Sunday, September 28, 2008


SAVOY BROWN – “Hellbound Train” LP ’72 (Parrot, Eng) – This is an interesting one for me. I see it bad-mouthed sometimes, in relation to a few other SAVOY records from the time, like “Street Corner Talking” or “Raw Sienna.” True, “SCT” may have been a little more fiery on the surface & “Raw…” has a spot in Crayola’s 64 box but…. There’s something about this record, which showed up barely a year after “SCT.” SAVOY BROWN has been a cornerstone of English blues rock since I don’t know when, and despite surrounding line-up chaos, Kim Simmonds (guitar) has always been it’s heart & soul. On this record, the man is joined by vocalist Dave Walker, Paul Raymond (yup…keys), Andy Silvester (bass) & Dave Bidwell (drums). Yeah, there was something about this from the very beginning. I remember pulling it out of the sleeve back then, as a 15 year old amateur guitar freak and the first thing that grabbed my eye was that long, wide band of the last song, stretching halfway across the end of Side Two. I dutifully flipped the platter over to it’s first half, but even as I did, and the nearly-Beatle-like strains of “Doin’ Fine” spilled jauntily out of the speakers, it was the spectre of that last cut, that I now knew spun backwards against the turntable mat, that haunted my listening. And, the album itself seems to take on the feel of an alternating waiting game. That’s not to minimize the first 6 cuts, by any means. Each is a quality cut, yet still they seem to be a balancing act, toggling back & forth between mid-paced seething Hammond-driven blues (“Lost & Lonely Child,” “It’ll Make You Happy”) and upbeat boogie rockers (“I’ll Make Everything Alright,” “If I Could See An End”). Each is also underpinned by the stalwart groove of Kim Simmonds warm, creamy guitar, a force that also rises to the top, like on “Lost & Lonely…” in particular. Finally, having turned the record over, the train has finally made it’s way slowly from the platform as the tone arm enters that staunch 10 minute final band. The patient groove laid down by Silvester & Bidwell supplies the churning wheels of a trip headlong into hell, actually, a song Simmonds spoke of in terms of Viet Nam reflection. Gradually building, ascending in both pace and intensity of music, Dave Walker mirrors the anxiety level with his mounting vocal presence and finally, Simmonds takes over in a haunting, spiraling guitar cascade that’s a thing of beauty until the song ends abruptly, like a runaway locomotive barreling off the end of a twisted track and down a cliff into the Grand Hall of Pandemonium. A gorgeous piece of social commentary, personal anguish and musical dynamics, “Hellbound Train” ends the album of the same name in masterful fashion. Is this record Kim Simmonds most blistering lead-laced hunk of plastic? No. Is it SAVOY BROWN’s most complete and overall satisfying album? Probably leave that to “Street Corner Talking.” But as a singular study in setting up tension, then letting it escalate to a boiling point, all in the blues rock format, it can’t be beat. 9.0
NOTE: Some CD issues of “Hellbound Train” feature a version of the title song that, unfortunately, fades out at the end rather than cutting off suddenly, as the original vinyl did. Suffice it to say that this latter brusque ending is far more potent and the song can only be appreciated appropriately with that conclusion.


Mark said...

We must be riding the same audio cosmic sine wave. I just had that SAVOY BROWN disc in the car a couple weeks ago - and presently the SILBERBART disc on your playlist is getting multiple spins in lieu of the upcoming 1971 guide we're doing!


raysrealm said...

So great, listening to albums like that. I do it all the time, listen as much to older stuff as anything. It always puts everything in perspective. What's amazing to me is how well some things stand up over time.