Keef Hartley Band – ‘Sinnin’ For You: The Albums 1969-1973’ (2022)

    Keef Hartley Band – ‘Sinnin’ For You: The Albums 1969-1973’ (2022)

    Cherry Red Records has compiled the LPs, adding fifteen bonus tracks drawn from rare live recordings and singles, a total of sixty seven tracks, in a new seven disc box set on its Esoteric Recordings imprint.

    Disc one contains the band’s 1969 debut LP ‘Halfbreed’ with Hartley joined by mainstays Miller Anderson (lead guitar/lead vocals) and Gary Thain (bass guitar/vocals) who would remain band members for five and six albums respectively. The long player opens with an eight minute medley containing the album’s title track. The first section ‘Sacked’ is a spoof phone conversation of Hartley getting the boot from The Bluesbreakers with Mayall himself participating. Following the introduction of band members, the group moves into ‘The Halfbreed’ a blues rock classic showcasing Anderson’s lead guitar and soaring solo with Peter Dines contributing an organ interlude to the moody instrumental. ‘Born To Die’ is a ten minute tour de force with Anderson’s screaming vibrato solo complimenting his brooding vocals, Thain and Hartley locked into a heavy groove, Dines’ organ adding accents. The box set’s title track is a bouncy jazz rock number with a Canned Heat boogie beat and horns adding Chicago (CTA) style texture to the driving tempo supplied by Thain and Hartley, Anderson adding a thunderous solo and Lyn Dobson’s flute accenting the track’s broodiness. ‘Leavin’ Trunk’ opens with guitar panning from channel to channel leading to an insistent, driving boogie riff, Anderson’s guitar roaring over the top, Thain and Hartley supplying the instrumental’s deep groove. Anderson’s breezy vocals, understated lead guitar and restrained wah wah aided solo highlight the slow burning blues number ‘Just To Cry’. ‘Too Much Thinking’ is reminiscent of B.B. King with its deep bluesy vocals, Dines’ organ and Henry Lowther’s violin adding a Mayall vibe before Anderson’s guitar takes over, bringing to mind Fenton Robinson’s epic ‘Loan Me A Dime’, Lowther’s violin outro perfect for the song’s brooding, moody tone. The album closes with the medley ‘Think It Over/Too Much To Take’ featuring a wah wah, B3 and thundering bass intro, Anderson’s nicely panned solo segueing to Anderson’s wah wah, with Mayall’s phoned firing of Hartley reprised as the album closes. The disc closes with a gentle, almost folk blues ‘Leave It Til Morning’ featuring Anderson’s restrained bottleneck guitar soloing the song out.

    Disc two centers around the 1969 album ‘The Battle Of North West Six’ composed of ten shorter, more concise tracks, and is a bit lighter than its predecessor. The LP opens with the jazz-rock medley ‘The Dansette Kid/Jam For Bread’ featuring a throbbing bass and pounding drum supplemented by Mick Weaver’s organ, Anderson’s guitar roaring in as the tune segues into a guitar and organ jam, with Anderson’s solo especially notable. ‘Don’t Give Up’ has breezy falsetto vocals by Anderson, whose subdued guitar momentarily gets heavy before Weaver’s organ gently serenades the outro. ‘Me And My Woman’ is uptempo, with a B.B. King vibe, Anderson’s solo shining on the traditional blues style song. ‘Hickory’ is a gentle track dominated by Jim Jewel’s flute, Weaver’s organ, with Anderson adding a taste of wah wah. ‘Don’t Be Afraid’ is an upbeat take led by Weaver’s B3 with rhythm guitarist Spit James (Ian Cruickshank), Thain and Hartley supplying a deep groove, Anderson offering Bob Hite style vocals, his solo climbing as it reverberates the tune’s outro. ‘Not Foolish, Not Wise’ is led by Weaver’s B3, Lowther’s trumpet and Jewel’s tenor saxophone, the rest of the band laying back. ‘Waiting Around’ is melodic, Weaver’s piano and Anderson’s vocals giving an almost gospel feel with Lowther and Jewel adding just a bit of punch. ‘Tadpole’ is an extended instrumental, led by Weaver’s B3 with Anderson’s bottleneck adding accents and Thain’s bass bobbing as Hartley effortlessly keeps time.’Poor Mabel (You’re Just Like Me)’ is a countryish track with mouth harp, slide guitar and B3 adding accents to Anderson’s vocals. ‘Believe In You’ is another country flavored take with gorgeous Anderson vocals, Lowther’s violin taking the lead aided by Lowther and Jewel’s horns, the result reminiscent of a mixture of Chicago and The Youngbloods with a bit of Blood, Sweat & Tears added for good measure, as the album draws to a close. Four live tracks are added as bonus material. ‘Spanish Fly’ , never recorded in the studio, is a mix of Chicago and Paul Butterfield, with horns adding punch to the track’s heavy riff and Anderson adding a towering solo to the instrumental. The disc closes with live recordings of ‘Me And My Woman’ and ‘Not Foolish, Not Wise’ from ‘The Battle Of North West Six’ and ‘Too Much Thinking’ from the group’s debut, all sterling performances with Anderson’s guitar standing out in particular.

    Disc three contains the 1970 LP ‘The Time Is Near’. ‘Morning Rain’ features a feedback intro, becoming a folk rocker with gentle vocals, piano and rhythm section performances enhanced by punctuation from the horn section. With the feel of early Chicago/CTA ‘From The Windows’ adds a Rascals vibe with its restrained guitar, piano and rhythm section leading to a trumpet solo. The album’s title track is a ten minute piece of introspection with Lyle Jenkins’ flute prominently on display, Anderson contributing a solo that would have made B.B. King proud, vocal harmonies and relaxed organ adding to the gorgeous melody, as Anderson sings “I don’t feel like thinkin’, I got so much to say…..The time is near, in my life I knew no fear”. ‘You Can’t Take It With You’ is seven and a half minutes of further introspection, this time examining materialism, a piece of jazz fusion that would fit Mayall’s catalog of the day perfectly. At the five minute mark Anderson uses a Terry Kath style riff to carry the tune to a close. ‘Premonition’ features a Zombies like organ intro, sax solo and a restrained Santanaesque solo by Anderson, followed by a short Thain solo with horns joining as the gorgeous instrumental draws to a close. ‘Another Time, Another Place’ is a folk rock bit of introspection concerning surrendering to life and nature with trumpets joining Anderson’s acoustic guitar. The album closer ‘Change’ is yet more introspection, “all we need is something we can lean on, all we need is something we can depend on” followed by “time flies by so fast, but the world is at my feet” as Anderson turns up the heat, soloing and singing of “how things remain through all of the change”.

    Disc four centers around 1971s ‘Underdog’. The opening track ‘You Can Choose’ features Weaver’s B3 intro which gives the tune a Spencer Davis Group feel. Thain’s bass solo gives way to Anderson’s wah wah driven solo that plays the song out. ‘Plain Talkin’ has an Allman Brothers vibe thanks to Anderson’s Dickie Betts type solo, with Weaver’s B3 adding flavor. An eight minute medley ‘Theme Song/En Route/Theme Song Reprise’ opens with acoustic guitar, flute and spoken word vocals, giving more than a hint of Greg Lake’s ELP tunes. The song segues to Anderson’s revved up guitar joined by Jenkins’ flute, then Weaver’s electric piano picks up the pace as the band locks in, Thain’s thundering bass and Anderson’s guitar building the insistent riff aided by Hartley’s drum fills to push the tune before segueing to a Lake like acoustic guitar and vocal outro. ‘Overdog’ is a funky number that opens with feedback before Anderson’s wah wah, Weaver’s B3 and electric piano take over, giving the tune a Billy Preston & Keith Emerson feel, with Anderson’s guitar soaring over the top as the song comes to a close. ‘Roundabout’ brings a return to the Spencer Davis Group sound with its heavy B3, bass and drum groove before Anderson’s wah wah and vocals take center stage and he sings of how “the world is like a roundabout spinning around”. After a sax interlude with Thain’s bass racing, Anderson’s wah wah returns and he sings about the confusion of life with “night is day, day is night” joined by Peter Dines’ Hammond with horns adding texture, before Anderson adds a fiery riff outro. ‘Imitation From Home’ is a free flowing, instrumental jazz rocker with Weaver’s electric piano leading a relaxed rhythm section followed by a saxophone solo. The album closer ‘We Are The Same’ is a gentle acoustic guitar and vocal tune regarding how inconsequential we are in the scheme of life, “we are what we are and that ain’t much…, I am just the same as you, and you’re the same as me”. Anderson’s understated solo fits perfectly as he closes with “we are all what we are, yes, we are all what we are”. The bonus material begins with an eight minute live take on ‘Colours (You Can Choose)’, a retitled take on ‘You Can Choose’. A live version of ‘Roundabout’ is next, followed by an eight minute performance of ‘You Can’t Take It With You’ from ‘The Time Is Now’ and an eight minute run through ‘Just A Cry’, a retitled ‘Just To Cry’ from the band’s debut LP. The disc closes with the two sided single version of ‘Roundabout’, with a combined run time of over seven minutes, a bit more than a minute longer than the album version.

    Disc five centers around the later 1971 live LP ‘Little Big Band’ recorded at The Marquee Club, June 13 and 14, 1971 with the core of Anderson, Thain, and Hartley joined by the likes of Johnny Almond, Chris Mercer, Lyn Dobson and Pete York. The sound is much more jazz oriented as a full horn section is featured. As a result, Anderson’s guitar is much less prominent although his vocals are still front and center. The amalgamation of musicians open with a near nine minute version of ‘You Can’t Take It With You’ from ‘The Time Is Now’, Anderson’s gorgeous vocals blending nicely with the all star jazz players Hartley gathered. Next up is a five and a half minute take on ‘Me And My Woman’ from ‘The Battle Of North West Six’ with Anderson’s gorgeous lead line and vocals joined by Derek Austin’s mid-tune B3 interlude, Anderson’s guitar still roaring, the horns acting as support rather than lead instruments. Likewise, ‘Not Foolish, Not Wise’ from the same album showcases Anderson and Austin on guitar and Hammond organ. Anderson’s understated solo is followed by a Hartley drum solo, Anderson adding a second solo before the saxophones take center stage, the song ending at the five minute mark, followed by a short take on ‘My Country Tis Of Thee’ much to the delight of the crowd, the song running out with banter between the band and audience. The album’s second side is composed of a twenty two minute, four part medley, taken from ‘Halfbreed’. The opening instrumental section ‘Leavin’ Trunk’ features Chris Mercer’s flute, Mick Weaver’s organ and Anderson’s restrained guitar segueing into the instrumental title track with Anderson’s guitar and Weaver’s Hammond spotlighted although the horn section is prominent. Anderson’s solo marks the segue into a ten minute take on ‘Just A Cry’ in a much gentler version, Anderson’s guitar subdued although he belts out the vocals before the horn section takes over. Hartley breaks into a drum solo which carries the tune to the seventeen minute mark when the band moves into ‘Sinnin’ For You’ with Anderson’s vocals dominant, leading to a Weaver organ solo running a bit over a minute to the twenty minute mark when Anderson’s vocals rejoin to close out the medley and album.

    Disc six is built around the 1972 album ‘Seventy Second Brave’, the first without Anderson’s lead guitar and vocals and last with Thain on bass and vocals. The album opens with the laid back ‘Hearbreakin’ Woman’ an acoustic number dominated by Mick Weaver’s B3 and Chris Mercer’s saxophone along with restrained wah wah guitar and gorgeous vocals by Junior Kerr and the steady rhythm section of Thain and Hartley. ‘Marin County’ has Mercer’s sax front and center, Pete Wingfield contributing lovely vocals and a short piano solo, with Kerr adding two guitar solos, the second wah wah fueled, which plays the song out. ‘Hard Pill To Swallow’ features delicate piano and vocals by Wingfield and restrained guitar by Kerr. Kerr’s ‘Don’t You Be Long’ is more uptempo with a shuffle beat, his guitar complimented by Wingfield’s piano and Weaver’s organ. ‘Nickturns’ has a delicate melody, with a flute intro by Mercer before Wingfield and Weaver take charge on piano and organ. ‘Don’t Sign It’ is Mercer’s sad jazz rock saga of signing away one’s publishing rights with Kerr soloing the tune’s final two minutes away. ‘Always Thinking Of You’ is a mid-tempo track with Mercer’s sax and Weaver’s organ to the fore and Mercer contributing a standout solo. Thain’s ‘You Say Your’re Together Now’ is an acoustic tune with ironic lyrics such as “you’re feeling cold, you’re growing old……you say you’re together now…..what’s gone wrong?……no, you ain’t got no time to change, nor the strength to change the world…..what’s gone wrong”? The song’s irony lies in the fact that just two years later, after joining Uriah Heep on bass guitar and vocals Thain would tragically die of a heroin overdose. The album closes with the short instrumental ‘What It Is’ driven by Kerr’s wah wah guitar and Wingfield’s piano aided by Mercer’s sax. The disc closes with early live studio takes of ‘Don’t You Be Long’, ‘Don’t Sign It’, ‘Marin County’ and ‘Always Thinkin’ Of You’.

    Disc seven contains Hartley’s 1973 LP ‘Lancashire Hustler’ which would prove to be his last on Deram and was credited solely to the drummer, aided by Kerr and Weaver, with session musicians Jess Roden on vocals, Jean Rouselle on keyboards and Philip Chen on bass. The album is much poppier than Hartley’s previous long players and was done piecemeal as the drummer had rejoined John Mayall, touring with his band. The opening tune ‘Circles’ is an atmospheric tune, with Rouselle’s piano and Kerr’s crisp guitar complimenting powerful Roden vocals with Weaver adding a moog interlude. ‘You And Me’ is dominated by Weaver’s moog, Chen’s booming bass and Kerr’s wah wah guitar. Kerr’s guitar and Rouselle’s piano set the tone for ‘Shovel A Minor’, with nice interplay between the two and Chen adding a powerful bass line. ‘Australian Lady’ is full of romantic sentiment, Roden’s vocals meshing nicely with Kerr’s guitar and Rouselle’s piano, both contributing tasteful solos. ‘Action’ is an uptempo number with Kerr’s swirling guitar and Rouselle’s piano shaping the sound and Chen adding a snappy bass solo. ‘Something About You’ is dominated by Weaver’s moog, Roden’s gorgeous vocals and Kerr’s snarling, swirling guitar, the latter contributing two solos. ‘Jennie’s Father’ is a melodic pop tune showcasing Rouselle’s piano and Roden’s vocals. The album closer, and highlight, is a hot six minute cover of Sly & The Family Stone’s ‘Dance To The Music’ with Roden introducing the band, the melody featuring Weaver on organ and moog, with Hartley supplying the heavy beat and Kerr’s wah wah guitar snaking in and out before he closes the tune, album and box set with a snarling solo.

    The seven discs of ‘Sinnin’ For You: The Albums 1969-1973’ come in replica mini-LP sleeves which fit snugly in a clamshell box. The set contains a 48 page full color booklet with full track annotations and is profusely illustrated with photos of the band, album artwork, posters and other memorabilia, an introduction by compiler Mark Powell and insightful commentary by Hartley himself. The Keef Hartley Band has never sounded better thanks to the 24 bit mastering job of Paschal Byrne. The box set will appeal to fans of blues rock and jazz rock fusion as well as 1960s and 1970s rock music in general and comes most highly recommended.

    Kevin Rathert

    Keef Hartley Band – ‘Sinnin’ For You: The Albums 1969-1973′ (Cherry Red Records 2022)


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