Bill Steer Top Ten
This week we have a Top Ten from none other than the almighty Bill Steer!!!
You’ll know Bill from Carcass, Napalm Death, Firebird, Gentlemans Pistols, Dissattack and Angel Witch of course!! I remember getting a Carcass LP from a record fair in Canterbury in the mid 90’s and it didn’t leave the deck for months. I finally got to see them at their reunion gig at the Underworld and they destroyed the place – it was amazing! So I’m really chuffed to have Bill do us a Top Ten – thanks again Bill!
Top Ten “power trio” albums of the early 1970s
West, Bruce & Laing “Why Dontcha” (CBS, 1972)
One part Cream, two parts Mountain, this heavyweight supergroup released a couple of studio albums and one live record. All of these are great, but the debut is hard to beat. From the gritty hard rock of the title track to Jack Bruce’s spectacular vocal on “Third Degree”, the whole thing is delivered in a spontaneous manner that has been rarely heard since.
Groundhogs “Hogwash” (United Artists, 1972)
The work of Tony McPhee and the Groundhogs has always been hard to categorise. Some insist on filing them away in the blues rock pigeonhole, others think of them as progressive. There have even been admirers from the anarcho-punk corner, impressed by McPhee’s early disdain for animal abuse. Ultimately, the Groundhogs always refused to be part of anyone else’s thing.
James Gang “Thirds” (ABC, 1971)
Before Joe Walsh went on to fame and riches with a notable solo career and The Eagles, he was already a respected guitarist, songwriter and vocalist with the James Gang. Many folk consider their second LP, “Rides Again” to be the band’s peak, but surely this album would be the connoisseur’s choice. The lead break on “Midnight Man” counts among Walsh’s finest.
Beck, Bogert & Appice “BBA” (Epic, 1973)
Another union of acclaimed players. Like WBL, this outfit didn’t quite reach the heights expected of them – and there is an superior, unreleased second album doing the rounds as a bootleg – but even so, there is enough quality music here to justify your attention. Their rendition of “Superstition” is a masterclass in hard rock rudeness.
Grand Funk Railroad “E Pluribus Funk” (Capitol, 1971)
Michigan’s GFR emerged in the late sixties, releasing a string of iconic albums that showed little in the way of production values but huge amounts of energy, heart and soul. By 1972 they had added a keyboard player, Craig Frost, and went on to develop a slicker sound that would yield some infectious hits. But the raw power contained on these early records was never to be re-captured.
Trapeze “You Are The Music” (Threshold, 1972)
Interesting how Trapeze remain somewhat overlooked, even now. Within a year of this recording Glenn Hughes would become a member of Deep Purple Mk III, and his voice remains a thrilling instrument to this day. On “Music”, the three modest Midlanders show their class with a versatile collection of songs.
Stray Dog “Stray Dog” (Manticore, 1973)
Snuffy Walden was one of the finest guitarists of his time, yet somehow this remarkable album slipped between the cracks. Perhaps the ELP connection – Greg Lake signed the band – misled some people, creating expectations of decadent symphonic rock rather than the blues-drenched heavy swagger contained in these grooves. All the same, Stray Dog’s debut remains a classic of its kind.
ZZ Top “Rio Grande Mud” (London, 1972)
Speaking of stellar guitar pickers, ZZ Top’s second release was – and still is – a strong showcase for the talents of Billy Gibbons. He even wields a competent harmonica for the Little Walter tribute, “Mushmouth Shoutin”, and “Chevrolet” was irresistible enough for the aforementioned Mr Walden to tackle a cranked-up cover just a few months later.
Budgie “Budgie” (MCA, 1971)
The majesty of Shelley and Bourge. Not an easy task to select just one album from Budgie’s rich catalogue, but their first certainly merits close attention. Even at such an early stage the band were unafraid to mix primal riffing alongside tender ballads, with inspired lyrics throughout.
Johnny Winter “Still Alive And Well” (Columbia, 1973)
OK, I realise that strictly this would be considered the work of a solo artist. But following the disintegration of the group known as “Johnny Winter And”, JW pared down his line-up to a trio and returned with arguably the strongest album of his career. Sonically it doesn’t get much more honest than this. There’s scarcely any overdubbing, it’s all about performances.