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Monday, March 21, 2011

Back Door - 8th Street Nites (1973 uk, fantastic jazz blues rock)




Back when giant carnivorous bass players ruled the Earth, Back Door were the hungriest of them all. They formed in 1971 as a jazz-rock trio, with Colin Hodgkinson (bass, vocals), Ron Aspery (keyboards, sax), and Tony Hicks (drums). Later Adrian Tilbrook took over on drums. What sets Back Door apart is the bass playing. While a few bassists -- such as Chris Squire, John Entwistle, and Jack Bruce -- have tried exploiting the bass' potential as a lead instrument, they were confined by bands where the guitar or keyboards were the usual lead. Not Colin Hodgkinson; he dispenses with these instruments altogether, allowing the bass to be the sole lead instrument. He strums chords on it the way you'd expect someone to with a six-string. Later bands like Ruins and Sadhappy have taken up this challenge, but many of Back Door's achievements remain unsurpassed.

After releasing four albums on Warner between 1973 and 1976, and touring with Emerson, Lake & Palmer -- drummer Carl Palmer produced their last album, Activate (1976) -- they broke up in 1977. Hodgkinson went on to play with Jan Hammer, Alexis Korner, and the Spencer Davis Group. He even had his moment of crotch-grabbing fame as the bassist on the U.K. version of Whitesnake's massive-selling album Slide It In. After a move to Germany, he recorded for the Inakustik label, with the Electric Blues Duo and with the Spencer Davis Group.

8th Street Nites is more bass-driven brilliance, produced by the late Felix Pappalardi, former producer of Cream. Though the album is less cohesive than their debut, it soars to even greater heights with its stand-out covers of Leadbelly and Robert Johnson. These blues numbers are largely played as unaccompanied bass and vocal pieces. There's something to this unadorned combination -- the inherent grittiness of the bass matched against his voice hearkens back to the raw power of Delta blues, where it's just a guy and his crappy old guitar. On "32-20 Blues," Hodgkinson sings an old Robert Johnson number while throttling away at the bass; on the opening "Laying Track," the whole band takes on Leadbelly in a sort of restrained funkiness, with the constant thrashing of a tambourine underlining the rhythm section's punches on the downbeat.
by Paul Collins


Tracks
1. Linin' Track (Huddie Ledbetter) - 4:01
2. Forget Me Daisy - 2:14
3. His Old Boots (Sein Alter Stiefel) - 3:21
4. Blue Country Blues - 2:47
5. Dancin' In The Van - 1:52
6. 32-20 Blues (Robert Johnson) - 2:25
7. Roberta (Huddie Ledbetter) - 2:50
8. It's Nice When It's Up - 2:25
9. One Day You're Down, The Next Day You're Down - 3:33
10.Walkin' Blues (Robert Johnson) - 3:15
11.The Bed Cracks Louder - 2:21
12.Adolphus Beal - 3:53
All compositions by Ron Aspery, Colin Hodgkinson except where stated

The Back Door
*Colin Hodgkinson - Vocals, Fender Bass Guitar
*Ron Aspery -  Alto Soprano Saxophones, Flute, Electric Piano
*Tony Hicks - Drums
Guest Musician
Felix Papalardi - Electric Piano, Tambourine, Percussion

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