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4 Jazz Musicians With A Master Chemist
on 21 August 2001
This CD is an answer to the many years of the silent prayers of loyal Ten Years After's fans. What makes this CD instantly one of the greatest recordings of the band is the era when it was recorded. Ten Years After was a jazz band, (listen to their album "Undead"), that turned the corner to more of a progressive rock and roll sound. Three songs: "Love Like A Man", "Working On The Road" and "50,000 Miles Beneath My Brain" were brand new releases that appeared later on their "Cricklewood Green" album. They are played with real precision and delicacy. In the opening number, "Love Like A Man" Alvin Lee's solo comes across as though he is a Master Chemist. He doesn't pose, he stands there, and concentrates, like a focused Jazz Musician, and his lead evolves, expands, inhales and exhales. It is as though he is creating a living breathing being. Ric Lee's liner notes are superb. He helps the listener understand what exactly it was like at the Fillmore East in 1970, the people, the neighborhood, the delicatessen next door, the conditions on and under the stage, and what exactly defined the Ten Years After "sound". Three of the band's oldest numbers "Help Me Baby", "I Can't Keep From Crying, Sometimes" and "Spoonful" are haunting songs; the organ, the deep tones and blue mood of these songs is classical Ten Years After. Alvin's lead in this version of "Help Me, Baby" is by far the best of all his other previously released recordings; real psychodelic, powerful, and emotional techniques. I also really enjoyed the drum solo, "Hobbit", and I think that without this solo, the listener would have an incomplete picture of a Ten Years After performance. Listen to the opening beat that Ric Lee plays, this is a Jazz Drummer, he has subtle accents and delicate, refined rhythms; the group is anything BUT heavy metal. Rather, it has the sense of humor we find in most jazz combos. "I Woke Up This Morning" is also played with real precision. What is impressive about the backup band is that they never lag behind the intensity of Alvin Lee's solos. They press forward with the same grit that has characterized Alvin Lee's style. Ric Lee's liner notes on "I Woke Up This Morning" talk about how important it was for the bass, drums and keyboards to play complementary and contrasting melodies to accentuate Alvin Lee's solos. Perhaps at a later date, Alvin Lee wanted to shed himself of the high-speed leads found in this era of his career. But these leads are really what made his style legendary. One final note, as a loyal Ten Years After fan for 25 years, I have read reviews of the band in leading publications that seem to miss the magic of Ten Years After. Perhaps Ten Years After was so immense for its audience that they were above and beyond the skill of their music critics' ears. Maybe now those critics will want to listen again.