Preston-born drummer Keef Hartley began the 60s playing in a Merseybeat combo fronted by hamster-chomping comedian Freddie Starr, and finished the decade performing to half a million hippies at Woodstock with his own band.
He paid his dues with R&B group The Artwoods and John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers, before putting together the Keef Hartley Band in 1968. In his Native American headdress, Hartley was a noted attraction on the club circuit, and recorded seven albums in four years.
All are highly regarded by connoisseurs for their fusion of jazz, rock and blues, holding progressive rather than commercial appeal. This seven-CD celebration begins with 1969 debut Halfbreed, opening with a spoof call from Mayall sacking his drummer.
With the bluesy vocals of Miller Anderson, and Gary Thain on bass, it was sufficiently impressive to win the band a place at Woodstock. The Battle Of North West Six and The Time Is Near (both 1970) were similarly well-received. Overdog (’71) moves closer to hard rock in the vein of the James Gang’s Funk #49.
Of the 67 tracks here, 15 are live, including fourth album Little Big Band (’71), recorded at the Marquee club. On this and 1972’s Seventy-Second Brave they became a ‘rock’n’roll band with horns’ of the kind popularised by Chicago.
On final and solo CD Lancashire Hustler vocalist Elkie Brooks guests on a cover of Sly & the Family Stone’s Dance To The Music. Hartley didn’t hit the big time, but this collection displays his versatility and virtuosity in full swing.