Various - Classic Rock presents 'Blues Rock'
When Cream’s Strange Brew - opening proceedings – drops in the disorderly vividness which makes it one of the decisive moments of the world’s foremost supergroup, not many rock enthusiasts would reject the apparent offering of exemplary catalogue. Yet, when considering the disastrously boring title of this collection, one may not help but think that it is just the top of a pile of classic blues rock tunes destined to accompany every masculine birthday card impaled to a ‘60 Today’ badge.
It may be, it certainly will be fitting the category of ideal ambience serving Dad’s college reunion BBQ. However three - notably true to form - numbers in, Free’s contribution is, somewhat tragically, an inspired one. Alright Now thankfully avoided (although the disjointed similarity of The Steve Miller Band’s Rock ‘n’ Me is canny), the charmingly roaring groove-metal track, I’m a Mover is worthily extracted from their 1968 debut record when Rogers and co. were still fresh teens. Hence it seems apparent that some creative deliberation has gone into the track-listing approach.
Avoiding the elite forces of Hendrix, Zeppelin and the Stones, the collection does almost successfully shine the spotlight on some of the unsung talents of the glory blues-rock years. Mountain’s Mississippi Queen is an immense slice of guitar grandeur – Johnny Ramone would subsequently cite axeman Leslie West as one of the great players of his era - and a line-up including Cream producer Felix Pappalardi on bass, understandably encouraged critics to label them as America’s answer to Clapton, Bruce and Baker. Equally respectable displays of fretting occur in The Groundhog’s Groundhog Blues with name and acclaim sourcing from one John Lee Hooker, who described the group as “the best-ever British blues band” after their support slots on his late sixties UK tour. Another intriguing glimmer from British shores takes the shape of Robin Trower, previously of Procul Harum, whose mid-seventies interpretation of the Experience produced goods such as the featured Day of the Eagle.
Confusingly, yet hardly regrettably included is The Band’s The Weight – a struggling tale, struggling to realise any relevance to the set, yet still managing to deliver as one of the most formidable compositions on there – alongside several uncompromising blunders from such unknowns as Status Quo (a brave attempt from messrs Rossi and Parfitt at The Doors' Roundhouse Blues essentially achieves nothing other than decent karaoke) and Gary Moore (the Shmaltz-blues classic, Still Got the Blues hardly making the grade), perhaps signalling clouded clarity in compiling. Thirty-seven tracks could quite easily be reduced to thirty or less, and total focus on introduction to the less-mainstream blues-rock artists of the time would probably give more balance to its function.