Live at the Fillmore East 1970
This superbly recorded double disc (the original engineer was Eddie Kramer, best-known for his work with Hendrix) captured over a weekend worth of dates in February 1970 at the venerable New York City venue catches the Brit boogie quartet at the peak of their powers. These shows were sandwiched between their triumphant Woodstock set and the release of Cricklewood Green, generally considered the band's best work. They find the group primed through years of roadwork, as well as obviously excited to be playing in front of an appreciative N.Y.C. crowd. Kicking off with one of Bill Graham's patented individual-member intros, the group winds their way through the ominous riff of "Love Like a Man." Mixing extended and rocking versions of blues standards -- like Sonny Boy Williamson classics "Help Me" and "Good Morning Little Schoolgirl," as well as Willie Dixon's "Spoonful" -- with two Chuck Berry covers and some nuggets from their own catalog, Ten Years After burns through this show with enormous energy and infectious enthusiasm. Alvin Lee and his flying fingers stay firmly in the spotlight, but the remastered sound is so immaculate you can finally appreciate the contributions of the other, generally overlooked TYA members: Chick Churchill on keyboards and especially Leo Lyons' fluid bass work, along with Ric Lee's jazzy drums. The songs shift into overdrive on the jams -- the longest of which pushes "I Can't Keep From Crying Sometimes" to 20 minutes -- and amazingly stay interesting for the majority of that time thanks to Lee's sense of flashy dynamics, as he quotes liberally from Hendrix and Cream licks. Detailed liner notes from drummer Lee describe the scene, not only in terms of Ten Years After, but also of the musical camaraderie of the time. Some of this is almost embarrassingly dated -- the drum solo-laden "The Hobbit" is particularly guilty, as are the often-interminable guitar gymnastics -- and the Chuck Berry numbers might have been live crowd-pleasers but don't add much to the originals. Still, this is the best Ten Years After concert album (of the three in the catalog), and proves just how vibrant these boogie boys could be when inspired by the crowd and each other on a perfect night.