If you’re lucky enough to catch Ten Years After on classic rock radio these days, it’s likely the 1971 hit “I’d Love to Change the World.” As strong as that tune is, it barely skims the surface of a truly great band. This new two-disc, 26-track retrospective offers listeners a wonderful chance to go deeper into an electrifying blues-boogie-rock outfit.
Alvin Lee, the photogenic, fiery guitar wrangler, was the focal point of TYA, and some record label marketing efforts seemed to single him out for stardom. But The Anthology compellingly proves this was far, far from a one-man show. Drummer Ric Lee, bassist Leo Lyons and organ player Chick Churchill were the essential nuts, bolts, and extra-strength glue that built an infinitely sturdy launch pad for Alvin’s guitar and vocal rocketry, with Churchill’s jazzy workouts, in hindsight, clearly being the secret weapon.
Disc one collects tracks from the British band’s first two years of material, a mod-ish, semi-frantic London take on American blues and ’50s rock (the band’s cover of “Good Morning Little Schoolgirl” still slays). Disc two focuses on ’69 to ’71 efforts, which have a more jamming, stretched out psych/hippie vibe (and yes, the blistering Woodstock live version of “I’m Going Home” is included). Detailed and interesting liner notes complete the package. A minor quibble: I wish the label had extended the anthology to ’72 and featured a couple tracks from the Rock & Roll Music to the World album.
If you’re packing the green, go out and buy all the TYA studio albums this assemblage culls from. It’d be hard for anything but a hefty box set to really represent TYA. But if you’re on an everyday budget, The Anthology is by far the best compilation to come out – it serves needs very well. A number of acts rose to greater commercial heights, but few packed the heartfelt punch and swing of Ten Years After.
This article originally appeared in VG‘s Sep. ’02 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.