With a blend of raw, direct blues and haunting psychedelic-drenched sounds, this list of 10 Best Ten Years After Songs showcases one of rock and roll's most interesting – but also most criminally forgotten – bands.
Formed in 1966, and led by the late guitarist Alvin Lee, the band finally got people to take notice after their incendiary performance at the original Woodstock festival. From there, Lee – along with (non-related) Ric Lee on drums, Leo Lyons on bass and Chick Churchill on organ – pushed the boundaries of the blues-rock format and in the process made a string of classic albums.
From those we have chosen what we hope is a fitting tribute to Alvin Lee, the 10 Best Ten Years After Songs.
'Stoned Woman'From: 'Ssssh' (1969)
Like many of their contemporaries, Ten Years After began life as a no frills blues combo. One of the highlights of the band's fourth album Ssssh, "Stoned Woman" tells the tale of a woman who is intent on keeping her man "stoned out his mind all the time." The band kicks up quote a racket here with a suitably raunchy lead from Lee, some groovin' organ work from Chick Churchill and the always dead-on rhythm section of bassist Leo Lyons and drummer Ric Lee. Like Cream or Fleetwood Mac, Ten Years After proved they could dish out unadulterated blues with the best of 'em.
'Religion'From: 'Rock & Roll Music to the World' (1972)
The peak of this LP, "Religion" finds Lee and company questioning more than just the tangible world. The slow groove creeps in as Lee sings "I never really understood religion, except it seems a good excuse to kill." At the time, religions, spirituality and self discovery were everywhere. In fact, Jesus was the subject of many a hit record at the time. Alvin Lee, however, has a different take on things – and, whether you agree or disagree with his views, the man could play some mighty fine guitar. The result is one of the 10 Best Ten Years After Songs of all time.
'Working on the Road'From: 'Cricklewood Green' (1970)
A killer rock and roller from Ten Years After's fifth album, "Working on the Road" is another take on the standard travelers tale, filled with a vibrant urgency that is irresistible. Highlighted by chorus that is both so simple and so perfect, "Working on the Road" is topped by a blazing solo as Ten Years After cook along with such force that they risk derailing before finally regaining composure by song's end.
'She Lies in the Morning Sun'From: 'Watt' (1970)
Brimming with a very pure pop style not usually associated with Ten Years After, "She Lies With the Morning Sun" comes together in a way that (almost) combines the melodic sweetness of Paul McCartney or Badfinger, before spiraling into this jazz interlude that totally changes the mood. Still, it works. The jazz gives way and the band surge back in full throttle, heading eight or so miles high. They once again land on jazz-filled water, never returning to the shore of pure pop this ship was launched from. It's like three songs in one.
'Love Like a Man'From: 'Cricklewood Green' (1970)
With a hypnotic riff propelling things, this growling groover burns bright for all of its eight minutes of glory. Ten Years After build intensity as they move along, something they were quite adept at – and once things get rolling, it's full-on guitar heaven. There's stellar interplay between Alvin Lee and organist Chick Churchill, and the band ebb and flow throughout. "Love Like a Man" was released in edited form as a single, and became their only U.K. hit, reaching the Top 10 in the summer of 1970.
'Let the Sky Fall'From: 'A Space in Time' (1971)
A strong, catchy riff is something Alvin Lee never seemed to be without. "Let the Sky Fall" dishes out yet another instantly catchy example to lure the listener in. Featuring a subtle, yet effective vocal, this latest entry in our 10 Best Ten Years After Songs swings and sways with beauty. Check out the pretty backwards guitar lines, and how they mix in seamlessly with the more straight-ahead lead work.
'A Sad Song'From: 'Stonedhenge' (1969)
Moody and brilliant, "A Sad Song" is one of Ten Years After's most haunting tunes. Alvin Lee sounds on the edge of total desperation as he recounts this tale of woe. As he sings, "the tears in my eyes are all that you'll find, the scars on my face just deepen my mind," you feel his pain, and the brutally sparse arrangement leaves room for his blues to shine. No wild solos, no studio trickery, no flash, just pure blues. This is as good as this style gets.
'Hear Me Calling'From: 'Stonedhenge' (1969)
A rollicking stomper, "Hear Me Calling" employs the bouncing bluesy groove always favored by the great Status Quo. This is prime, boogie-grooving rock and roll – and just one of many high points on Ten Years After's third LP. The groove is relentless and leaves plenty of room for Lee to roam with guitar in hand, dishing out another savage solo. "Hear Me Calling" was memorably covered a couple years later by Slade.
'I'm Going Home'From: 'Woodstock' (1970)
Though Ten Years After had been kicking around the U.K. scene for a few years, it wasn't until their appearance at Woodstock in the summer of 1969 that American rock fans took note. Even more attention was paid after the Woodstock movie and soundtrack LP were released in 1970. At that point, Alvin Lee and band were turning heads everywhere. Credit moments like "I'm Going Home," a live staple in the band's set for a couple years that was even released as a three-minute edited single. This lengthy Woodstock version is definitive.
'I'd Love to Change the World'From: 'A Space in Time' (1971)
Ten Years After's sole entry into the Billboard Top 40 was this beautiful song. The '60s were over, the hippie dream gone with them, and Alvin Lee joined others in trying to come to terms with a new decade and a new reality. "I'd Love to Change the World" surveys that landscape and, not surprisingly, comes up without a concrete answer. The song oozes with a certain sadness, and yet is achingly beautiful all the while. Lee also fashions one of his finest and most emotional leads here. For many, "I'd Love to Change the World" stands as the soundtrack to that post-Woodstock state of mind, and it's still a staple on classic-rock radio decades later.