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Steamhammer - MK II  CD (album) cover




Crossover Prog

4.02 | 51 ratings

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Psychedelic Paul
4 stars STEAMHAMMER were a British Blues-Rock band with four albums to their credit. Their first self-titled album, released in 1969, was firmly rooted in the blues, but the album under review here, "MK II" (1969), contains more progressive Jazz-Rock influences. They released two further albums, "Mountains" (1970) and "Speech" (1972) before breaking up and going their separate ways. Steamhammer famously acted as the backing band for U.S. blues guitar legend Freddie King during his two tours of England in the late 1960's. The CD reissue of the "MK II" album included four bonus tracks added to the original ten songs on the album. Let's have a listen now and find out if this British Rock band really DO have the ramrod power of a Steamhammer.

This album is pumped up and raring to go with the 6-minute opener, "Supposed To Be Free". This Jazz-Rock number is no light refrain - this is a storming hurricane. It's emotional, it's powerful and it's incredible! This energetic and uplifting Jazzy number is the perfect opening to the album, featuring a lively and dynamic horn section with the golden-voiced singer sounding like he's riding on a wave of endless optimism. The album barrels along at full-speed-ahead with "Johnny Carl Morton", a pounding and percussive piece with the unstoppable power of a runaway train. This band probably have amplifiers that go up to eleven. You can't help wondering how the harpsichordist managed to keep up with the frantic pace of the drummer. The gently tinkling sound of the harpsichord never sounded like this back in Mozart's time. Slowing down the pace now, we're treated to two minutes of acoustic guitar virtuosity for "Sunset Chase", which brings to mind some of the acoustic numbers from Steve Howe of YES fame. It's back to basics now for "Contemporary Chick Con Song", a good old-fashioned dose of rough and ready British Blues-Rock, where the band return to their bluesy roots from the first album. Who knows what the song is about, but it's probably about a down-at-heel man who's done wrong by his woman, in the best time-honoured tradition of the blues. Onto Song No. 5 now and there's a change of pace for "Turn Around", a gently melodic flute and harpsichord piece, which gives the frenetic drummer a much-needed break after the energetic intensity of the earlier numbers. Next comes "6/8 For Amiran", and if you've ever wondered what a complex and Jazzy 6/8 time signature sounds like, it sounds like this. This supercharged song bounds along at incredible speed with the relentless Duracel drummer going hell for leather on his kit. You can almost picture Tim "the toolman" Taylor of Home Improvement saying what this album needs is "More Power!"

Onto Side Two now and we're just "Passing Through" with Song No. 7. This is a song which is sure to delight fans of Psychedelic Rock. It's very reminiscent of the American Psychedelic Rock bands of the late 1960's, featuring the beautiful sound of an electric guitar, gently floating like a breeze over the mellifluous melody. The music brings to mind the U.S. psychedelic band "It's a Beautiful Day", and it is indeed a beautiful day to be listening to music like this, when you can be transported back to those psychedelic flower-power days of the late 1960's. It's a nicely laid-back psychedelic grooves to trip out to. It's groovy, baby - although it doesn't require the use of any psychedelic substances to enjoy the great music. Does anyone know of any psychedelic bands who don't do drugs though!? No, me neither! Anyway, back to the album at hand. A short burst of the harpsichord follows next with "Down Along the Grove" and then we're moving swiftly along with "Another Travelling Tune". This is a 16-minute-long laid-back and mellow groove that's firmly rooted in the blues. This sounds like the kind of epic blues-guitar number that Eric Clapton might have done. The song rumbles along rhythmically like a train going down the tracks, with the melodious sound of a flute and saxophone in accompaniment. The music may not have the raw Steamhammer power of the earlier numbers, but it's a beautiful piece of music and a stellar highlight of the album. It's sixteen minutes of soothing and sophisticated bliss. Finally, we come to "Fran And Dee Take a Ride", an acoustic guitar instrumental, which immediately brings to mind Jefferson Airplane's "Embryonic Journey" from their classic "Surrealistic Pillow" album.

Steamhammer is the perfect name for a band with so much driving ramrod power in their sound. The "MK II" album is the new and improved, more powerful version of the original self-titled Steamhammer album, which was much more bluesy than the album we have here. If you're looking for an album full of riveting and rollicking British Rock, then look no further than this awesome album. In the immortal words of that great philosopher Ozzy Osbourne:- "It's Rock & Roll!!"

Psychedelic Paul | 4/5 |


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