Today’s Cool Album of the Day (#830 in the Series) is Ten Years After, A Space In Time
When you are three pints in, and the conversation as it inevitably does, turns to the greatest guitar players of all time, and the usual suspects Jimmy Page, Eric Clapton, Jimi Hendrix, and the rest are shouted out from around the bar, the name Alvin Lee is largely and criminally ignored. As one of the early pioneers of Blues Rock, Lee and his band Ten Years After were mostly known for their spacey psychedelic blues jams that were groovy enough to grab the ears of concert promoter Bill Graham, who brought the band to San Francisco for a series of concerts at the famed Fillmore West in 1968.
The band’s first self-titled album, was released to almost no, forget critical, acclaim in 1967 despite featuring the “Green Onions” vibing and seductive sounding “Adventures of a Young Organ,” that is on my personal desert island instrumentals list, and also should be in the top ten of any list of best song titles that you might be putting together. By the time their fourth album Stonedhenge rock and rolled around, the band had morphed its personality from a boogie rock collective to more of a blues band with flare-ups of psychedelic mojo and progressive rock, and were starting to draw positive comparisons to Peter Green’s Fleetwood Mac, with “Going to Cry” and “Hear Me Calling” as exhibits 1 and 1a in the extended blues jam court of law.
By the time 1969 the summer of love and Woodstock rolled around, Ten years after, coming off some scorching live performances at the concert for peace and love, the band was starting to make headway on the popularity front, and released two albums that featured Alvin Lee’s frenetic “speed of light” guitar licks, and a little more compressed less jam band style that also started to feature some tasty piano interludes courtesy of ivory tickler Chick Churchill. In other words, their sound was starting to take on a little bit of a pop veneer varnish, and this was not necessarily a welcomed turn of events for the die-hard full tilt blues boogie fans of the band.
And then, it was time to change the world, their world anyway, as they did with the release of A Space in Time. The album featured the classic rock radio station staple “I’d Love to Change the World,” a song that while it may not have changed the world, it did change the band, taking Ten Years after from a group that you would only know if at the time you were a reader of a music periodical other than Rolling Stone, to the more mainstream and less hip ears of the masses.
The first sign of trouble for the old school fans of Ten Years After should have been the fact that six out of the ten songs on the album leaned heavily on acoustic guitars, rather than the fire-brand electric guitar riffs of days gone by. The second “spit in the eye” for the TYA purists was the length of the songs. The album, their first on Columbia records, featured more concise tracks that never wandered past the six minute mark. Listeners barely had time to pass the joint around two times before the hazy euphoria of one song morphed into the next, Jerry Garcia wouldn’t have stood for it.
Don’t get me wrong, this is a great album and on my top 20 list of best albums ever. Reaching a peak of only 17 on the Billboard charts, this record deserved a better fate. The perfect, for me anyway, combination of guitar rock, blues, psychedelic, and boogie rock, some of the lesser known songs such as “Hard Monkeys” that is a fine three minute acoustic blues number, and the opener “One of These Days,” that reminds you sonically of Pink Floyd’s “Money”, and adds a little bit of scorchiness to the proceedings, makes the entire album an appealing every song is good bordering on great sort of listen. The production value on this album is also far better than any of their previous recordings, and this professional sheen paid dividends in making this album a real aural treat when listening to it on a good pair of head phones.
Appropriately enough for a desert island disc, “I’ve Been There Too” opens with the sound of ocean waves crashing on a beach, and is a slow burn sort of song that features some nice acoustic guitar work, subtle organ interludes, and vocals that are not the strongest in the business, but are at their prime on this song. Just like Hootie and the Blowfish never got better than Cracked Rear View, Ten Years After never got better than A Space in Time. But that’s ok, sometimes it is better to remember our hero’s as they were, at their best, instead of as a judge on American Idol.
For the record, here are the top ten Desert Island Discs in no particular order.
- Crosby Stills Nash & Young – Déjà vu
- The Clash – London Calling
- Ten Years After – A Space in Time
- Bob Dylan – Blood on the Tracks
- The Eagles – Hotel California
- Elvis Costello – My Aim Is True
- Harry Nilsson – Nilsson Schmillson
- Tom Waits – Closing Time
- Bruce Springsteen – Born To Run
- The Who – Who’s Next
This list is subject to change, and often does.
– Walt Falconer, Houston Texas, USA
- “One of These Days” – 5:52
- “Here They Come” – 4:36
- “I’d Love to Change the World” – 3:44
- “Over The Hill” – 2:28
- “Baby Won’t You Let Me Rock ‘n’ Roll You” – 2:16
- “Once There Was a Time” – 3:22
- “Let the Sky Fall” – 4:19
- “Hard Monkeys” – 3:10
- “I’ve Been There Too” – 5:44
- “Uncle Jam” – 1:57
- Alvin Lee – guitar and vocals
- Leo Lyons – bass
- Ric Lee – drums
- Chick Churchill – keyboards
Here is the album in its entirety. The playlist below contains 10 songs. You can click play and it will run or you can advance and play the song you wish. Enjoy!!
Let’s take a look at that classic Woodstock performance.