Epic 1972 / Esoteric 2014
Cult rhythm-and-blues movers wander Wild Westward.
Early ’70s didn’t come easy for Steve Ellis whose teenage dalliance with LOVE AFFAIR had been over in 1969 and who was looking for ways to prove himself as a rock singer rather than an “Everlasting Love” charmer. Pianist Zoot Money struggled too, what with the closure of his fave haunt “Klooks Kleek” and his solo records not being very successful. So the two naturally bonded and, once Mitch Mitchell helped them secure an album deal, this band came to be and deliver two LPs, the tellingly titled “Slump” – produced by Steve’s landlord Roger Daltrey – the first of them.
For all its crossover intent, the album doesn’t break away from the players’ past: thus, “Morning Paper” is a tight boogie-pop asking for a brass injection, while the honky-tonk swingout drives the lyrical grit of “You’re The Only Reason,” written by bassist Jim Leverton, and the effervescent “Good To Be Alive,” complete with a goat’s bleat to illustrate the shepherd delight. It’s humorous in places, though when the acoustic country ditty “Wish I Was Back Home” goes “I’m a T.Rex man,” it might convey Money and Ellis’ perception of themselves as grand dinosaurs, if only they didn’t mention Marc Bolan and didn’t follow a certain tumbleweed connection quite close in “Three Times Corner” wherein Zoot switches from jive to classical and back again, Maggie Bell provides a gospel wail.
Steve’s voice shines the brightest in the baroque “Tune For Brownie,” yet when the collective talents fully blend, transcendence sets in as it does in the angry, politically minded and harmonica-greased funk of “Angela” and mesmerically lucid “El Doomo” which is embroidered with Andy Gee’s guitar flight. That song would become a staple of Ellis’ next ensemble, WIDOWMAKER, but there’s a fresh sensibility to it here, on the album that hides a numerous pleasures and still rides high, if not mighty.