Backstreet Crawler – The Band Plays On (1974)

FrontCover1The Band Plays On is the debut album from Back Street Crawler, fronted by ex-Free guitarist Paul Kossoff. Keyboard player Mike Montgomery composed six songs and co-wrote two others on the album, in addition to singing lead vocals on “All the Girls Are Crazy” and “Survivor”. He dueted with Terry Wilson-Slesser on “New York, New York” (a Mike Montgomery original, and not the tune made famous by Liza Minnelli and Frank Sinatra). Montgomery subsequently left the band and was replaced by John “Rabbit” Bundrick.

The Mike Montgomery songs, “Jason Blue” and “The Band Plays On”, had previously appeared on a self-titled 1973 album by Bloontz, in which Terry Wilson, Mike Montgomery and Tony Braunagel had played together prior to the formation of Back Street Crawler. (by wikipedia)

While Paul Rodgers and Simon Kirke left Free for Swan Song/Atlantic’s Bad Company, their ex-bandmate, the late Paul Kossoff, put together another group on Atlantic which sounded like…you guessed it…Bad Company. Terry Wilson-Slesser could easily be mistaken for Rodgers on so much of this album, be it the song “Jason Blue” or “It’s a Long Way to the Top.” This material is terrific sleeper stuff for the ’70s hard rock genre, before Foreigner made that whole world much slicker. Where Lou Gramm could sometimes annoy, Back Street Crawler creates real hard rock art, taking this oh so seriously. The song “Jason Blue” is a powerful potion, one that would fit perfectly on a classic hits station, arguably one of the best tracks here.

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It is one of six compositions by Mike Montgomery, the major force on this album. Montgomery co-writes two additional tunes and sings lead on “All the Girls Are Crazy” and “Survivor,” dueting with Terry Wilson-Slesser on “New York, New York” (a Mike Montgomery original, not the tune made famous by Liza Minelli and Frank Sinatra). And by the way, how many groups would have two guys named Terry Wilson in their band at the same time anyway? The more you play The Band Plays On, the more it grows on you. It is one of those albums that has enormous depth that can’t be heard on the first spin or two. Sounding so much like Bad Company on the same label was no doubt a drawback — Backstreet Crawler02the records showing up in the same section alphabetically at retail bins, their names so closely aligned, the unfortunate big difference for Back Street Crawler was no hit single emerging from this set. Mike Montgomery’s vocal style on the excellent song “Survivor” isn’t as gritty as Terry Slesser, nor as commercial. Slesser would leave after this project to be replaced by John “Rabbit” Bundrick on vocal, who similarly joined Free when they needed his talents to replace members moving on. “It’s a Long Way Down to the Top” could be Bad Company performing “Ready for Love,” down to the riff and the mood, but so many references to that band don’t take away from the fact that this is a solid ’70s blues-rock disc with hooks, top-notch production, and lots to offer. Wouldn’t be surprised if somewhere down the road people started picking up on The Band Plays On, songs like “New York, New York,” “It’s a Long Way Down to the Top,” and “Jason Blue” are ripe for being covered. (by Joe Viglione)

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Personnel:
Tony Braunagel (drums)
Paul Kossoff (guitar)
Mike Montgomery (keyboards, vocals)
Terry Wilson (guitar, bass)
Terry Wilson-Slesser (vocals)
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George Lee (flute, saxophone on 07. + 09.)
Eddie Quansah (trumpet, flugelhorn on 07. + 09.)
Pete Van ((saxophone on 07. + 09.)

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Tracklist:
01. Hoo Doo Woman” (Back Street Crawler) 4.17
02. New York, New York (Montgomery) 4.40
03. Stealing My Way (Mike Montgomery/Kossoff) 4.21
04. Survivor Montgomery) 3.35
05. It’s A Long Way Down To The Top Montgomery) 5.58
06. All The Girls Are Crazy Montgomery) 3.33
07. Jason Blue ( Montgomery) 4.57′
08. Train Song (Wilson/Braunagel) 4.36
09. Rock & Roll Junkie (Montgomery) 3.17
10. The Band Plays On (Wilson) 3.17

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