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Drugs, sex, and rock and roll
running_man | Chesterfield Twp., MI | 02/28/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"The three primary vices of the late 1960's are on vivid display on this, Ten Years After's fourth album, released in 1969. While songs giving a sympathetic ear to underage sex ('Good Morning Little Schoolgirl') and drug usage ('Stoned Woman') are frowned upon today, it's revealing what Alvin Lee and his 'mates were committing to vinyl way back in the 1960's. You would probably draw the ire of Bill O'Reilly and perhaps the FBI for uttering lyrics like "I want to b_ _l you all night long" to an imagined "little schoolgirl" in this, the second millennium (I suppose Alvin could implicate original writer Sonny Boy Williamson for the faux pas, however). Alvin was 24 years of age when he suggested to this little schoolgirl that there was "nothing wrong" with such yearnings, nor does he sound disgruntled over his observation that "she's gonna keep him stoned out of his mind all the time" on 'Stoned Woman'. While Alvin and many of his contemporaries may have second thoughts about such judgements today, it's clear that very liberal attitudes were being quite freely propogated, and certainly followed in this era. And while it may be easy to dismiss such indulgences as typical of the times or youth in general, the problem is that it's so hard to separate Alvin's questionable sentiments with the great rock and roll music he composed to accompany it. While the B-side of the original vinyl version of 'Ssssh' is a bit uneven, the A-side is pure, unadulterated, rabid rock and roll heaven. The sound of the first four tracks stand up nicely against any comparable 16 minute sequence anywhere in rock.
The album leads off with the great up-tempo rocker, 'Bad Scene'. The lyrics deliver an angry rant about life's hassles, from "hurtin'" to "chokin'", with Alvin's vocals processed through something that makes his voice sound like a tinny 1930's radio broadcast. I'm not sure what the intent is of that processing, but it sounds extremely cool. 'Two Time Mama' follows, opening with a bouncy acoustic riff and morphing into a boogie along the lines of Canned Heat's 'Goin Up the Country'. There's a great slide guitar to be had under the cautionary lyrics. 'Stoned Woman' is up next, featuring a sweet bass beat, fine guitar hooks, and Alvin delivering up plenty of tasty 'Ugh's, 'Ooh's, and 'Aah's. 'Good Morning Little Schoolgirl' winds up the quartet with 6:34 of solid-rock, and more orgiastic screams, grunts, moans, and groans.
The B-side of the original vinyl starts out with a melodious acoustic track spiced up with a bit of wah-pedal guitar in the background, but 'If You Should Love Me' slowly gains steam until you're seriously folk-rockin' with fine organ support from Chick Churchill. After a two minute acoustic guitar and piano ballad, 'I Don't Know That You Don't Know My Name' (a real challenge to decipher for any TYA fan who's stoned out of his mind all the time...), serving as an intermission, TYA return to the blues-rock with a decided groove in 'The Stomp'. The disc winds up with perhaps the weakest track, a heavy and solid, but derivitive standard electric blues number, 'I Woke Up This Morning'.
If you're a fan of heavy blues-rock music with excellent hooks and riffs, this vintage TYA disc is made for you, especially if you're okay with the provocative lyrical content. Be forwarned that this particular version (and there are versions aplenty of 'Ssssh'... which really should be 'Shhhh', shouldn't it?) of 'Ssssh' is marketed as a remastered disc from EMI Special Markets, but nowhere in the package is remastering mentioned, nor does the EMI moniker appear anywhere. Entering the bar code into the ebay listing generator, however, does identify this as a remastered disc from EMI. The label on the disc is Chrysalis, but the recording date is listed as 1975, which is a total mystery. Nevertheless, it sounds good, and perhaps that is all that matters in the final analysis."
Great Playing and Lots of Energy
Morten Vindberg | Denmark | 07/05/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This album must be thrill for any fan of English heavy blues/hard rock.I had the album on vinyl years ago, and I recently bought the album again on CD. Somehow my favourites have changed with the time. It seems that some of my old favourites go on a bit too long. It is beyond question that Lee is a terrific guitarist and that Ten Years After was a great band, but Lee's songwriting on this album is mostly very traditional blues/rock, and some songs may sound a little dated."I Woke Up This Morning" and "Good Morning Little Schoolgirl" are still great tracks, but less aggressive songs like "Two Time Mama" and "If You Should Love Me" are my favourites today; especially the great build up on "If You Should Love Me" makes this song a highlight."