Savoy Brown


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In his brief liner essay, Kim Simmonds -- whose name is synonymous with Savoy Brown, having founded the group and been its only constant member -- says that this record is a return to basics without artifice, gimmicks, or varnish. OK. Fair enough. But if this is back to the raw blues for Simmonds and company on his millionth album, then why does it sound so polished? Steel's sound is very clean, and its approach to songs is, too -- the Lowell Fulsom tune "Monday Morning Blues" that opens the set is all but unrecognizable, having had all of its tough R&B and soul taken away to create a guitar wanker's trio approach. There's plenty of wah-wah, speaking of no artifice. Savoy's rumbling slide guitar craziness of old is back on Simmonds' boogie "Long as I've Got You," with its stinging slide guitar and plenty of amplifier distortion. The guitarist, who also functions -- unfortunately -- as the band's vocalist (what one wouldn't give for a Chris Youlden or Lonesome Dave Peverett up front instead of this monotone monotony), wrote or co-wrote six of the ten cuts here. "You Don't Do Thing for Me" is more of a rock tune à la Rod Stewart and Ronnie Lane than a Savoy boogie. It's a great cut, though. The reading of Pee Wee Crayton's "Daybreak" is musically commendable for the soft-handed touch Simmonds took with the verse -- though the guitar screams elsewhere -- but the vocal is so drenched in drudgery that it feels more like the tune should be called "Hungover Daybreak." Ultimately, if you are a fan of Savoy Brown, and this means a die-hard fan since there have been so many changes with the band, this just may be the return to form you were looking for -- but Jack the Toad, Hellbound Train, or Getting to the Point this ain't. Everybody else will continue to celebrate Simmonds' ability with a guitar while longing for a real vocalist to recharge this blues-rock dinosaur.

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