Despite hailing from the East Midlands, such was songwriter/guitarist the late Alvin Lee’s way around a fretboard that he must have seemed US country-born to the audiences who so avidly lapped up Ten Years After’s performance at Woodstock.
This launched them briefly into the stratosphere in America. Ssssh, released in 1969 coincided with this appearance, and, while Lee is on crackling form throughout the album, their cover of Sonny Boy Williamson’s Good Morning Little Schoolgirl is a cringemaking blight on their oeuvre, retrospectively; hard to appreciate the salad of the album as a whole when you find a slug like this in it.
Cricklewood Green (1970) is more interesting, with Lee looking futurewards satirically on Year 3,000 Blues, a dystopian fantasy, and with more anxiety on As The Sun Stills Burns Away, which benefits from the sound effects of engineer Andy Johns. Watt, released the same year (perhaps too hastily), doesn’t feel like too much of a progression, as dull titles like My Baby Left Me attest.
Meanwhile, fellow Brits and heavy rockers Led Zeppelin were conquering the world, a possible influence on 1971’s A Space In Time, featuring their biggest hit I’d Love To Change The World in which the acoustic and electric are judiciously combined à la Page and the gang.
By the time of Rock’n’Roll Music To The World, the Zeppelin comparison is less flattering to Ten Years After, whose retrospective tones feel a bit earthbound compared with the stratospheric heights reached by a new generation of rock Leviathians – they’d taken what they had about as far as it would go.