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Alvin Lee - Still on the Road to Freedom

Rainman Records RM 12012

13 songs; 43:02 minutes; Suggested

Styles: Modern Electric Blues, Acoustic Country Blues, Blues Rock, Rock and Roll, and more

How many times have you viewed the “Woodstock 1969” film? The Woodstock concert was over before I even knew about it. But, as soon as the film was released, I attended. I have lost count of how many times I have seen it. By now, I own several versions including the “Ultimate Collector’s Edition/Director’s Cut” DVDs that came out in 2009 to commemorate the 40th anniversary. And, 43 years later, the performance that still thrills like the first time is England’s Alvin Lee and Ten Years After playing their original song (to quote Alvin) “’I’m Going Home’….by helicopter” (heli being the only way in or out).

Now, Alvin, as singer, songwriter, guitarist, and multi-instrumentalist, has released his 41st album since 1967. Enter the title, in 1972, Lee took the “Road to Freedom” rather than continue to be at the mercy of “music industrialists, managers, agents, lawyers – those who only saw him and the band as a money making commodity. [He sought] Freedom from being responsible for satisfying other people’s greed.” What Lee gained was “freedom to make music of [his] own choice without worrying about what other people thought or expected… freedom from undue interference and freedom from the many pressures of the rock & roll circus.”

All 13 original songs on this album were taken from songs Lee wrote over the last four years. The material is varied with many styles and types of music. It embraces Lee’s love of roots music with everything from Rock and Roll to Blues to Funk to Rockabilly – all led by his still incredible guitar work. Recorded at Space Studios 3 in Spain, the CD is mainly Alvin playing all instruments plus spot help from longtime band members bassist Pete Pritchard and drummer Richard Newman, along with keyboardist Tim Hinkley.

First to be played on our Friends of the Blues Radio Show will, understandably, just have to be the second track, “Listen to Your Radio Station.” You’ll hear a Bluesy tune that is an instrumental except for a few scant lyrics, including, “Listen to your radio station/Coolest music across the nation.” This song is an interesting mix of Blues with Alvin on both electric and acoustic guitars. It also includes tribal African drums in a sample loop from the late Ian Wallace.

Next play is a nod to 12 bar Country-Blues, embodied by Alvin's harmonica on “Save My Stuff.” Lee reports in the publicity press release, “I was a big fan of Big Bill Broonzy, Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee.” The lyrics find the narrator riding the train home to the woman he loves: “I'm gonna save my stuff for the woman I love.” Soon to follow will be the Delta stomp “Blues Got Me So Bad.” And, for fans of Lee’s trademark piercing electric guitar solos, the old intensity is there deftly on the title track.

When Hour 2 arrives, we like to play up-tempo numbers; here “I'm A Lucky Man” will fit nicely. A Rockabilly tune with a definite 1950s guitar and vocal style, it finds Lee flat out smoking on fretboard. When an instrumental is needed, Tex-Mex rhythms in “Song of the Red Rock Mountain” will win hearts. It’s a short song he made up on the spot while testing a microphone and wasn't able to improve. For a longer Rock and Roll number, it’s “Love Like a Man 2,” a remake of the song on the band's 1970 album “Cricklewood Green,” inspired, according to Lee, by New Orleans R&B player Smiley Lewis' "I Hear You Knocking," with a nod towards Chuck Berry influence.

The only thing I’d change is in the title: swap “to” for “of” because Lee continues on the road of freedom. He has freely made a solid, entertaining, eclectic album that fans will enjoy. When “ten years after” becomes “43 years later,” we gratefully find Alvin Lee still making inspired music, as he continues “Going Home.”

Reviewer James "Skyy Dobro" Walker is a noted Blues writer, DJ, Master of Ceremonies, and Blues Blast contributor. His weekly radio show "Friends of the Blues" can be heard Saturdays 8 pm - Midnight on WKCC 91.1 FM and at in Kankakee, IL.

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