A Space In Time (Remastered) (Capitol)
By Brian Arsenault
Boy that boy could play. I mean I know he’s still out there and he probably still can. I haven’t heard him lately. But Alvin Lee in 1971 on A Space In Time — however uneven the album is — was the equal or better of any of his contemporaries. Page, Clapton, Townshend, any of that magnificent array of British rock guitarists of the era.
He was also admirable for writing in the electric blues form of American artists of the 50s: Muddy, Howlin Wolf, John Lee. He didn’t just borrow it like most British and American rockers of the time, he got right down into it. Listen to the lead track “One of These Days” and tell me it wouldn’t be fine done by the Billy Boy Arnold Band.
The problem is the album moves off into a variety of stuff. There’s a sort of Traffic sounding angst poetry song and there are little pointless electronic effects that seem quaint now but were probably meant to be psychedlic, and maybe even a touch of the Kinks on “Over the Hill” (more about this tune later). “Who is (or was) this guy?” I found myself saying.
Depending upon your level of generosity, Alvin and the band were broadening their musical style, trying to finally get a hit record, or leaving the blues for pop. Many thought that “progression” depressed Alvin but didn’t he have the industry muscle to stop it?
Ten Years After did get their one giant hit record off this album, by the way — the hippie (I guess) anthem “I’d Love to Change the World.” Last I knew, the track was still getting FM “Classic Rock” play. I for one won’t patronize the song with Lee’s rippling, screaming guitar work wonderfully underlaid by Ric Lee’s ferocious drumming. Boy that boy could play.
Getting back to “Over the Hill,” this is where Lee mournfully predicts “think I’ll leave the blues over the hill.” Still he also intones that “this stuff is killing me.”
And jumps right into “Baby Won’t You Let Me Rock ‘N Roll You,” pure hard driving rockabilly, which is only electric blues with a little white country on it.
Boy that boy could play. And he did move off in other directions from what TYA had become. Still, someone should have come in and said, hey, all the songs are going to be like “Hard Monkeys,” get it?
“Hard Monkeys” (draw your own conclusions) is so good, so true to the form, but somebody tell me what “Here They Come” is. It’s a perplexing album that way throughout but don’t miss it.
This remastered, reissued wonderfully vinyl album is worth finding your old turntable or hitting that good downtown music store (which is still there, at least online) and buying one. Maybe even a couple of giant speakers.
The whole world isn’t programmed music on an iPad, you know. And even if it is, this record in its best parts is as good a rocker as there is. Or was.
To read more reviews and posts by Brian Arsenault click HERE.
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Brian Arsenault’s November and Other Tales is a collection of short stories exploring the way cold comes by degrees in winter and in the human heart. To check it out, click HERE.