Various Artists

The Secret Sessions

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Listening to this album is to hear a real tragedy for rock & roll -- a tragedy that this supergroup, as opposed to such overhyped outfits as Blind Faith and Ginger Baker's Air Force, never got its work out in its own time, and that Pappalardi and Ronson are no longer with us. From the opening notes of "Easy Money" to the ironic final track, "Growing Old With Rock 'n Roll," it radiates inspiration, power, and authority in songwriting and execution, and extraordinary boldness. As fine as Ronson's playing is -- and he does some great mandolin-style riffing, apart from some of his most inspired and fluid rock leads (in tandem with Leslie West on three tracks) -- the dominant players are Laing at the drum kit and Pappalardi on bass, who seemingly pick up right where Mountain left off. Coupled with Hunter's songwriting and his and Laing's singing, the whole effect is of a top-flight hard rock band running on all cylinders from the get-go, one that could have blown any rivals off the stage. As a bonus, two outtakes from Laing's 1977 solo album Makin' It On the Street are included, cut in Macon, Georgia with Dickey Betts and Eric Clapton. These are appendices more to Laing's work, or to the Allman Brothers' history, than to the work of this quartet, but they don't detract from the rest -- indeed, "Growing Old With Rock 'N Roll" may be the best thing Laing has ever done.

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