Lee Curtis & The All-Stars

It's Lee

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Lee Curtis (aka Peter Flannery) at his best was a credible white soul singer in the mid-'60s Liverpool mode, and might have been another Dave Berry if he'd had a little luck on the British charts. As it is, listening to almost any of his individual tracks (especially after the first couple of Decca singles), one has to wonder how he never made it outside of Germany -- this album covers his work from 1964 through 1967, when he finally called it quits following a car crash in Germany, and it's all solid U.K.-style R&B-based rock & roll, including a beautifully guttural performance on "Slow Down," among other highlights. One also begins to understand where his limitations manifested themselves -- as time went on, Curtis tailored his sound to the tastes of the German audiences that adored him, and pop music, even in the rock & roll era, has always had a fixation on (or a tolerance for) saxophones, that American and British rock & roll outgrew once it evolved past Bill Haley's sound; and courtesy of Dave McShane, there's lots of good reed playing here that would simply have rolled off the ears of most U.K. listeners, much less U.S. audiences; Chris Dennis tries to do some impressive things on the organ, which is all well and good, but missing, amid the powerful vocals and all of their playing, is the guitar -- the lead work here by Paul Pilnick (a future member of Stealers Wheel and Deaf School) lacks presence and authority, and it all sounds "off" somehow. Additionally, Curtis and the band tend to be much more focused on the singles, which is obvious once one gets to the six bonus tracks here; as late as 1966, with "Mohair Sam" and the pop/rock side "Kelly," featuring Piggy Yanach on keyboard and someone called Scottish Dave on guitar, the singles just pump out energy and excitement, which is more intermittent on Curtis' album. In fairness, Curtis and everyone else throw themselves head-first into "Wooly Bully," and he gets points for having the courage to cover "Mickey's Monkey," even if the beat is slowed down just a touch too much. Liverpool completists should own this simply as an example of one of the better offshoots of Merseybeat ever to come out of Hamburg, and as a showcase for a great, too-little-known singing talent. [The CD was reissued with bonus tracks in 1994.]