Monday, January 20, 2014

Ten Years After Ssssh 1969

Ten Years After gained big time fame right after this record with their incendiary performance of I'm Goin' Home at Woodstock. But this one is perhaps the best of their work. They went on to develop more intricate arrangements, psychedelic touches, and a more sensitive ballad side. But as a concise way to hear what the band was all about, this works just fine. And what they were about is blues rock, plain and simple.

Plain and simple is what you get. A rock solid driving rhythm section propels the band. Chick Churchill integrates organ into rock as well as anybody. And Alvin Lee rips his axe while also scream-snarling his straight-ahead blues lyrics.

Alvin Lee's songs often sound just a little too close to the traditional blues they emulate, but he always comes up with new lyrics, and just how many ways can those notes get put together anyway. His guitar playing is the star of the show, with notes just flying off the fretboard, and killer tone. He's also a fine singer, and the whole band cooks, all the time. There's no filler. Andy Johns engineered, and the record sounds great.

Cricklewood Green in 1970 comes very close, and some might argue that it betters this one. They both benefit from unusually strong original songs from Lee. I've been listening to them both recently, and I can't really pick, but Ssssh just puts everything they do best on display front and center, without embellishment. Straightforward.

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