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THE EARL SLICK BAND - Earl Slick Band/Razor Sharp BGO Records (2007)

Perhaps best known for replacing Mick Ronson in David Bowie's backing band, Earl Slick has worked with a variety of names in the rock world including most notably John Lennon on his final 'Double Fantasy' album. Most recently he cropped up collaborating with David Coverdale on his solo album and over the years he's also been spotted working with Ian Hunter, Leo Sayer, Dirty White Boy, Yoko Ono and Slim Jim Phantom as well as further stints as a Bowie side-man, like Ronson though his mid-70s efforts at a post-Bowie solo career are largely overlooked.

With this release on BGO Records though, that oversight will hopefully be corrected as here they reissue both 1976 albums by The Earl Slick Band, a four man line-up that saw Slick take lead and slide guitar duties alongside his childhood mate Jimmie Mack on vocals, Bryan Madey on drums and Gene Leppik on bass guitar.

Forming the first part of the reissued disc is the eponymous début album that clocks in at barely 30 minutes and finds the band struggling for a formula that really works. Surprisingly much of the material is from the pen of Mack with Slick himself responsible for just 'Bright Light' and the Skynyrd sounding tribute to sixties singer 'P.J. Proby'. At it's best, for example the only Slick/Mack co-write 'Burnt Love' or the excellent 'Very Blue' the album has similarities to Free or Bad Company whilst the odd hint of Bowie is obviously evident, ultimately though much of the material falls into the category of enjoyable but solid rather than spectacular. Victim perhaps of Slick's stated policy of getting the inspiration, recording it quickly and moving on.

The second half of the disc is altogether more satisfactory though as by the time 'Razor Sharp' was released later in 1976 the band's chemistry seems to be working. The song quality is much higher with Mack this time having a hand in all nine songs, penning six solo, two in collaboration with Slick and the final, stand-out effort of 'Games' bearing the credit Mack/Madey/Leppik. Once again comparisons to Bad Company are appropriate I think, but this is in no way negative as tracks like 'It's All Right' and 'Post Yourself Home' prove to be good examples of seventies rock. Alongside the stronger material, the sound also seems somewhat fuller on the latter release, possibly better produced or a better budget but maybe the experience of playing together for a year helped produce much better results second time around. Sadly though this was to be the band's last album as the onset of punk and new wave rendered their style of blues based rock 'n' roll unfashionable almost overnight.

Housed in a nice slip case, adorned with decent if perhaps too brief sleeve notes and even reproducing the lyrics its a well executed reissue that will certainly appeal to anyone with a liking for seventies rock.


Review by Bill Leslie

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***** Out of this world | **** Pretty damn fine |
*** OK, approach with caution unless you are a fan |
** Instant bargain bin fodder | * Ugly. Just ugly

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