on 19 June 2012
This album is the result of a 1988/89 reunion of the original TYA's lineup (the group had split in 1974, after "Positive vibrations").
By 1988, Alvin Lee had already released 8 albums as a solo artist (plus the brilliant "On the road to freedom", with Mylon LeFevre). A prolific and varied, although a bit uneven career, was behind him. What was the reason for this reunion ? Mystery to me, but for sure it was not to revive the old times, at least musically speaking. Among other considerations, this album rather looks like an "updating" movement (or should I say a false move?), that makes me recall the one ZZ Top made back in 1983 when their "Eliminator" album; but, in the case we're talking about, without any of the Texans' fun and freshness.
The last three Alvin Lee's albums before this reunion (Firefall, RX5 and Detroit Diesel), while appealing enough, were showing a certain lack of focus _ sort of a dissolution into a too generic, impersonal kind of rock _ and some of the 80s' bad practices in matter of production, such as drums too loud in the mix (and played in a mechanical, unispired way, with a thin, metallic sound quality, all adorned with a lot of reverb).
Sadly, many of those production issues are present in "About time" too. Where has the magic of the trademark TYA's mesmerizing sound gone ? No swing, no groove, no dynamics, no tension, no jazzy nor bluesy feeling can be found in this album. The bass guitar is almost absent, and Churchill has changed the piano and organ for cheesy sounds from Rolands and Korgs. Any obscure session musician could have fulfilled the low profile requirements for drums, bass and keyboards here. Alvin Lee himself, TYA's alma mater, extensively uses many of the tricks which were so fashionable then, during the eighties, such as pinch harmonics, tremolo bar abuse, tapping ... which are not exactly the ones which defined his style as a guitarist. Yes, he plays fast, sometimes his phrasing is amazing, but too frequently it's also sterile and dull.
The songs fall mostly between texas boogie and southern rock, in a generic and derivative way (don't think that you're going to hear anything like the best songs that ZZ Top or Lynyrd Skynyrd have written). There are some exceptions, some non generic texas boogie and southern rock numbers, but things don't get better: there's a rather badly sung blues written in the style of 80s' Gary Moore ("Outside my window"), and another song named "I get all shook up" which seems to be intended for the band to swing, but it does not, no matter that the drummer plays his kit with brushes. Finally, "Bad blood" is a painfully dated AOR song with keyboards and guitars in the style of Yes (when they were making albums like 90125 and Big Generator).
Whatever TYA they were trying to do, the fact is that the band split again after this album, and Alvin Lee returned to his, maybe since then, reinvigorated soloist career, making a strong album after another until his untimely death.
Sadly, this reunion only added a stain on the (apart from this) stunning and timeless "authentic" Ten Years After's discography.