The good news is that we don’t have to listen to yet another version of “I’m Going Home,” the 10-minute jam that propelled Alvin Lee to fame at Woodstock. No question, Alvin Lee & Co. was not Ten Years After, the latter of which straddled hard rock and blues boogies ad infinitum. This aggregation, recorded in January 1975, was more about Alvin interweaving soul, funk, rock, blues, and even folk ideas.
With female backing vocalists and sideman Mel Collins’ always excellent sax and flute, Lee offers the low-down “Let’s Get Back.” The song has a deep, funky groove, but he still cuts loose with a long solo. “Somebody’s Calling Me” is an uptempo funk-blues – later, they drop the tempo and Alvin conjures an emotive, minor-blues lead. Taking off his Gibson ES-335, listen to his fine fingerpicking on “All Life’s Trials.” He keeps the acoustic strapped on for a greasy version of “Baby, Please Don’t Go.”
For classic Alvin Lee shred, cue up “Every Blues You’ve Ever Heard,” an inside joke perhaps, but still a great platform for fret burning. Here, he unleashes his famous chops, those swirling triplet patterns that made him a guitar hero a half-decade earlier.
In retrospect, Alvin Lee & Co. is almost the guitarist’s swan song, as musical trends towards heavy rock, punk, and disco kicked his blues-boogies to the curb. Still, this set is a glimpse into a more subtle facet of Lee’s musical persona – not just high-speed guitar frenzies, but something a bit more down-to-earth.
This article originally appeared in VG May 2018 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.