More than 40 years after Ten Years After
delivered a career-altering performance at Woodstock
, guitarist-vocalist and band co-founder Alvin Lee
is still enjoying the freedom he found when the band split up in 1974.
"I decided to take the road to freedom rather than the road to fame and fortune," Lee writes in the liner notes for Still on the Road to Freedom
. "I was in danger of joining the dead before 30 club."
Specifically, Lee felt he had to get away from the relentless grind of touring, and from what he calls "the commerciality of the music industrialists." Even more importantly, he wanted to be free to "make music of my own choice without worrying about what other people thought or expected." It is that particular freedom that is evident through this album.
What freedom sounds like
Lee wrote all of the songs on the album, but he's quick to acknowledge influences from a varied group of artists and genres, from R&B icon Chuck Berry
to ex-King Crimson
drummer Ian Wallace. This isn't surprising, since TYA's music, although predominantly hard rock, had significant blues and jazz influences.
Lee began writing songs for Still on the Road to Freedom
in 2008. By the time he was ready to go into the studio, he had 33 potential tracks in hand. After wrestling unsuccessfully with trying to consider all of them, he finally isolated his favorites (a little less than half of the total) and worked them into "an entity in itself with a beginning, a middle and an end."
And somehow, the mixture of arena rock, blues, bebop, country rock and folk does seem natural. Lee's guitar work, be it electric or acoustic, is as good as ever. His voice, never known for its "polish" (which is a good thing) is still natural and vibrant.
Painting by Alvin Lee
This is one of those relatively rare albums that is a good listen all the way through, with no need to skip tracks to hear the good ones. But, naturally, there are some I do like to go back to, like the percussion-driven "Listen to Your Radio Station," the catchy "Midnight Creeper," the instrumental "Down Line Rock" and "Love Like a Man 2" (a new version of a track originally on TYA's 1970 Cricklewood Green
Lee plays multiple instruments on the album, which he also recorded and mixed. Other band members include two longtime associates -- Pete Pritchard
on bass and Richard Newman on drums -- and keyboardist Tim Hinkley.
TYA (minus Lee) re-formed in 1988, but there are a lot of fans who are loyal to the original (1966-1974) lineup. If you're among them, you should put this album on your "get" list. If you're unfamiliar with either TYA or Alvin Lee, the album is a good listen just for the musicianship, and for the concept of creative freedom that drives it.
You might also be able to relate to the philosophy that accompanies a painting by Lee that appears on the CD and in the liner: "There are many forks on the road to freedom and the road to nowhere is one of them."
1. "Still On The Road To Freedom"
2. "Listen To Your Radio Station"
3. "Midnight Creeper"
4. "Save My Stuff"
5. "I'm A Lucky Man"
6. "Walk On, Walk Tall"
7. "Blues Got Me So Bad"
8. "Song Of The Red Rock Mountain"
9. "Nice & Easy"
10. "Back In 69"
11. "Down Line Rock"
12. "Rock You"
13. "Love Like A Man 2" Release date: August 28, 2012 - Rainman
Available on CD
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