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Non-Prog CD Reviews

Back Street Crawler

Atlantic Years 1975-1976

Review by Gary Hill

Back Street Crawler is an interesting act, that is perhaps almost more a music history footnote than anything else. That said, their music is strong enough that they deserved better. The band was formed by Free guitarist Paul Kossoff and was only around for two years. This collection has their two studio albums, each on one CD, along with a live show from 75 and one from 76.

The band does sound a bit like Free, but also works more into funk and other territory more than you might think given that connection. The two studio albums are great. Both live shows (one CD each) are strong, but the sound quality is poor on the second one. The packaging leaves a little to be desired, too. You get the four CDs along with a poster inside a rather lackluster cardboard box. Still, this is worth having, and doing it that way probably kept the price lower. I do wish there was more information with it included as a booklet or something, though.

This review is available in book (paperback and hardcover) form in Music Street Journal: 2021  Volume 1. More information and purchase links can be found at: garyhillauthor.com/Music-Street-Journal-2021.

Track by Track Review
CD 1; The Band Plays On (1975)
                             
Who Do Women

Drums bring this number out of the gate. From there we get a bluesy rock jam that shifts to something rather funky. There is a real glam rock vibe to the piece.

New York, New York
That glam rock thing is definitely on hand here. This feels a bit like something Mott the Hoople or David Bowie might do. This is a classy tune. While it's more mid-tempo than the energized opener, I think this is the stronger tune of the two.
Stealing My Way
The keyboards bring something special to the proceedings here. This cut is the first one that sounds a lot like Kossoff's previous band. It's also one of the stronger tunes here. They aren't breaking any molds with this piece, but it's quite effective.
Survivor
Here we get another mainstream rocker that works pretty well. It's definitely another tune that feels like Free. The piano seems too high in the mix at times to me, though.
It's A Long Way Down to the Top
The guitar brings a bit of a bluesy rock vibe here. This is more of a reflective and understated tune on the surface, but it's got a lot of drama and power surging just underneath. It also builds up in intensity as it drives forward. It gets pretty powerful before it's over.
All the Girls Are Crazy
We're back into funky, glam zones here. The number intensifies as it drives forward, getting into some of the hardest rocking sounds of the whole disc. The guitar soloing that runs throughout much of the track is so tasty.
Jason Blue
A slow moving, bluesy groove is on display here. Some horns bring jazzy textures to the piece. The cut is soulful and works to a more driving arrangement as it continues. This is packed with emotion and style. This is one of the highlights of the first album, and it gets particularly potent further down the road.
Train Song
Funky, jazzy sounds drive this number. It has a lot of style and charm. It's almost like Stevie Wonder meets Free. There is some scorching guitar work on this number.
Rock & Roll Junkie
A high energy rocker, this is pretty standard stuff, but they really infuse with plenty of magic and charm.
The Band Plays On
The title track closes the first album, and it starts a bit tentatively. A bluesy guitar rises up from somewhat incidental sounds. Then other instruments join, taking it into a vaguely funky jam. from there. The organ solo on the tune is a nice touch.
CD 2: 2nd Street (1976)
        
Selfish Lover

What a difference a year makes. This song is so much stronger than anything on the first disc. Given how strong that album was, that says a lot. This has a bit of that funk rock edge to it, but it just seems to have a great maturity and sense of drama. There is an instrumental break that leans toward progressive rock. This is just such a potent track and a great way to start things in style.

Blue Soul
This comes in balladic. It grows outward after the first vocal segment to a powered up arrangement that's still on the slow side. After that vocal movement, it drops back to a dreamy, trippy kind of jam that has a proggy vibe. Then it shifts to scorching hot blues-based rock. This is so powerful and dynamic that it's positively sublime.
Stop Doing What You're Doing
This is more of a high energy rocker. It's a strong cut, but not as new in terms of sound as the previous couple cuts were. There is some funk here. The whole tune is packed full of drama, style and power, though.
Raging River
More of a balladic piece, this gets powered up as it continues. It's another strong tune and another change of pace. The guitar work is so tasty on this number, but the whole piece is special, really.
Some Kind of Happy
Female backing vocals lend a soulful edge to this number. The tune has a lot of drama and magic. This is very much a blue-eyed soul kind of piece. It has some nice peaks and valleys in the arrangement, and there is some great guitar flavor. The organ lends something special to it, too. While this is a great song, it's actually one of the weaker ones on this second studio disc. That's a tribute to how strong the rest of the music here is because this would be a highlight of many albums.
Sweet, Sweet Beauty
Here we get a bluesy ballad. This has a real classic sound and tone to it. I love the way the backing vocals reinforce the concepts. This is another standout track on the set.
Just For You
This is a pretty straight-forward blues rocker. Yet it's elevated in terms of the style and delivery.
On Your Life
I like this slower number quite a bit. It has a lot of blues and blue-eyed soul built into it. It's a powerful cut.
Leaves in the Wind
I dig the funk meets blues rock groove on this tune. The organ brings a lot to this thing. I love the piano on the cut, too. This just oozes cool. I'm again reminded of Stevie Wonder just a little on this. It gets into more purely rock based sounds further down the road. It's quite a powerful number that makes for a great closer.
CD 3: Live at Fairfield Hall, Croydon (1975)
                        
The Band Played On

I love the killer funky bass that brings this into the world. The other instruments work out from there as the number builds and grows.

Sidekick to the Stars
More of a straight-ahead rocking sound takes control here. It loses some of the glam charm of the studio take in this live telling, but still holds up pretty well.
It's A Long Way Down to the Top
Band introductions are made during the extended introduction to this piece. The cut takes on even more magic in this performance.
New York, New York
This number is more classic in terms of sound and style. It still has some of the glam charm of the studio take, but in a lot of ways feels more like Free in this live telling. The recording has some issues, but not enough to really detract.
Train Song
There is a killer blues rocking sound to this driving number. It works well in this live performance.
Survivor
While the instrumental section later lends a different flavor, this comes across overall as another Free-like tune.
Stealing My Way
Here we get another classy hard rocker that works really well in the live environment and performance.
All the Girls Are Crazy
Now, the riffing that brings this into being is purely on fire. This cut really soars in the live setting.
Jason Blue
In live performance, this opens with a bluesy sort of piano and vocal arrangement. There is a lot of charm in this more stripped back concept. As the cut gets more powered up later, some horns lend more magic, but the guitar really screams out with passion. This is one of the highlights of this live show.
Rock & Roll Junkie
This is another tune that seems to gain some power and charm in live performance. The horns are an intriguing piece of the puzzle, and the cut works really well. It's a real powerhouse here.
Molten Gold
This Free tune is a nice addition to the set. The horns bring an interesting angle, and the whole cut is quite effective. There is some soaring guitar soloing later on along the road. .
The Hunter
Free did this song, so it's possible some might think of it as their song, but they didn't write the tune. This performances has a real rocking blues sound built into it. I love Kossoff's soloing on the number, and the horns are a nice touch.
We Won
This is a song by John Bundrick. As performed here this is an energetic groove with a bit of a funk edge built into it. I love the expressive guitar work on this number. The cut grows into quite a cool rocker as it evolves.
Bird Song Blues
A standard blues is elevated via a fiery and inspired performance. The extended instrumental section is on fire.
CD 4: Final Performance (1976)
                        
Who Do Women

There is a lot of crowd noise and getting settled at the beginning of this song. They eventually pound in with a killer rocking sound, but the recording is definitely muffled and muddied, marring the track to a good degree. Still, the performance is strong enough to stand up pretty well, anyway.

Stealing My Way
The sound is still an issue here, but this solid rocker works well enough despite it.
Cheat on Me
I really dig the organ on this track. The cut is a powerhouse rocker that works very well here, even with the sound quality issues.
Common Mortal Man
This number is a serious powerhouse. It has a real epic vibe in some of the later moments when it gets seriously intensified.
Train Song
This blues rocker gets a strong live performance that is only slightly hampered by the recording.
Just for the Box
Here we get another potent blues rocking cut.
It's a Long Way Down To the Top
This is a killer hard rocking number.
Bonus Tracks:
                 
Jason Blue (Outtake)

A mellower, classy instrumental movement, this segment works pretty well isolated like this.

Evening Time (Unreleased)
I dig this classy rocker quite a bit. It sounds a lot like Free to me.
It's A Long Way Down to the Top (Outtake)
Another bluesy rocker, this is very cool.
She's Gone (Unreleased)
The recording quality on this leaves quite a bit to be desired. The track is a pretty standard blues rock  number.

 

 
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