Ten Years After

Ten Years After

Deram / Decca, 1967


REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


Back in the Sixties, the British musical world became a new haven for the blues. While most people – at least anyone younger than myself, and I’m closing in on 40 faster than I like to admit – may not be aware of it, Fleetwood Mac started off as a blues band. So did the Rolling Stones. And Led Zeppelin surely had blues roots clearly planted among the guitar bombastics of Jimmy Page.

Ten Years After was a different animal in that regard. Alvin Lee and crew definitely were a blues-rock band, but they had two major differences. First, they weren’t afraid to embrace a jazz influence in their music as well. Second, whereas the guitarists in bands like Fleetwood Mac and the Stones could solo, Alvin Lee absolutely could shred in that regard. And while their debut effort might not be the most recognizable to casual music fans – Ten Years After is criminally labeled a “one hit wonder” because of “I’d Love To Change The World” – it proves that these guys charged out of the gate on top of their game.

The original nine-song release is a surprisingly quick listen, despite having three tracks clocking in at over five minutes. The band – guitarist Alvin Lee, bassist Leo Lyons, organist Chick Churchill and drummer Ric Lee – obviously came from the school of “less is more,” and make their musical points quickly, stepping out from the spotlight just as their message is delivered. And, honestly, this turns out to be the best move they could make – leaving the listener wanting more without overstaying their welcome.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

From the opening two-minute blast of “I Want To Know,” the listener knows they’re in for an interesting time with this disc. Alvin Lee proves his chops on the guitar without overdoing things – to this day, I don’t know how he was able to play so fast, and this album is controlled in comparison to later work. Other tracks like “Losing The Dogs,” “Love Until I Die” and “Don’t Want You Woman” all are great fun to listen to, and keep the power of the blues going.

Yet there is more than a little jazz thrown in for good measure. The instrumental “Adventures Of A Young Organ” is definite proof of that, as is a track like “Feel It For Me,” which sounds like it could easily dissolve into a free-form jazz track (and that, to me, is not a bad thing).

The only two weaknesses – and I use that term loosely here – on Ten Years After belong to, ironically, two of the longer tracks. I understand that everyone and their cousin was covering “Spoonful” at this time, but I don’t necessarily know that Ten Years After’s version adds anything to its legacy. Likewise, the album’s closer, “Help Me,” does feel like it stays around a little too long, and could have benefitted from being shortened.

Of course, this being the age of compact disc and the MP3 player, Ten Years After has been re-released with six bonus tracks. And, as usual, I question what adding things on to the legacy of the original album accomplishes – kind of like someone painting a pair of glasses onto the “Mona Lisa,” if you will. Of these tracks, “Rock Your Mama,” “Spider In My Web” and “Hold Me Tight” do seem like they would have been natural fits with the original release, while “Portable People” sounds like it came from a completely different group style-wise, and “The Sounds” – I don’t know quite how to classify that train wreck. (Also, despite the way I found it listed, the version of “Woodchopper’s Ball” here is not the same one that is on Undead – thank God for that. This one is actually more subdued and not as fast – different, I’ll admit, but not terrible.)

Ten Years After, in its original form, is a very strong first effort that, sadly, has been pushed back in people’s memories, simply because it didn’t have any singles that classic rock radio could latch onto. Maybe it’s time for some of these stations to dust off a copy of this album and give it another shot – chances are everyone involved will be pleasantly surprised.

Rating: B+

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© 2009 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Deram / Decca, and is used for informational purposes only.