Your Sister’s (Record) Rack: Ten Years After
Spent a few days without a working computer … it was a virus and thankfully not one of those fearful tornadoes. Anyway, we dip back into our own personal collection of “hippie” records and pull out this masterpiece, A Space In Time, the 1971 LP from Ten Years After.
We’ve covered this band once before, when we reviewed Cricklewood Green from 1970. There we posed the theory that by the turn of the decade Alvin Lee and company were looking ahead to take the music forward, along with similarly minded visionaries like Led Zeppelin, Humble Pie and the Rolling Stones. A Space In Time reflects that vision – it’s a combination of the usual blues-rock workouts that Ten Years After was known for (“I’m Going Home” from Woodstock, for example) and acoustic, melodic songs side by side.
The payoff was, of course, “I’d Love To Change The World,” which was actually a hit for TYA. I remember the first time I heard it on the radio, I thought it was Traffic. Pleasantly surprised, though, I learned it was an Alvin Lee composition like the rest of the album’s 10 tunes – except for the closing “Uncle Jam” which is credited to the entire band.
“One Of These Days,” which opens the LP, is a slow builder that is more typical of Ten Years After’s blues rock style. It’s a showcase for Alvin Lee’s brilliant guitar work, and he even blows some mean harmonica on this one. I’m a sucker for these late ’60s-early ’70s things with guitar, organ fills and harmonica – and it’s a lot more tasteful than, say, Humble Pie of the same era.
“Here They Come” shifts gears to get a little more psychedelic, with the help of goofy sound effects and those distant Steve Winwood-ish vocals. “Over The Hill” resembles “I’d Love To Change The World” until the chamber strings (borrowed from the Stones’ “Lady Jane”) kick in, but the song turns out to be a nice little rocker that picks up the tempo and leads into “Baby Let Me Rock and Roll You,” which is my favorite song on the album.
“Baby” is kind of a 1950s throwback, and a rockin’ boogie-blues workout. It closes out Side 1 of the LP, and when you flip the record you get a distinctly different feel with “Once There Was A Time” and its Stones-y country honk. “Let The Sky Fall” is a blues, but TYA keeps it mellow and tasteful – Lee’s guitar solo reminds me here a little of Stephen Stills, but it’s tastefully done and a great song.
A song about the perils of drug addiction, “Hard Monkey’s” also has an acoustic bed but it builds into an intense rocker, with Lee ripping into some fiery solos. “It’s a good life/Too good to lose,” he sings about the “junkie blues.” “I’ve Been There Too” offers some hard-won advice in a tasty blues-rock setting. Lee’s guitar work here is restrained and psychedelic, as it’s run through one of those distortion filters, but this is a fine rock song to wrap up the album.
But it isn’t the final song – “Uncle Jam” is a jazzy instrumental throwaway that sticks around for only two minutes and it closes out A Space In Time, which is Ten Years After’s best album and one of my all-time favorites.
Although “I’d Love To Change The World” got substantial radio play, TYA apparently rarely performed the song live. So as a sort of bonus, I’ve included a live version of “I’d Love To Change The World,” played in 2009 on the Heroes of Woodstock tour by the new Ten Years After with Joe Gooch on lead vocals and guitar. Compare his style of guitar playing to Alvin Lee’s …