Recorded Live

Ten Years After

The Last Show

Alvin Lee

Once Ten Years After's performance in the Woodstock film cemented their command of the concert stage, it was only a matter of time before Chrysalis would want a full live album from the band. Undead from 1968 doesn't do them justice; five years later with over a half-dozen studio albums under their belt to choose from, 1973's double Recorded Live set is really the definitive document of TYA at their absolute best. For 2013, Chrysalis and Rhino have taken the original set, remastered it and expanded it with seven previously unreleased tracks that cast light on a four-piece powerhouse that took ownership of a concert stage from the first note on.

Taken from the band's January 1973 in Frankfurt, Amsterdam, Rotterdam and Paris, Recorded Live lifts off elegantly enough with three steady and strong rockers — "One Of These Days" "You Give Me Loving," and "Good Morning Little Schoolgirl," each offering bursts here and there of Alvin Lee's amazing speed and dexterity on the guitar, along with some pumping bass from Leo Lyons. Drummer Ric Lee takes flight on "Hobbit," but then keyboardist Chick Churchill assumes a lead role on two of the bonus "Time Is Flying" and "Standing At The Station" that make you wonder why he never gets the credit he deserves. The interplay on the latter with Alvin Lee is almost too astonishingly mind-blowing to describe.

"Help Me Babe," "I Woke Up This Morning" "Sweet Little Sixteen" and "Jam," four more bonus tracks, begin the second CD. This "Jam" and the other one that ends the first CD aptly convey the band's collective strength at improvisation and more or less reading each other's minds. "Scat Thing," "I Can't Keep From Crying Sometimes," "Silly Thing" and "Slow Blues In C" all get to the core of the band's blues roots before 'Extension On One Chord" and 'Slow Blues in C" fire off all cylinders and "I'm Going Home" finishes them off. The version is as hyper-active and astonishing as ever, although the immortal Woodstock version remains singular in its spontaneous brilliance and moment in time. "Choo Choo Mama" boogies the set to its conclusion, and you're strongly advised to take a long break before moving on.

Or maybe not. The Last Show from Alvin Lee, recorded 10 months before the guitarist's untimely passing, is a satisfying token that lets fans know just how active and agile he remained in music to the very end of his life. The Raalte, Holland show on May 28, 2012 was never intended to be released but apparently after Lee himself heard the recording, plans were in place to release it, most likely with a different title.

A bulk of the 14 live cuts are Ten Years After classics like "I'm Going Home," "I Can't Keep From Crying Sometimes," "Hear Me Calling" and "Love Like A Man," along with a slew of covers. Interestingly enough, none of the songs from Lee's 2012 studio release, Still On The Road To Freedom are included (there's little evidence he ever played any of the songs from that album live), but he does pull out "I'm Writing You A Letter," from his 1974 solo album In Flight, and a feisty rendition of 'I Don't Give A Damn" from 1994's Nineteen Ninety Four. Best of all, when you hear the voice and the searing guitar leads on The Last Show, you know it's Alvin Lee. At that point, it's hard to keep from crying sometimes.

~ Shawn Perry

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