Ten Years After
Legendary British Blues rockers Ten Years After release their twelfth studio album this month, ‘Sting In The Tail’, it contains twelve original songs and is their first since ‘Evolution’ released in 2008, which then featured guitarist/vocalist Joe Gooch. The only two original members remaining in 2017 are drummer Ric Lee and keyboardist Chick Churchill. Original bassist Leo Lyons left the band in 2014 along with Joe Gooch to form their new band ‘Hundred Seventy Split’. New recruits since 2014 include the legendary bass player Colin Hodgkinson and guitarist and vocalist Marcus Bonfanti.
Ten Years After are also celebrating fifty years since the release of their eponymous debut album in 1967. To coincide with this milestone Chrysalis Records are set to release a fiftieth anniversary ten CD box set on Friday 10th November. This limited edition (only 1,500 copies) remastered set gathers together all the Deram and Chrysalis period albums from 1967 – 1974, the set also includes a CD of previously unreleased material from 1972 called 'The Cap Ferrat Sessions', newly mixed by legendary producer Chris Kimsey. The five tracks were recorded at Cap Ferrat in the south of France during sessions for the 'Rock 'n' roll Music To The World' album in 1972. These complete masters were discovered by Alvin Lee's wife, who found a box of recordings in the vaults of their studio in Spain. Acclaimed writer Chris Welch provides the newly commissioned in-depth 10,000 word sleeve notes which are in the accompanying book that comes with the ten CDs housed in luxury hardback format.
Ten Years After formed in 1967 in Nottinghamshire by guitarist/vocalist Alvin Lee, bassist Leo Lyons, drummer Ric Lee and keyboardist Chick Churchill. They released eight studio albums and two live albums between 1968 - 1974. It was their ‘I’m Going Home’ performance at The Woodstock Music and Arts Festival in August 1969 that elevated them to worldwide success and cemented their place in Rock history. When Alvin Lee went solo in 1975 the band broke up. Over the next twenty years there were three attempts at a reformation and one new studio record resulted in 1989, aptly named ‘About Time’. The reunions didn’t last long though and on each occasion Alvin quit to return to his solo career. Sadly Alvin Lee passed away in 2013 from complications following a routine surgical procedure for atrial arrhythmia.
What we get in this new ten CD box set are all the albums chronologically recorded by the four original band members over the seven year period from 1967 – 1974, starting with the wild and energetic eponymous debut produced by Blue Horizon founder, Mike Vernon. The album features such classics as Al Kooper's 'I Can't Keep From Crying, Sometimes', Willie Dixon's 'Spoonful' and Sonny Boy Williamson’s 'Help Me'. Of the nine tracks five are originals written by the charismatic lead vocalist and guitar extraordinaire, Alvin Lee. Some fine tasty British Blues to kick of a burgeoning career, enthusiastically setting the tone for what was to come. A firm statement and the mark of a band definitely on their way up!
The 'Undead' live set is most definitely on the money, recorded live at Klooks Kleek club in London in 1968. This album contains the exciting and manic tour de force that is 'I'm Going Home', written by the gifted and talented Alvin Lee and produced by Mike Vernon. This exciting and frantic recording combines elements of Blues, Boogie, Jazz and 1950s style Jump Blues and Rock 'n' Roll. Alvin Lee set the bench mark for 'Shred' style guitar playing and was one of the fastest guitarist of the time. The best way to capture Ten Years After in full flight, firing on all cylinders and leaning on their strengths as improvisational musicians is in the live setting. This is where they excel with virtuosity.
1969’s superb studio album 'Stonedhenge' has slightly more variety than the debut with some slower pieces and varying moods. A robust studio effort with all tracks original compositions written by Alvin Lee, except 'Three Blind Mice', which is a traditional arrangement. Once again produced by Mike Vernon. The top-notch stellar track 'Hear Me Calling' continues to be a staple of the live set today.
Also released in 1969 came the album 'Ssssh' produced by Chrysalis founder Chris Wright. Of the eight tracks, seven were written solely by Alvin Lee, with one cover of Sonny Boy Williams 'Good Morning Little Schoolgirl, another staple of the live set list. This is an album with some fine dazzling Blues Rock.
The fifth album is the masterpiece that is 'Cricklewood Green', released in 1970. All eight tracks were written and produced by Alvin Lee. This is a much more even album that flows elegantly from start to finish. Every track is well written and arranged. A great platform for Alvin's signature lightning fast guitar technique. The album contains the raucous power Blues Rock anthem 'Love Like A Man' and the stirring '50,000 Mile Beneath My Brain'. The production is much clearer and wider than previous releases, an absolute thumping classic!
1970 also saw the release of the 'Watt' album. Seven of the eight tracks were again composed by Alvin with one cover, Chuck Berry's fiery rocker 'Sweet Little Sixteen', recorded live at The Isle of Wight Festival. Production is credited to all the band this time. Overall not as strong as its predecessor, but it has a great sound with accomplished playing. Perhaps a bit more time was needed to expand on some of the ideas to make it a more refined and focused album.
The seventh album, 'A Space In Time' was released in 1971 on Chrysalis records. This ten track album was produced by Chris Wright with nine of the ten tracks written solely by Alvin, 'Uncle Jam' being credited to the whole band. A more diverse sounding album and definitely a slight departure from the usual heavy Blues of previous albums, this time with more acoustic based songs and even strings! It includes their biggest hit in Canada and the USA, the melodic and sublime 'I'd Love To Change The World'. Accompanying the propelling acoustic guitar is some tasteful melodic lead electric guitar lines. A scorching highlight of this album is the rock out track 'Baby Won't You Let Me Rock 'n' Roll You'.
Eighth album in the box set is the 1972 Chrysalis nine track album 'Rock & Roll Music To The World', with production duties credited to the whole band. Recorded in Cap Ferrat south of France and Olympic studios London. A good strong album featuring some robust songs like the wicked 'Standing At The Station', the barn storming 'Choo Choo Mama' and the dazzling title track 'Rock & Roll Music To The World'.
The last Ten Years After studio album to be released on Chrysalis before the first major band split was 1974s 'Positive Vibrations'. Nine of the ten tracks were again written solely by Alvin with one cover, Little Richard's foot stomping 'Going Back To Birmingham', a weighty highlight! The album production is again credited to the whole band. I wouldn't say it was one of their best, but it has enough quality music and playing to make it worth a few listens.
The tenth and final CD in the box set is the five track previously unreleased 1972 'Cap Ferrat Sessions', newly mixed by legendary producer Chris Kimsey. These tracks were completed and fully recorded but were left off the 'Rock 'n' Roll Music To The World' album due to time limitations of vinyl. These ultra-rare tracks are available for the first time on this box set. A must have item for all dedicated Ten Years After fans and new fans wishing to experience the momentous and magical music made by one of Britain's best Blues Rock bands.
In 2017 Ten Years After are still an ongoing creative force and live attraction. In 2002 the three founder members Leo Lyons, Chick Churchill, and Ric Lee got together with guitarist Joe Gooch and hit the road, mainly in Europe. They recorded two original albums, ‘Now’ in 2004 and ‘Evolution’ in 2008, also releasing two live albums, ‘One Night Jammed’ in 2003 and ‘Roadworks’ in 2005. The current line-up of Ric Lee, Chick Churchill, Colin Hodgkinson and Marcus Bonfanti released the live album ‘The Name Remains The Same’ in 2015 and are set to release their brand new studio album 'Sting In The Tail' in October 2017.
Steven C. Gilbert