Ten Years After

Live At The Fillmore East (Chrysalis 01) Rating: A-
Remembered mostly as a mere footnote in rock history due to their famous performance of "I'm Going Home" at the Woodstock festival (and more importantly, in the Woodstock movie), as well as for their classic 1973 hit Id Love To Change The World, Ten Years After deserved better, and this archive release will hopefully remind people what a formidable unit they once were. Really, they were a live act first and foremost, so given that this is their best of several live albums, obviously this is an important Ten Years After release. As anyone who saw the band can tell you, the band's primary singer/guitarist/creative force was Alvin Lee, the self-proclaimed "fastest gun in the West." Surely Alvin is one of rock's most unfairly overlooked guitar heroes, as he played with both speed and passion, while Ric Lee's precise, jazz-based drumming and Leo Lyons' powerful bass licks ("the bass player's really good" I often thought to myself while listening to this album) anchor Alvin's frenzied guitar workouts (keyboardist Chick Churchill adds coloring as well). This album is far from perfect, starting with the skippable 11-minute drum solo ("The Hobbit") and including a couple (by now) overly familiar, surprisingly faithful Chuck Berry covers ("Sweet Little Sixteen," "Roll Over Beethoven"), though both are energetic enough. Elsewhere, old Sonny Boy Williamson ("Good Morning Little Schoolgirl") and Willie Dixon ("Help Me," "Spoonful") compositions merely serve as the starting point for the band's blues or boogie-based jam sessions, which owe a debt to Cream (briefly paid direct tribute to via "Sunshine Of Your Love" within one of the tracks), though Lee is clearly always the star whereas Cream were more creative equals. Perhaps the album doesn't offer much in the way of complexity (differing from Cream there) or variety (certainly over the course of its 2 cds some of this stuff starts to sound like more of the same after awhile), and not every song here warrants its extended length (you could easily cut 5 minutes off "Skoobly-Oobly-Doobob/I Can't Keep From Crying Sometimes/Extension On One Note," for example). After all, with the majority of these songs clocking in at over eight minutes in length, there's bound to be some down time, right? Besides, when the band picks up a head of steam on songs such as "50,000 Miles Beneath My Brain," "Help Me," "I'm Going Home" (naturally), and "I Woke Up This Morning" they deliver sustained periods of scorching excitement. That is what Ten Years After were all about, and these high energy performances captured Live At The Fillmore East (where they were a hot ticket fresh from their Woodstock triumph) in February 1970 are often-thrilling if somewhat inconsistent. I definitely need to be in the mood for this album, which sometimes sounds dated and can be rather draining over its near 2 hour duration, but listening to the band's empathetic interplay and Lee's fiery fretworks provides a long overdue reminder that this was a very good live band who were capable of some great moments. Certainly this live album has its fair share of them.

send me an email

Back To Artist Index Home Page