Back Street Crawler's Atlantic Years 1975-1976 - a truncated tribute to Paul Kossoff

Four-CD compilation of Paul Kossoff's post-Free output with Back Street Crawler

Back Street Crawler: Atlantic Years 1975-1976
(Image: © Hne)

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Paul Kossoff’s tragic death at just 25 robbed rock of one of its most mercurial talents. The former Free guitarist’s post-Free band Back Street Crawler recorded just their classic debut and one more, and this collection, compiled with the full involvement of their vocalist Terry Wilson-Slesser, tells the rest of the group’s tragically truncated story. 

Originally released in 1975, debut The Band Plays On takes the tough but tender blues-print of Free to a whole new level thanks to Wilson-Slesser’s vocals and the songwriting skills of keyboard player Mike Montgomery, veering between stadium-sized rockers (All The Girls Are Crazy, Rock & Roll Junkie) and brass-laden tearjerkers (Jason Blue). 

While a live set from Croydon’s Fairfield Halls from the same year provides proof that Kossoff was at his electrifying best on stage – notably on Free classic The Hunter and a spine-tingling, seven-minute Molten Gold – there’s a slightly disjointed feel to 1976 follow-up 2nd Street. Recorded while Kossoff was battling drug addiction and released shortly after his death, at its best it’s almost unbearably poignant, with his ailing mental health writ large on Blue Soul and Some Kind Of Happy

A fourth CD in this collection, taken from his final live performance, a headline show at the Starwood Club in Los Angeles in March ’76, and studio out-takes including Jason Blue and two previously unreleased tracks (boogie rock gem Evening Time and bluesy slow-burner She’s Gone) only highlight the magnitude of the loss. Molten gold indeed.

Paul Moody is a writer whose work has appeared in the Classic Rock, NME, Time Out, Uncut, Arena and the Guardian. He is the co-author of The Search for the Perfect Pub and The Rough Pub Guide.