One Little Spoon Of Precious Love (The Godfatherecords G.R. 869)
Kulttuuritalo, Helsinki, Finland – December 3, 1969
(77:13) Intro – Spoonful, I Maybe Wrong But I Won’t Be Wrong Always, Hobbit (inc. Drum Solo), Good Morning Little Schoolgirl, No Title, Scat Thing, I Can’t Keep From Crying Sometimes (Inc. Cat’s Squirrel & Sunshine Of Your Love). Bonus Track: Dallas International Speedway, Lewisville, Texas International Pop Festival – September 1, 1969; I’m Going Home
Tributes to one’s achievements come in many different ways, when Alvin Lee died earlier this year due to surgery complications the music world paid tribute to one of Rock’s great yet unsung guitar heroes. Godfather has also paid him a tribute in the form of this excellent new release and has chosen to do what Alvin always wanted, to let the music do the talking.
The recording comes from a radio broadcast and is of superb quality, clear with a nice warm feel to it and thanks to the great recording sounds great when you turn the volume up. After a short introduction the band does their version of “Spoonful”, the Willie Dixon track from the first record. Definitely owing a dept to Cream the version is much more to the point and guitar driven, the rhythm section of Lyons and Lee provide a solid foundation for Alvin to solo over. From electrifying American blues to American Big Band swing music, Alvin introduces the next song as being from Count Basie, “I Maybe Wrong But I Wont Be Wrong Always”. Such was the bands live repertoire that they could switch gears and just start smoking. Leo Lyons is simply incredible during this song, he is matching Alvin’s virtuosity note for note and has you tapping your toes in a fast and furious manner, one could picture him in a smoke filled underground club plucking away on a standup bass. Just when you think it’s an Alvin and Leo show, Chick Churchill throws down a groove filled organ solo making for a fantastic full on improvisation of the whole band. After some fanfare Alvin introduces the next song and drummer Ric Lee’s vehicle to solo, “The Hobbit”. Clocking in at a staggering ten minutes he displays his chops for all and curiously keeps you very interested. I love the late 60s bands giving their drum solos names like “The Hobbit”, “Moby Dick”, or “Toad”, it was almost a way to accentuate their personalities.
Delving back to American Blues the band play Sonny Boy Williamson’s “Good Morning Little Schoolgirl”, their version caught me off guard as I am used to the Derek Trucks Band and Gov’t Mule versions of the song that are slower, this version is fused with boogie rock with the same results, improvisational rock at its best. They slow things down with a rendition of “No Title” from the Stonedhenge record, the slow and sparse beginning that has the drums providing rhythmic propulsion and gives Alvin the electric energy to full on solo over. His playing is so fresh and he never uses the same bit twice, so deep is his Command of his instrument. Chick also gets a chance to showcase his prowess before the song ends with the slow tempo it began with.
The band take an extended moment for applause before Alvin introduces their last song, a long one of five hours. Beginning with “Scat Thing” and leading into “I Can’t Keep From Crying Sometimes”, the song that has the band straying from American boogie fused rock to English tinged blues hard rock in fine fashion. Like the others in the set is a vehicle for improvisation, Ten Years After was certainly a band of players who were not afraid to show their influences. They fuse Doctor Ross’ “Cats Squirrel” with Cream’s “Sunshine Of Your Love” without skipping a beat. It is the incredible playing of Alvin Lee that propels the band through the song, his nimble fingers never seem to tire, he leads the band to the edges of a psychedelia freak-out before returning to the song’s main theme and finally it’s ending.
The bonus track is the song that garnered worldwide attention thanks to their smoking performance in the movie Woodstock, the song would also become their signature tune, “I’m Going Home”. This version is taken from the Texas Pop Festival in 1969, the band’s full set has been released on CD as Texas International Pop Festival (Oh Boy 1-1969 TEX 2) that has been long out of print. While the quality of the recording is a notch below the Helsinki show it is still very good, for a brief minute you think you are listening to Pigpen leading the Dead through a blues drenched “Lovelight” but that thought is washed away as they start to boogie with a take of “Blue Suede Shoes”, the band’s homage to Elvis and early rock. They let it flow and go into “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Going On”, it’s Sun Studios Greatest hits night! I did detect a digital pop at the 5:33 mark, just as Alvin is getting the audience to their feet and clapping in unison with his “Going Home” rap.
The packaging is the typical gatefold sleeve wonderfully adorned with mostly live shots of the band as well as liner notes from Moonchild. This title, along with the new Jeff Beck Fillmore 68 show, has been like a breath of fresh air. I noticed I was getting into a rut by listening to much of the same bands with the new KISS / Zep / Floyd releases and thankfully took a chance on this title. The incredible musicianship made for an incredible listening experience down uncharted waters, a definite highlight from the latest batch of titles from The Don and certainly worth investing in and many repeated listens.