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Steamhammer - Junior's Wailing  CD (album) cover

JUNIOR'S WAILING

Steamhammer

 

Crossover Prog

3.20 | 6 ratings

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Easy Livin
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
3 stars They were only passing through

British band Steamhammer were a fairly short lived outfit who existed in the very late 1960's and early 1970's. They released four albums during that time, although the final album, "Speech" was posthumous. That album was somewhat different from its predecessors, and contained just three tracks, none of which appear here.

Never a true prog band as such, Steamhammer explored the boundaries of blues rock and jazz rock, creating a powerful, diverse and appealing sound. Despite their short lifespan, the band managed to change their line up with impressive regularity. The core of the band though remained solid during there recording career.

This readily available compilation gathers together tracks from the band's first three albums, plus some B-sides and singles edits. Each album is well represented, the selected tracks tending to be those which featured in the band's live set.

The album opens in identical fashion to the first album ("Reflections") with the brief instrumental "Water, part 1" followed by Junior's wailing". How many people realise that this song made famous by Status Quo was written and first recorded by Steamhammer? The song is a driving blues number with an infectious hook and fine blend of standard blues with modern rock. The set thereafter jumps around between the three source albums, the following two being take from the third album "Mountains". "Ridin' on the L&N" may be over 10 minutes long, but this hefty live offering has little to do with prog. Indeed the song is of the type we would find on an Allman Brothers or Lynyrd Skynyrd album. We have good lead guitar, a drifting bass workout and a standard blues rock beat throughout. Don't get me wrong though, it is highly enjoyable. The following "Hold that train", also live, is similar in style and theme.

"Passing through", the first of the songs from the second album, "Mk2", is highly familiar to these ears, being one of the best on the early 1970's CBS compilation "Fill your head with rock". It has lost none of its appeal in the intervening years, and still sounds a fresh and punchy today. "Autumn song", which was released as a single, is a folky number showing much in common with Traffic's output from around the same time. The song only appeared as a bonus track on the CD release of the the "Mk2" album.

"When all your friends are gone" from the first album continues the pacey blues rock of that album while "Lost to you", also from that album, slows things down to a more traditional blues pace. All but one of the following five tracks are from "Mk2", although some were originally singles A's or B's and only added to the album later as bonus tracks. Of these, the pulsating "Johnny Carl Morton" is the pick of the bunch, the track being rather bizarrely driven along by harpsichord. "Even the clock", which takes us back to the band's début, sounds like an out-take from a Doors album, complete with organ backing and drifting lead guitar.

The final two tracks formed an A and B side extracted from the "Mountains" album. As singles, they are pretty ambitious and understandably found little success as such. As album tracks though, they work well.

Personally, this collection fulfils all the need I have for Steamhammer's music perfectly. It gathers together a decent cross section of tracks from their three signature albums, and presents them as a coherent and enjoyable hour and a bit. In prog terms, there is little to be found here other than some of the sounds and styles which would influence the genre. As a blues rock collection though, it is worthy of a listen.

Easy Livin | 3/5 |

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