Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Ten Years After

  • Sssh [Deram, 1969] B
  • Cricklewood Green [Deram, 1970] B-
  • Watt [Deram, 1970] C+
  • A Space in Time [Columbia, 1971] B-
  • Rock & Roll Music to the World [Columbia, 1972] B
  • The Classic Performances of Ten Years After [Columbia, 1976] B

Consumer Guide Reviews:

Sssh [Deram, 1969]
I should like this record, by a group I have always admired, more than I do. It has a lot of nice original fake blues songs and Alvin Lee's usual distinction on vocals and guitar. But in fact I never listen to it. B

Cricklewood Green [Deram, 1970]
Despite Leo Lyons's responsive bass and Ric Lee's reliable drums, it's obviously the speed and tensile tone of Alvin Lee's guitar that makes this music what it is--pure boogie, a style which benefits from impurities. As such, it's best experienced on Undead. Alvin sings pretty well, but his songwriting is barely serviceable, which puts the ordinary amenities of studio pop beyond his means. B-

Watt [Deram, 1970]
Except for "Sweet Little Sixteen" and "The Band With No Name" ("band" means "song"; I suggest "Ghost Riders on the Ground") this is distinguishable from Crickewood Green primarily by its cover. Docked a notch for coming after Cricklewood Green. C+

A Space in Time [Columbia, 1971]
In which the rock heavy comes of age with his toughest, fullest, and most coherent album. I like it in a way, but it does lack a certain winning abandon, and I'm not crazy about the heavy's economic theories--fellow seems to believe that if you "tax the rich to feed the poor" you soon run out of rich, with dire consequences. B-

Rock & Roll Music to the World [Columbia, 1972]
I remember when this was a promising group--that Alvin Lee, he sure could sing and play, and those other guys sure did get it together behind him. But in four years and then some, all they've accomplished is to get it together some more. As unslick as ever, they're nevertheless a lot tighter in the commercial sense, and the speed and brevity of such cuts as "Choo Choo Mama" exemplify Alvin Lee's rockabilly approach to blues. On his own terms, this is mature, impressive work. But I suspect that the next time I feel like hearing TYA--in eight months or so--I'll put on Undead. It's pretty crude, but you know about old time's sake. B

The Classic Performances of Ten Years After [Columbia, 1976]
OK, so the classic performances are on Deram. Neoclassic, then. I still find that their late phase has its kinetic (as we used to say) charms. And admit that even without the regrettable "Positive Vibrations" I'd be very unlikely to play this except for historical reference. B