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I’ve loved TYA since first getting the Goin’ Home compilation album in 1976. All their records are good, some are fantastic and essential releases, none are poor.
Ten Years After 1967
Their album didn’t chart anywhere except France where it made #4. The crucial cut on this record is "I Can't Keep from Crying Sometimes" Al Kooper’s classic. It would be in their live set for most of the next seven years, often extended from its original 5 minutes to up to half an hour. They put a raga feel into it and also a jazzy sense of space.
Recorded at the legendary Klooks Kleek club which was little more than a room above the pub, this captures them in the raw, as tight as you like and playing to a small crowd in a hot space. Crucial tracks here are their version of the jazz classic Woodchoppers Ball, a number on which Alvin Lee really cuts loose and plays at a furious speed. It also is the first appearance of I’m Going Home, which was to transform their career at Woodstock. This live version is tighter at just over 6 minutes and has a crushing, cataclysmic conclusion. It was released as a single too, but only charted in France where it made #13. The album peaked at #26 in Uk and #115 in USA
A stepping stone album, the first of four released in under 2 years, it took them away from that jazz influence more firmly into blues rock. Key track here is Hear Me Calling. #6UK #61 USA
By now they were touring USA a lot and this explains why this album got to #20 in USA but at home they were very popular now too making #4. Their version of Good Morning Little Schoolgirl was a live standard for them and I Woke Up This Morning saw them getting heavier and harder in their blues rock sound.
Cricklewood Green 1970
One of their essential releases, this is a record with no filler at all and plenty of massive riffs. A shortened version of Love Like A Man was a hit single in Uk, their only one, making #10 and #98 in the USA. It was a #1 in Denmark. The album made #14 USA #4 UK
Possibly because this was their 4th release in 24 months and they’d been on the road for three years, it sounds a bit tired and going through the motions. That they ended side two with a live performance of Sweet Little Sixteen suggests an understandable lack of material. However, it gives us a glimpse of their power and brilliance as a live act because it is a brilliant rendition of the Chuck Berry classic. #21USA #5 UK
A Space in Time 1971
Their most popular album in USA making #17 and selling a million on, it marked a decline in UK where it peaked at #36. Standout track is, I’d Love To Change The World and it became a big FM radio track in the states and put it at #40 on the single chart.
Rock & Roll Music to the World 1972
In my view, this is one of their lost classics it only made #43 in USA And #27 in Uk. Exhausted from doing 28 tours of the USA in six years, the band was running out of steam but they had one last hurrah in the studio. Standout track is the 7-minute Standing at the Station on which Lee plays the frets clean off that Gibson 335.
Recorded Live 1973
A classic double live album and a definitive document of their live show. This is the record I play to introduce a newbie into TYA’s greatness. It made #39 USA, #36 UK and features some of their best numbers. Standout track is the extended extemporisation on I Can't Keep From Cryin' Sometimes which ses Alvin detuning the guitar and retuning it mid-song.
Positive Vibrations 1974
Surely an ironic title for a band falling apart. There are echoes of the old magic on this and their short punchy version of Little Richards’ Going Back to Birmingham is worth the entry fee but it didn’t chart in UK and only made #81 stateside where they were still hauling ass around.
About Time 1989
The reunion album is fine but lacks a big number. Production is also too frosty. It didn’t chart in UK and only made a brief appearance at #120 in USA
In 2001 Live at the Fillmore East 1970 was released and to me, this is The Must Have of TYA’s whole catalog. It is perfect and captures the band at the peak of their powers in featuring long improvisations and short hard rock numbers.
Of their studio releases, the essentials are Cricklewood Green, Rock n Roll Music to the World and A Space In Time, but all are worthy of adding to your collection.