Keef Hartley


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After the subtleties and suppleness of 1970's The Time Is Near..., the Keef Hartley Band's third full-length, the group returned the following year with Overdog, a set that kicks them into overdrive. Opening with a dramatic flourish of wah-wah guitar, the anthemic "You Can Choose" instantly wipes all memories of the intricate design of the preceding album off the board. Big and brash, "Choose" pounds rock into funk with savage delight. In contrast, "Plain Talkin'" is all grit and glory, strutting its Stax-y antecedents center-stage, and smugly smirking at their hard-rocking ex-Brit beat contemporaries, who lost the blues in their rush to rock. Elsewhere, "Overdog" puts paid to prog rock pretentiousness, as the band slyly slide from haunting wah-wah guitar and spacy effects straight into funk, and back out again through coursing, driving instrumental sections. It's a spliced styling that's reiterated to even more dramatic effect on "Theme Song." Keef Hartley's drums keeps those segments pulsing, but it's "Roundabout" that's his true showcase, as his skins rumble away under layers of dramatic brass passages and crash around the guitar solos. His drumming reaches an apotheosis on the song's 7" version, a blistering attack of swing-styled beats that prods the brass to even greater heights, while his crack drumming on the flip side of the single pushes the guitarist into hyper-speed and the horns into rousing solos of speed jazz, only to collapse into slower passages of big rock that slams straight into Detroit. After that, the gentler, jazzy excursions of "Imitations from Home" are a well-deserved breather, although not for Hartley, whose intricate patterns keep him on his toes. Only the Beatlesque "We Are All the Same" provides any concession to contemporary pop audiences, but KHB cared little for them, so intent were they on proving to rock fans that there was no need to desert R&B, soul, and funk in their search for more experimental music and/or harder sounds. On their last set, they delicately pointed out the possibilities; here they hammer it home.

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