Jess Roden Band – Blowin´(1977)

FrontCover1.JPGSinger/guitarist Jess Roden was born in Kidderminster in England’s West Midlands, and his first band was the Shakedown Sounds. In 1967, he joined the Alan Bown Set as their new lead singer. Although their records never charted nationally, he did pick up a fandom in London (and belatedly became something of a star on the Northern Soul scene) with the release of their single “Emergency 999.” He remained with the Bown group through 1970, after which he formed the band Bronco, and later worked on Wildlife, the third Mott the Hoople album, and with Keef Hartley on the album Lancashire Hustler. In the mid-’70s, he teamed up with ex-Doors John Densmore and Robby Krieger in the Butts Band, and sang on their first album. Roden finally emerged as a solo artist in his own right in the mid-’70s on Island Records, with his 1974 self-titled solo album, which was cut in New Orleans and included Allen Toussaint and Art Neville on keyboards. His albums throughout the ’70s got great reviews but he never saw any significant sales; in between his own work, he managed to sing and play on albums by Carol Grimes, Jim Capaldi, Stomu Yamashta, Sandy Denny, and Grace Jones. He was with the group Rivits on Island for one album at the outset of the ’80s. (by Bruce Eder)

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The former gravel-voiced Butts Band shouter sounds riotously confident on this live album, which has no real agenda except documenting a hot night before a British college crowd. Roden’s band is slick and proficient, with guitarists Bruce Roberts and Steve Webb being the standouts, though percussionist/saxophonist Ron Taylor gets lots of space, too. Roden and company manage to show themselves as diverse performers and crowd-pullers at the same time — no mean feat when hits drove the engine of ’70s mass-market rock. The preeminent sound is slinky, laid-back pop-funk, as exemplified on story songs like “The Ballad of Big Sally” or “Me and Crystal Eye.” Cut from similarly breezy cloth, “In a Circle” is an example of how Lowell George might have sounded if he’d grown up across the pond. The band stretches out on “Can’t Get Next to You,” which dips into the blues bag, but Roden’s husky howl shines brightest on the glistening title track (which also makes clever use of varying internal rhymes). There’s also a blistering boogie in “Jump Mama,” where Roden pushes his throat in the manner of peers like Frankie Miller and Maggie Bell. The album ends on an unconventional note with a brief, piano-led reprise of “Blowin’.” Unlike many live albums of this period, there’s no side-long solos to pad out an average evening — just a proficient band and their frontman throwing down before a packed house. The story would change after Britain went punk, but there’s no denying what Roden could offer. This isn’t an easy album to find, but worth the hunt if you see it. (by Ralph Heibutzki)

Recorded live at the Birmingham Town Hall & Leicester University, Autumn 1976

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Personnel:
John Cartwright (bass)
Chris Gower (trombone, perussion)
Pete Hunt (drums)
Billy Livsey (keyboards, vocals)
Bruce Roberts (guitar, vocals)
Jess Roden (vocals)
Ron Taylor (saxophone, vocals)
Steve Webb (guitar, vocals)

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Tracklist:
01. The Ballad Of Big Sally (Cartwright/Roberts) 5.51
02. In A Circle (Webb/Cartwright) 5.51
03. Desperado (Henley/Frey) 7.34
04. Me And Crystal Eye (Roden) 7.01
05. Blowin’ (Roden/Cartwright)
06. Jump Mama (Roden) 4.59
07. Blowin’ (Reprise) (Roden/Cartwright) 2.43
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08. Blowin´ Side 1 (uncut version) 19.19
09. Blowin´ Side 2 (uncut version) 19.51

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I add the inlet fo this album: An Island Catalogue from spring 1977:

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