Angel Air 2014
The stuff of legend, smoothed by a famous voice and struggling to live up to its mythical reputation.
With their ever-fluctuating line-up – there were at least three versions of it around 1970 – this band never had the chance to release their potential. Well, there was a possibility to rise when the group’s originator John Morshead, formerly the guitarist with THE AYNSLEY DUNBAR RETALIATION, recruited his bass-playing colleague Alex Dmochowski and Jackie Lomax, reeling after his Apple Records career failed, for a final spin, but the resulting album didn’t see the light of day. It was only after the singer’s death in September 2013 that his family cleared the contractual limbo to blow the unofficial releases, which circulated for many years, out of the water, although the record’s musical value doesn’t quite match its historical significance.
Torn between Sam Cooke’s sunshine and Robert Johnson’s gloom, Lomax’s elastic pipes stretch to elevate regular blues patterns of “Just Don’t Feel So Good” and opener “You Better Let Me Know” that, despite its tasty wah-wah-ing and gospel centerpiece, chugs like a demo, thus contrasting the rich, if funereal, textures of closer “Take Me Down To The Water” adorned with harmony pack of BADFINGER’s Pete Ham and Tom Evans. It also offsets the effervescence of “If You’d Like Too” – catchy in a country way and nicely punctured at the low end – yet there’s a real spiritual lift once soul unfolds in full view, as it does in “Too Complicated” where the brass glory courtesy of Bobby Keys and Jim Price complements the double-tracked six-string. There’s also a nice funky groove to carry the stereo-busting “Born For Something” with SPOOKY TOOTH’s Mike Kellie’s lazy drumming to spice it, yet THE ANIMALS’ Barry Jenkins works much harder on the skins in “F-F-F-Females” which explores new avenues of the Delta idiom, just like the mighty “Bio-Blues” takes the Crossroads to the new age.
Whether all of it amounts to an album per se is questionable, but this record nicely fills some gaps in the British rock bottom, and having it out means much to many a fan.