Ten Years After formed in 1968 and released 8 charting albums over the following six years. They shot to fame after performing their standard bearer song, “I’m Going Home” on the 1969 film “Woodstock”, becoming one of the biggest bands in the world as well as perhaps the hardest working. They were almost constantly on tour in America where demand for their live shows was staggering. What time off they did have from touring, not only the United States but also Europe, saw them whisked into a studio to record a new album to keep their record company happy.
Alvin Lee was the focal point of the group, playing lead guitar, singing, writing all the songs and doing most of the media. It’s a wonder how the band kept going for such a long time.
“Watt”, released in 1970, was their fifth album and was released in the same year as their previous offering “Cricklewood Green”. The band recorded the material in September and the album was released in December, just in time for Christmas, and it probably stands out as their landmark work.
The opener “I’m Coming On” is a compulsive rocker, with the band flexing their collective musical muscle: Alvin Lee takes on a smooth killer solo while his bandmates power in behind him. Ten Years After were never afraid to use the tricks of the studio and the sound is overlapped with echo, but the solo is played straight down the middle and serves to whet the appetite. This is followed by a longer workout in “My Baby Left Me” (I would have thought with their work schedule they would have hardly missed who was coming and going!) Starting off at a slow grinding speed, the gears are quickly worked through until the band are up and running at full speed, pausing only to draw breathe at the vocals. But rock’n’roll soon comes and takes back control, with Alvin Lee plainly enjoying himself with some scat singing at the end.
The plaintive ballad “Think About the Times” follows this with the piano leading the first verse and chorus and accompanied by some neat work from the rhythm section. The band then get their funk out and rip through “I Say Yeah” with plenty of extravagant use of the voice box and the wah wah pedals to keep the interest levels up and this song has very good dynamics.
The next humbly short ditty is “The Band With No Name”, a nice little composition that could have come straight from a spaghetti western movie. In contrast the next two songs allow the band to really stretch out and give the world a bit of a taste of what Ten Years After were all about.
“Gonna Run” creeps up on you and then smothers and gathers you up along the way. At the midpoint of the song Alvin Lee proudly shows off his Jazz influences with some very fluid guitar work before Chick Churchill joins in on piano. “She Lies In The Morning” is a loose structured rocker allowing the band plenty of scope to show off their talents. All the studio effects the band can find are brought out and put to use in an orgy of rock music, with a beautifully played dream sequence in the middle.
The final track comes from Ten Years After’s encore at the Isle of Wight festival that year, a sizzling version of Chuck Berry’s “Sweet Little Sixteen”, which leaves the listener and the band breathless. It also shows quite clearly why Alvin Lee was considered the fastest guitarist in the west. 5 stars!
Ten Years After:
Alvin Lee – guitar and vocals
Chick Churchill – keyboards
Leo Lyons – bass guitar
Ric Lee – drums
I’m Comin’ On
My Baby Left Me
Think About The Times
I Say Yeah
The Band With No Name
She Lies In The Morning
Sweet Little Sixteen (Live)
Note: Written by Mott The Dog who can often be found resting in his kennel at Jameson’s Irish Pub on Soi AR, North Pattaya.