Alvin Lee

The Anthology

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Because of his spotlight-hogging singer/songwriter/guitarist/frontman status in the popular Ten Years After, Alvin Lee seemed a natural for solo success. But, through a series of well meaning yet increasingly spotty albums released on a variety of labels -- none of which seemed to want to promote him -- Lee's career has been of interest to die-hard British boogie blues lovers only, which makes this 25-year double-disc summary of his dozen or so post-TYA albums so welcome. Typically, when artists choose selections for their own compilations, as is the case here, the tracks aren't those that fans might have picked. But Lee does an admirable job, not only in his mixture of undiscovered treats and some previously unreleased material, but in the non-chronological sequencing that helps this collection flow. Sure, the boogie quotient is evident, but after all, that is what Lee does best. So even when he's simply recycling a Chuck Berry riff on "Play It Like It Used to Be" or his own licks on some live Ten Years After material, he makes the best of a rather weak voice and the limitations that come with the genre. More problematic is the lack of specific track personnel, or even explicitly stating what album every tune is from, in the notes that Lee pens for each song. And why is disc two less than 50 minutes long when there was plenty more material to choose from? In fact, there are curiously no selections from his early effort In Flight, one of Lee's more popular releases. Of particular interest, though, are two tracks where friend and neighbor George Harrison adds his distinctive slide guitar ("Real Life Blues" and "The Bluest Blues"), which are obscure gems well worth rediscovering. Lee experienced a bit of a comeback in 2004 with the release of his In Tennessee project, in which the guitarist played with renewed vigor in the company of some Sun session men. This album closes with a fiery version of his most recognizable song, "I'm Going Home," from that disc. It is an appropriate way to conclude this generally excellent recap of Alvin Lee's inconsistent but surprisingly productive solo career through 2004.

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