I do not know of any record that starts off more explosive then Ten Years After's Ssssh does. Bad Scene is the ultimate opener, with crazy fuzz guitars, driving piano and furious lyrics. The song set the standard for the rest of the album. Ten Years After brought their british blues to a new level with this album, lots of great riffs, frenzy fuzz guitars, innovative arrangements but without ever losing the important blues feel they were recognized for. Other songs that are worth mentioning is the "funky" Stoned Woman, wich opens with one of the greatest bass riffs ever. Good Morning Little Schoolgirl wich became a stage favourite with it's great jam between Alvin and bassist Leo Lyons, the beautiful acoustic If You Should Love Me, and last but not least the great heavy blues number I Woke Up This Morning. I highly recomend this album, it's a must have for any fan of the late 60's british blues boom.
I have claimed in my review that TYA's LP Watt was my most frequently played album within the past 35 years. Definitely, there won't be any Watt without its antecedent, Ssssh (1969), the first of the trilogy of TYA's LPs of their most fruitful period 1969-70 (i.e. Ssssh, Cricklewood Green, and Watt). Although quite short in total timing (33:35 min), it is laden with an incredible amount of blues-rock energy, distilled to the bones. High voltage, 100 carat gem. This very record was the basis for the future genuine, unmistakable sound of TYA. On the bluesy web, the power of 5 instruments is presented - Alvin Lee's vocal (although with a limited scale, vigorous enough with lots of rock and blues feeling, and time-to-time, in the more balladic things, even somewhat soft and hollow, in contrast to its unbelievable strength in the shouting and screaming parts), Alvin's virtuoso rock guitar playing legato in an extreme speed, releasing tons of energy all over, Leo Lyons's jerky style of bass-guitar playing (probably he was the one closest to jazz among the foursome, his style being quite different to all other bass-guitar players in the big R`n'R bands). Then comes the superb keyboard playing of Chick Churchill, although inconspicuous, yet perfectly fitting to the sound. His classical rock & blues way of handling piano or Hammond organ is full of feeling. And last but not least, the vigorous, robust, but also highly technical drumming of Alvin's brother, Ric, belongs to the same super class as e.g. that of Led Zep's John Bonham or The Who's Keith Moon.
It was 1969, the year of gross, prolonged, nearly jazzy improvisations and bulky soloing in rock, and also, of experimenting with the new sounds available in the studios of the time. All of this is notable on Ssssh. But (say, in contrast to the long improvisations of e.g. Cream or Grateful Dead of those years), on Ssssh, everything is highly controlled and subsides to the balanced sound and structure of the compositions. This is especially prominent on tracks 4 and 8 - the pieces that have been since quite regularly climaxes of TYA's live shows (even after Alvin's parting the group) - of course, with more abundant improvisations than on the studio-recorded Ssssh. These 2 compositions may serve as typical examples of TYA's songs, with an opening guitar or bass-guitar riff (maybe we would describe it as hard rock if performed by Black Sabbath), with the main theme gradually dissolving into various improvisations with up going tempo and exaltation. Also typical for TYA, a country blues-like style song appears (track 2), as well as the boogie (track 7). As the next typical feature of this and future records, some low- (or rather moderate-) tempo things are included (tracks 5 and 6), making the record pleasantly variable in style. Although track 5 starts like a balladic love song, it ends up in high tempo with full rock and blues power. Also, some new experimental sounds appear on Ssssh, but again, they are functionally built in the songs, without disturbing (this is in contrast with TYA's previous album, Stonedhenge). Well, it is hard to describe. Better go into this - definitely if you like rock & blues of the turn of 60's/70's. No way you might be disappointed - Ssssh is a real gem.
First heard this back in 1969 and we were mightly impressed.
We were spoiled by being in a time when progressive music really took off and there were some really great bands out there like Jethro Tull, The Nice, Pink Floyd and Fleetwood Mac - Yes I know some people will say that some of those groups mentioned are not progressive but it was a time of really great music and you could actually get to see the bands play live.
This was a new one for us a Blues Rock Band and British at that.
Heavier than the other stuff we were listening to like the Fleetwoods more rockier and that's were this album succeeds it was not so Blues like previous efforts so it wuld put the more 'rock' preferring afficianadoes nor too far away from the blues that it would allienate Blues fans - it was an excelent cross between the two.
It was an impressive cover when gatefold sleeves with amazing art that you could carry under your arm- LPs were a very colectable and treasured thing then. You'd pick up and peruse the covers as you listened to the music on your Dansette (Ask your Grand dad what that is).
I'd initially listen to my friends copy until I managed to buy one second hand. Money being very tight then and an LP was a big purchase out of your low wages or pocket money if still at school.
My version of this was the Canadian Release. The Canadian LPs were famous for having very heavy vinyl LPs and in this case the cover was on very heavy duty, dimpled cardboad with the inner sleeve picture glue onto the inners.
The Canadians had actually stuck the inners- the top of a face with the eyes across the gatefold on upside down! I kid you not the eyebrows on my edition are UNDER the eyes. (May be it's worth something now?)
So here we are with an improved sound in 2004.
It is a wonderful CD and of its time. It has not dated - but then again with the blues background they are eternal?
The album opens with a 'stonker' and does not let up for one minute. Alvin sings well and plays even better. The Backing is really good too. Leo Lyons was a really Jazzy baseplayer- but good. Chick Churchil a good organist and ably supported by Ric Lee on drums.
A really great example of the excellent music of the times.
In 1969 this would have been called acid rock. But this is really metal or hard rock with acid overtones. And ten years after was one of the harder bands around that time. You could feel the blues influence of course throughout this one. But it was a sped up harder rocker. I have the msfl gold disc of this one. That company would pick classic discs and issue them on gold discs , they used to do audiophile records before that. Mobile sound fedilty lab is now out of business but if you can grab one of their gold discs it's worth the effort. The late Alvin Les (died 2013) was setting a hard rock course for his band which until then was a rocking blues band. (fans of the later ten years after may not enjoy that blues rockin' but I do.) this however was on a whole other level and the band kept up this great sound until their demise in 1974. Then Alvin lee never seemed to rock as hard and he abdicated the hard rock guitar sounds to other players. Still he was one of the fastest and best guitar players of the era and this bands work from this point was great. This oen and next few discs band a little known blues rockin' band into a solid hard rock/ acid overtone band a superstar band until 1974. there isn't a bad song on this one get it now.
It amazes me that a band that had 4 top ten studio albums, performed at Woodstock, seemed to have drifted from the public's musical conscience, perhaps there due a revival soon. TYA were a part of that high-octane, back to basics musical movement that sprang up in the late sixties, see also Canned Heat & Credence Clearwater Revival. They have managed to create a great live feel to the album, with almost a jamming feel to some of the tracks. This is the first TYA record I've brought, but defiantly not the last
The music of Ten Years After have always been more than usual British blues to me. Sssh is the album that the band released after their appearence at Woodstock. This album is a step to experimental blues. Alvin Lee's innovative pyrotechics in guitar, Chic Churchill's extra-ordinary keyboard playing, and the unique combination of Ric Lee (no relation to Alvin Lee)Leo Lyons on rhythm section make the album one of the milestone albums in British blues. The rock classic "I Woke Up This Morning" and "If You Should Love Me" stand as the highlights of the album. "Sssh" is the prototype of a much more adventerios album "Stonedhenge". One of the best of Ten Years After. Listen to it!