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SAVOY BROWN Lion's Share/Jack The Toad BGO BGOCD731 (2007)

Savoy Brown

Savoy Brown's success in the US is in many ways just as curious as Status Quo's inability to crack the same territory. The irony of course is that aside from their blues roots, Savoy Brown were principally known as a stadium boogie band in the US, whereas Quo transformed themselves from being a psychedelic pop band to being kings of the three chord, no nonsense, heads down boogie. The reason for the comparison is partly to try and understand the diverging paths of both bands who toured with each other both sides of the pond circa 1972/73 - the same time as these recordings - with Savoy Brown headlining in the US and Quo headlining the UK on the back of the 'Hello' chart album.

On the evidence of this double re-issue pack Savoy Brown sound a lot closer to the nascent pub rock style that was to break out a year or so later in the UK, whereas the actual boogie quotient is to be found on no more than a couple of tracks. And yet along with the likes of Foghat, Kim Simmons's ever changing band were kings of the stadium tours in the early 70's, a time when many of their UK contemporaries seemed to spend more time in the studio and upped the ante in terms of production values. Think of The Stones, The Faces, Purple, Rod Stewart etc and you think of classic albums. On the evidence of 'Lion's Share' Savoy Brown never delivered such an album but must have been a hot ticket on the back of Kim's axe grinding reputation which is given full reign on a surprisingly circumspect production job.

Thus from the opening slide led boogie of the impressive 'Shot in The Head' and the Chicken Shack sounding 'I'm Tired - on which vocalist Dave Walker emulates Stan Webb's vocal vibrato - to the Chuck Berry licks on the Walker penned 'Denim Demon' and the full guitar showcase featured on the slow blues' Love Me Please', Simmons towers over the band. That Kim is a great player is never in doubt, but whether he ever let his fellow band members explore their true potential is a question an album like this will always call into question. How else can you explain the claustrophobic studio feel of a band that worked its socks off across America to achieve some of the bigger box office grosses of the time?

The following album 'Jack the Toad' saw a major shift in personnel with the effervescent Jacky Lynton taking over on vocals. And what a difference he makes. Aside from contributing five songs, including the rousing Faces sounding 'Coming Down Your Way' and the libertarian but ultimately selfish 'If I Want To', he shows he is more than just a 'jack the lad' on the boogie stuff. In Lynton, the band had a natural focal point, a larger than life character and an accomplished singer who shows himself capable of wringing every last nuance from his self penned and splendidly titled, 'Just Cos I Got the Blues Don't Mean You Gotta Sing'. Lynton's phrasing on the closing western fiction narrative of the title track emulates Franky Miller's raunch and the boozy irreverent style of the late Tony Ashton.

Kim naturally enough bides his time and offers glimpses of his inventive licks on Paul Raymond's smoking blues, 'Hold Your Fire' before eventually launching into his full repertoire alongside Raymond's organ on 'Just Cos You Got The Blues' and adding some telling riffs on the closing 'Toad'.

And while 'Jack the Toad' is the more exciting of the two CD's, neither of these two albums come close to the slick style that the returning Dave Walker uncovered on the late 80's albums 'Make Me Sweat' and Kings of Boogie'. In the meanwhile this double pack revisits a band that was in all honesty slow in shedding its blues roots and embracing the kind of crossover appeal that contemporaries such as Fleetwood Mac were just beginning to enjoy.


Review by Pete Feenstra

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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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