Ealing’s answer to Booker T and the MG’s, in the mid-60s The Artwoods rammed the 100 Club, Klooks Kleek and Eelpiland with their Lowrey organ-led rocking R&B. Founder member and front man Art Wood was the former Blues Incorporated vocalist who took Alexis Korner and Cyril Davies in his motorbike’s sidecar to see the Moist Hoist drinking den, which then became the Ealing Blues Club.
Highpoints of this three-CD set are the Decca singles (including the Jon Lord composition, B-side Big City), the superb Art Gallery LP and the BBC Sessions introduced by the fruity tones of Brian Matthew. Wood’s Howlin’ Wolf cub yowl gives the songs an authentic richness and makes for a heady combination with the Steve Cropper-esque guitar and occasional bursts of fuzz. Disc three – a ’67 live recording from Denmark – sounds disappointingly muzzy, however.
Like fellow cult heroes The Action, who were brilliant at covering other people’s songs but less successful at writing their own, The Artwoods remained hitless. Art, one of the most distinctive R&B voices of his generation, would forever be known as elder brother to Ronnie until he died in 2006, while Keef Hartley became a Bluesbreaker and Jon Lord ended up in Deep Purple.
This package – including an ace 36-page booklet – is a very fine testament to their work together.