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Lost gem of a live album,
This review is from: Let It Roll: Live on Stage, 1971 (Audio CD)
Some 30+ years have passed since Ashton, Gardner & Dyke let it roll in Belgium but thanks to the wonderful work of Purple Records we are finally being treated to the first ever live and extremely satisfying AGD release.
Before Tony Ashton's involvement in various Deep Purple related projects in the mid-`70's he was leader of Ashton, Gardner & Dyke, a classic, but often overlooked British rock band. AGD combined the power of the emerging hard rock of the early `70's with the musicianship and instrumentation of jazz.
The three studio albums and movie soundtrack they released before disbanding in 1972 have until now served as the only documented evidence of this incredibly talented outfit. Now Let It Roll allows us to glimpse the genius of this young but mind bogglingly accomplished and innovative band in the raw.
First off there is the main man himself, Mr. Tony Ashton. A one-of-a-kind mix of rock star, veteran bluesman and Blackpool pier variety organist. In a music world dominated by overblown ego, Tony has always been refreshingly of-the-street, infusing heavy doses of humour into his songs and performance. But behind the often self-parodying humour lurks some serious talent. As well as being one of the country's best blues keyboardists and boasting a wonderfully gruff and soulful voice Tony is also a top-notch songwriter. Let It Roll shows Tony at his very best, performing out of his skin, with a fantastic band in his natural environment - the concert hall.
Providing Tony with a tight and raucous rhythm section are drummer Roy [...] and bassist Kim Gardner and the band is filled out with guitar and a brass section that adds some flashy Big Band dynamics.
Although the studio albums are worthy testament to the brilliance of the band, Let It Roll shows that live the band took the music to another level of exuberance and power. This live glimpse finally allows us a close-up view of the wildly talented young band rocking and jazzing out with total abandon.
"It's Gonna Be High Tonight", a soulful, boozy number from the band's 3rd album "What A Bloody Long Day It's Been" gets proceedings off to a gentle, slightly ominous start. Unlike the disappointingly flat studio version, which was released after this recording was made, Ashton's fabulously gutsy vocal performance and foreboding lyrics are right up in the mix building the tension wickedly above the slow bluesy piano chords. It's an unconventional start to a concert but when the brass section comes pounding in towards the end of the song the whole concert starts to roll well and truly. Following a fiery drum intro from [...] they launch into a blistering version of "Let It Roll" and the band is now supercharged and in ferocious fettle. The track is played markedly faster than the fabulously strutting studio version and also boasts some wicked improvisational piano soloing from Tony and a wonderfully tight'n'punchy brass accompaniment.
From there the band run into ""Mr. Freako" delivering more of the same potent cocktail of piano based hard rock, ballsy vocals and groovy horns. The song ends with a raucous trumpet solo underpinned by an immense jam-like fest with everyone going ten-to-the-dozen on their respective instruments. The slightly psychedelic 60's, frenzied jazz of "It's a Drag, I'm a Drag" is next up showcasing trumpet and piano solos over a pulsating jazz-bass line.
"I'm Dying For You" (off Ashton & Lord's movie soundtrack "The Last Rebel") is markedly different live than on the jaunty cowboy-esq studio version. Here the song is more balladic and heartfelt with some wonderfully soulful vocals from Tony. "Resurrection Shuffle" was the band's huge hit single and it gets the audience going with its catchy drum shuffle and brass riff. The live version is faithful to the original studio version with some additional piano soloing from Tony.
After the commerciality of the shuffle the band embark on two 14-minute songs showcasing lengthy improvised solos on the Hammond, trumpet, sax, trombone, guitar drums and piano ! "The Falling Song" is mellow jazz and is followed by a furious and upbeat "Rolling Home" which is hard rock, but both are equally immersed in jazz improvisation. Then, in sharp contrast to the mature jazz instrumentation the band closes it's set with the wonderfully daft sing-along "Can You Get It", which could easily have been called "Resurrection Shuffle 2". Like the Shuffle the song boasts a big catchy brass riff and some silly anthemic lyrics, and like the Shuffle is a good fun contrast to the more serious jazz on offer.
As usual Purple Records have done a great job with the packaging with a nice 12-page booklet including the story of the band, photos and memorabilia. Considering the age of the recording and the fact that the tapes were lost all these years the sound quality is excellent. All in all this is an absolute gem of an album, both for long time fans of the band and for the uninitiated.