Savoy Brown – Songs From The Road CD/DVD

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Review by Will Harris

Ruf Records

Not many bands can claim to have existed for over 45 years, but neither can many bands claim quite as many line-up changes as 60s British blues-rock group Savoy Brown, which is really simply the name for the musical vehicle driven by sole original member Kim Simmonds. The fluctuation in musicians and the number of them, coupled with the obvious perils of trying to put out consistently strong material for nearly five decades, has also meant some rough patches of unremarkable music, but this CD/DVD arrives in the wake of Savoy Brown’s latest effort, 2011’s Voodoo Moon (heralded by many as a solid return to form), prompting Ruf Records to capture one night of Simmonds and co. on the subsequent tour.

For all the talk of triumphant returns, the show — set in a small theatre in Dortmund with an appreciative but rarely enthusiastic audience — isn’t a thriller from start to finish: the opening few numbers feature some expected superb lead playing (Simmonds plays with cool subtlety in the breakdown of ‘Looking In’ and some delectable phrasing in classic ‘Street Corner Talking’), but there’s no performance that really sets the whole place alight. That is, until the driving rock ‘n’ roll of ‘She’s Got The Heat’ sees the group fire up some real energy, intensified by Simmonds’ awesome slide playing. From here he works in some tasteful jazz inflections in the solo of ‘Time Does Tell’, taking the band down to near silence before a heavy drop back into the main chorus. By ‘Meet The Blues Head On’ Savoy are really rolling, and they follow it up by revising the understated blues of 1972’s ‘Hellbound Train’ with a power rock chorus, not to mention Simmond’s best soloing on the whole DVD. Powering to runaway locomotive pace with vocalist Joe Whiting holding a seemingly endless note, ‘Hellbound Train’ is without a doubt the showstopper, which means that the five tracks that follow — including some lacklustre runs through two Willie Dixon covers and a Muddy Waters one — have no hope of a climax.

There’s proof here that Savoy Brown have what it takes to put on an exhilarating live show, but mostly it’s only Simmonds’ solos that hold together the weaker tracks, despite solid performances from the rest of the group. There’s enough good stuff here to make Songs From The Road worthy of any avid fan’s collection, but fair-weather listeners won’t suffer without it — after more than 45 years it seems that Savoy Brown’s greatest moments have already passed.

Savoy Brown - Songs From The Road6.5 out of 10

Track listing:

  1. 24/7
  2. Looking In
  3. Natural Man
  4. Street Corner Talking
  5. She’s Got The Heat
  6. Time Does Tell
  7. Voodoo Moon
  8. Meet The Blues Head On
  9. Hellbound Train
  10. Shockwaves
  11. Tell Mama
  12. Wang Dang Doodle

Bonus Tracks DVD Only:

  1. Little Red Rooster
  2. Louisiana Blues

 

1 COMMENT

  1. From what I’ve heard of Savoy Brown previously, it always sounded like Kim Simmonds was a great guitar player in need of a better vehicle to service his skills.

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