guitar bite. Then a bottom groove provided by the organ proceeds to combine with a very Keith Richards style riff and simply killer vocals. It doesn't let up until Alvin Lee widdles away at top speeds at the fade out. This is one of the best examples of what Ten Years After were onto without enough attention from the masses. One way to describe it would simply be a diamond in the rough, as the entire album seems to be.

Working On The Road

There is equal effort put into the intro to this track, as well. That fact is quite evident by the time it, too, kicks in with a similar burst of energy and a heavy organ rhythm holding together an overall very southern approach. That approach is particularly apparent on the guitar and vocals. It's that organ sound of Chick Churchill that keeps it from being an almost southern fried rocker, as it adds just the right touch of psychedelic bombast. The title is very similar to the opening track, but the point hits a home run, as this too is a classic tune. It’s essentially one of their all time greats. The vocals soar over the galloping guitar during the chorus and it's an astonishing sound if there ever was one. This is absolutely magnificent.

50,000 Miles Beneath My Brain

This is another mind melting classic, just a mesmerizing treat that stands the test of time. This is where the production begins to shine with a blinding keyboard that just sparkles between the versus, with some acoustic guitar applied. That acoustic guitar will surface more later on the disc. Then the track takes on wings and “nimble fingers Lee” works his magic like no other. This, too has a very Rolling Stones vibe, only cranked well beyond their volume level, but this time it's more of a Mick Jagger nod, as it comes out in the vocals. The entire track is another killer, as they keep burning through the disc with maximum effort.

Year 3,000 Blues

If there wasn't enough of that southern sort of twangy ambiance to “Working On The Road,” then this little southern blues number helps it all the more, with its funny storyline about the eminent fear of over population by that time, sung tongue and cheek, with a message that has lost nothing to this day. Once again the musicianship is second to none, and the production very clean on this short but sweet track, as things go into different territory on what in those days was referred to as side two of the disc.

Me And My Baby

This is a big change for the most part from the previous tracks, as an acoustic guitar shines and things actually lean in more of an almost traditional jazz/blues, rather than rock/blues direction. This is a perfect contrast as things get heavier handed but still somehow less hard rocking and a lot bluesier, yet still very psychedelic. The vocals begin to take a less prominent role from here out, as the guitar begins to be featured more heavily.

Love Like A Man

Moving along, this has a heavy bass with an almost Cream vibe to it, and it's as close as they get here to pure traditional blues. It's a bit on the softer side but with an epic appeal nonetheless. It stands out as one of the more unique, although straight forward tracks. By this time all of their influences are strongly felt, and some of them even strongly surpassed, as this remains arguably their best sounding album, as well as their most creative.

Circles

This is another mellower number, with a sweet acoustic guitar that moves along nicely with the subdued vocal that shows the softer side of Lee's singing voice. It's likely one of the more neglected tracks here, if any, but it just takes more listens to fully appreciate.

As The Sun Still Burns Away

Keeping the vocals on the melancholy side for good measure, Lee applies the same vibe as the previous track, as it all ends on a somber, yet heavy handed note. It ends perfectly, as the last several tracks test the otherwise very hot water of the first five tracks, and come out completely even on what die hard fans, as well as casual fans, consider to be their finest hour.

 

 

 
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