Except for founding leader/guitarist Kim Simmonds, this long-lived band's 2003 lineup bears no resemblance to the original British group formed in 1966. Still, Savoy Brown deserves credit simply for recording a respectable, even high-quality blues album over 35 years into its existence. Hot off a terrific solo acoustic release, 2001's Blues Like Midnight, a reinvigorated Simmonds signed with high-profile indie Blind Pig and churned out a classy set of smooth yet compelling electric blues. Not as soul-based as in the past, strains of funk ("(Hard Time) Believing in You"), R&B ("Can't Take It With You"), and rock ("When It Rains") help push the group beyond its lackluster and obscure efforts from the past decade. Savoy Brown was least successful when its muscular, amped-up boogie was forced and stilted; yet here the sound is warm and organic. As a singer, Simmonds isn't in a league with previous Savoy Brown vocalists such as the gruff Chris Youlden, the soulful Dave Walker, or the gritty Lonesome Dave Peverett. But he puts across these songs with a low-key, smoky intensity that meshes perfectly with the current lineup's less aggressive attack. Well into his fifties, Simmonds' refined, silvery leads snarl with maturity and subtlety, providing the band's distinctive sound. In particular, his repetitious riff and dusky vocal on "Shake It All Night" convey a J.J. Cale sense of the murky backwoods swamp, heightened by a hypnotic, snakelike slide guitar solo. The disc's only non-original is a slick but classy, partially acoustic version of Blind Boy Fuller's "Meat Shaking Woman." Keeping Savoy Brown's history of tacky, often schlocky album art intact, Strange Dreams' lurid sci-fi cover is not indicative of the superb music inside. Fans of the band's seminal '60s work will find plenty to enjoy here from a name they might have written off or just forgotten.
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AllMusic Review by Hal Horowitz