Friday, February 17, 2017

Savoy Brown - 1970 - Looking In

Savoy Brown
Looking In

01. Gypsy
02. Poor Girl
03. Money Can't Save Your Soul
04. Sunday Night
05. Looking In
06. Take It Easy
07. Sitting An' Thinking
08. Leavin' Again
09. Romanoff

Kim Simmonds—guitar / piano
Lonesome Dave—vocals / guitar
Roger Earl—drums
Tone Stevens—bass
Owen Finnegan—congas on some tracks

In 1970, life was pretty good for Savoy Brown. They had just produced Raw Sienna, their finest album to date, and were building a name and rabid fanbase for themselves, particularly in America. Then, without warning, lead singer Chris Youlden decides to drop out. At the time, the story given was that he was tired of standing on stage, waiting for Kim Simmonds to finish his lengthy solos, and so decided to strike out on his own. In any case, Savoy Brown was suddenly left without a lead vocalist. A creative entity often produces it's best work in times of crisis, so Kim and Co. turned on the creative juices, Lonesome Dave took over the lead vocals (sounding very much like Chris in some of the numbers), and Savoy Brown produced Looking In, their strongest and most mature work ever. The brass and orchestration of Raw Sienna was shelved in favor of lengthy guitar-and-percussion based works of deep introspection. There is a heavy jazz improvisational feel to several tracks, particularly "Sunday Night" and that fabulous live staple, "Leaving Again". The latter number includes some of Kim's most eloquent guitar work of his entire 30+ year career. "Gypsy" and "Romanoff" are brief instrumentals that should remind the listener of Fleetwood Mac's "Oh, Well (Part II) with it's heaven and hell journey of soul searching. "Poor Girl" and the title track deliver the solid mule kick of hard rock that Dave, Tone, and Roger would use to such great effect in Foghat. (Tone even wrote the excellent "Poor Girl;" pretty good effort for a sharp-dressing bass player!) But, the album's most astonishing number is "Money Can't Save Your Soul," approximately four minutes of slow-burning cold fire. Kim has periodically returned to the themes of money and success in his lyrics; nowhere more eloquently than in this piano and conga-driven wonder. And as a vocalist, Lonesome Dave gives his finest, most passionate performance ever. (The doubletracked vocal gives an archival effect that ensures this is a performance for the ages). Having climbed a musical Everest, there was nothing the band could do or say after this album that would not be anticlimatic. So, they fractured one fantastic band and came up with two excellent ones: Dave, Roger, and Tone formed Foghat with ex-Shakey Vick guitarist Rod Price; while Kim reformed Savoy Brown and looked for new worlds to conquer. But, to paraphrase Winston Churchill, this was truly Savoy Brown's finest hour.

Savoy Brown - 1970 - Raw Sienna

Savoy Brown 
Raw Sienna

01. A Hard Way To Go 2:17
02. That Same Feelin' 3:36
03. Master Hare 4:45
04. Needle And Spoon 3:18
05. A Little More Wine 4:51
06. I'm Crying 4:17
07. Stay While The Night Is Young 3:07
08. Is That So 7:40
09. When I Was A Young Boy 3:02

Chris Youlden—vocals and piano (on tracks 4, 6 and 9)
Kim Simmonds—lead guitar and piano (on tracks 2 and 3)
"Lonesome" Dave Peverett—rhythm guitar, acoustic guitar and bottleneck (on track 5)
Tone Stevens—bass
Roger Earl—drums and all other percussion

With the release of their fifth album, Savoy Brown starts hitting their stride. Raw Sienna is the first of three masterpieces in a row for Kim Simmonds and company, as well as Chris Youlden's finest hour with the band. (So fine, in fact, that he would leave the band soon after for his own solo career.) He and Kim would continue their experiments, begun on the previous album A Step Furthur, with horns and orchestration, and thus continue to expand the vocabulary of blues/rock. Some tracks, such as "Needle and Spoon," swing as well as any produced by jazzman Dave Brubeck, with intense lyrics that undercut the nonstop groove with pain. (Does anyone out there really think this is a prodrug song? Listen again: "You married to H, you know you married for life!") "Hard Way to Go" and "A Little More Wine" would deservedly become concert staples, while "Stay While the Night is Young" finds Youlden at his most romantic and tender. Kim was also beginning to compose some of the most eloquent instrumentals in rock: "That Same Feelin'" continues the 1960's-adventure-movie-soundtrack feel of "Waiting in the Bamboo Grove" from A Step Furthur, while "Is That So" foreshadows the deep introspection of Savoy's next masterpiece, Looking In. Most bands would be lucky to have one album half as good as Raw Sienna; the fact that Savoy Brown climbed so many peaks in their illustrious career shows the desire and the determination of leader Kim Simmonds to constantly reinvent and challange both himself and his fellow musicians.

Savoy Brown - 1969 - A Step Further

Savoy Brown 
A Step Further

01. Made Up My Mind
02. Waiting In The Bamboo Grove
03. Life's One Act Play
04. I'm Tired
05. Where Am I
06. Savoy Brown Boogie Including
I Feel So Good
Whole Lotta Shakin Goin On
Little Queenie
Purple Haze
Hernando's Hideaway

Side Two was recorded live at The Cooks Ferry Inn, Edmonton, London on Monday 12 May 1969

Chris Youlden – vocals
Kim Simmonds – guitar
Lonesome Dave – guitar
Roger Earl – drums
Tony Stevens – bass
Bob Hall – piano

A Step Further by Savoy Brown was released in August, 1969. I purchased this album, on vinyl, on its original release and do no think a year has gone by when I do not listen to A Step Further. I've owned this masterpiece on vinyl, 8-track, cassette, and CD. It is just that good! By the end of this review you might ask yourself, is this a Savoy Brown review? Let me explain.

Despite its many incarnations the Savoy Brown of our mind is the band fronted by singer, Chris Youlden, who is doing who knows what now a days. (I think he made a foray into cabaret singing, God forbid.) Of the 4 Savoy Brown releases featuring Mr. Youlden, A Step Further, is the best of the lot. He penned much of the music on all 4 albums.

The real gift of A Step Further is Youlden's bluesy, soulful voice. This is not to downplay the band's overall genius, Kim Simmonds and the late Lonesome Dave Peverett's guitar playing are exquisite, but without Youlden's vocals, we are only left with an exceptional blues and boogie band.

Just listen to the opening track, MADE UP MY MIND. What you are hearing is Chris Youlden in all his raw blues power, captured even on the album's cover, Youlden cigar in mouth, beat up top hat on head. A little later on one is treated to the classic British Blues tune, I'M TIRED. Youlden lyrically is telling is he is going to go his own way.

The follow up albums to A Step Further, Raw Sienna, and Looking In, live in the shadow of this much better album. Youlden left the band after Raw Sienna, and the classic Savoy Brown line-up, while still fronted by founder Kim Simmonds, melted away after Looking In and became Foghat.

If you need an introduction into the classic age of Savoy Brown look no further than A Step Further. If you can only own one Savoy Brown CD, then buy A Step Further.

Savoy Brown - 1969 - Blue Matter

Savoy Brown 
Blue Matter

01. Train To Nowhere
02. Tolling Bells
03. She's Got A Ring In His Nose And A Ring On Her Hand
04. Vicksburg Blues
05. Don't Turn Me From Your Door
06. Grits Ain't Groceries
07. May Be Wrong
08. Lousiana Blues  
09. It Hurts Me Too
10.Raise Some Thunder
11.Since You've Been Gone
12.Medley - 20:45
     a. I'm Tired
     b. Hard Way To Go
     c. Lousiana Blues
     d. Street Corner Talkin'
     e. Hellbound Train
     f. Guitar Solo

Side B was recorded at The City Of Leicester College of Education, Scraptoft, Leicester on Friday 6th December, 1968.

Chris Youlden – Lead Vocal, Guitar, Piano
Kim Simmonds – Lead Guitar, Harmonica, Piano
"Lonesome" Dave Peverett – Rhythm Guitar, Vocal
Tone Stevens – Bass (except on tracks 1, 2 and 4)
Roger Earl – Drums, Percussion
Bob Hall – Piano
Rivers Jobe – Bass (on tracks 1, 2 and 4)

Additional Musicians
Terry Flannery, Keith Martin, Alan Moore, Brian Perrin, Derek Wadsworth – Trombones (on track 1)
Mike Vernon – Percussion (on track 1)

In late 1968, Savoy Brown's schedule was booked solid with never fewer than six gigs a week. Audiences' reactions was always enthusiastic, as Kim explained to Beat Instrumental: "Since we've got the new line-up together, the band has been working much better. Interest in our sort of music is on the upsurge, and we're doing very well now."

In November, the band discharged bassist Jobe and asked former member Brunning (who had recently filled in for some gigs) to join again permanently. Brunning again declined, and so Tone Stevens (b. September 12, 1949) joined instead.

On December 6, 1968, the band performed at the City of Leicester College of Education. The performance was taped with Dave Peverett substituting for Chris Youlden, who was sick and couldn't sing well enough to perform. They recorded the set anyway, and three tracks, "Maybe Wrong," "It Hurts Me Too" and "Louisiana Blues" appeared on their next album. "Louisiana Blues", a largely instrumental song, became a showstopper on their forthcoming U.S. tour. A fourth live track, "Sweet Home Chicago," appears to have been lost in the Decca vaults. All of Peverett's vocals were re-recorded in the studio.

In December, the band returned to the studio to record more two tunes, "She's Got a Ring in His Nose and a Ring on Her Hand" and "Don't Turn Me from Your Door." On January 22, 1969, they recorded "Grits Ain't Groceries (All Around the World)." "Grits" was composed by Titus Turner and under the name "All Around the World" was a Top Ten r&b hit in 1955 as covered by Little Willie John. Little Milton revived the song in 1969 as "Grits Ain't Groceries". The song featured an explosive horn section and was paired with "Ring" for the U.S. market. In spite of the high calibre of both sides of this release, the single nevertheless failed to chart.

Savoy Brown - 1968 - Getting To The Point

Savoy Brown 
Getting To The Point

01. Flood In Houston
02. Stay With Me Baby
03. Honey Bee
04. The Incredible Gnome Meets Jaxman
05. Give Me A Penny
06. Mr. Downchild
07. Getting To The Point
08. Big City Lights
09. You Need Love

10. Walking By Myself
11. Taste And Try, Before You Buy
12. Someday People

Bass Guitar – Rivers Jobe
Drums – Roger Earl
Lead Guitar – Kim Simmonds
Piano – Bob Hall
Rhythm Guitar – Dave Peverett
Vocals – Chris Youlden

Since time immemorial musical aggregations have changed personnel with sometimes alarming regularity, but few if any have managed as many alterations in as relatively as short a period as that of the two first 'Savoy Brown' albums, debut album 'Shake Down' in September 1967 and follow up 'Getting to the Point' in July 1968. (Making 'Spinal Tap' look positively stable. ) The band changed lead singer's; 'Lonesome' Dave Preverett came in on slide guitar to replace second guitarist Martin Stone; two bass guitarists and drummers had been and gone before they settled on the pairing of Rivers Jobe on bass and Roger Earle on the drums. (Even then Jobe had departed before the next album was released.) This only left bandleader and guitarist Kim Simmonds and piano player Bob Hall, who was never really a full time member of the band, preferring to keep his options open to be available for his very lucrative session work, from the band that recorded the debut album.

But if it was Kim Simmonds' quest to find the perfect British Blues and Boogie Band, one listen to this album will leave you in no doubt that he was already coming very close.

Although this lineup of 'Savoy Brown' had only been together a matter of days, the Decca Record Company put them in the studio with legendary producer Mike Vernon (Fleetwood Mac, John Mayall, etc) to record this classic album.

Right from the get go, when the band bump and grind their way into opener "Flood in Houston", you know that you are listening to something very special. The band has a chemistry that makes you feel they have been together for a lifetime. Youlden's voice on this and the next three Savoy Brown albums put him up there with all of the great blues singers (many comparing him favorably with the great Bobby Bland). The guitar playing of Peverett and Simmonds was the equal of anything Clapton or Green were doing at the time. Jobe and Earl held down a rock solid backbone, whilst Hall's piano work shows why he was held in such high regard by his contemporary musicians.

Of the nine tracks on the original release there are six band written songs and three covers, but such is the high standard of the songwriting, it is hard to tell which is which.

The music is probably best summed up by the eight minute long "You need Love", the old Willie Dixon chestnut, which rushes off at a brisk twelve bar, whilst Youlden explains to the object of his desires why she needs his affections, before Simmonds takes over with a blistering guitar solo, giving way to a thundering bass section from Jobe. A pulsating drum solo from Earl leads us into a `dueling banjo style' guitar battle between Simmonds and Peverett. Then the whole band come back to bring the song to a fitting climax.

For the CD release three extra tracks have been added onto the original release. A cover of Lane's "Walking by myself " made famous on Gary Moore's album "Blues Alive" and now a staple of Pattaya's own Pop Jorilia's band "Satin Soul". A wonderful Youlden original "Taste and Try, before you Buy", which could be Hendrix at his sauciest, and a great Simmonds blues jam "Someday People". So not only are you getting great music, you get great value for money too.

Kim Simmonds still leads Savoy Brown today (probably on lineup number 467 by now). Dave Peverett, Roger Earl with Jobe's replacement Tone Stevens went and left Savoy Brown in 1970 to find superstardom in "Foghat". Sadly, over the years Chris Youlden has released three patchy solo albums to no great avail. But whilst they were together, these boys could really play.
Mott the Dog.

Savoy Brown Blues Band - 1967 - Shake Down

Savoy Brown Blues Band 
Shake Down

01. I Ain't Superstitious
02. Let Me Love You Baby
03. Black Night
04. High Rise
05. Rock Me Baby
06. I Smell Trouble
07. Oh! Pretty Woman
08. Little Girl
09. The Doormouse Rides The Rails
10. It's My Own Fault
11. Shake 'Em On Down

Bass Guitar – Ray Chappell
Drums – Leo Mannings
Guitar – Kim Simmonds
Guitar – Martin Stone
Piano – Bob Hall (tracks: A1, B2, B5)
Vocals – Brice Portius

Most Savoy Brown aficionadoes are aware that Kim and Co released their first album in England only in 1967, that it was called Shake Down, and that most Americans have heard very little of this album, probably only the two cuts featured on the compilation Savoy Brown Chronicles. The true SB fan might have to search far and wide to find a copy, as with Jack the Toad, the later, pub-rocking Savoy Brown album now considered a classic. Well, friends, start searching again, because I have recently unearthed a copy of this excellent album, and believe me, it's worth searching for!! Kim assembled a multiracial band in 1965/66 and by 1967 had recorded Shake Down. It's a traditional blues album that is very reminiscent of Getting to the Point, SB's second album (first in America) that is much better known than this one. Shake Down consists mostly of blues covers, save one excellent instrumental, "Doormouse Rides the Rails", featuring the band's first-rate second guitarist, Martin Stone. His interplay with SB guru Kim Simmonds on such tracks as "It's All My Fault," "Shake 'Em on Down," and especially on the traditional blues opus "Black Night" are among the high points of the album. Singer Bryce Portius (one of the first blacks to front a British blues band) has a somewhat limited vocal style, but it works very well for this material. His highlights include the Howlin' Wolf classic "I Ain't Superstitious," and the Willie Dixon-penned tune, "Little Girl". Kim is already showing maturity beyond his teenage years in terms of track selection and musical direction; as a guitarist, he shows his chops very nicely on "Shake 'Em On Down," already clearly grasping the less-is-more concept that makes for great blues. His playing in these early years is still somewhat limited, otherwise we'd be looking at a timeless classic. Special thanks to Denis in St. Petersburg, Russia, for helping me to obtain this underappreciated gem. Now that Kim handles his own record distribution (through his new label, Panache Records), perhaps he would consider rereleasing Jack the Toad, Lion's Share, and of course this album in the United States to satisfy his legion of fans. Until then, please pursue this album diligently; it's a blues gem that will have you shaking it on down with the best of them!!!