I was just a kid riding around in the back seat of a fast back mustang when my older brother popped into his eight track player Cricklewood Green. Up popped Sugar the Road with its stabbing opening riffs, in your face lyrics, “what about the people that scream and shout just give em fifty years and they might work it out” and by the end of that four minute song with its blistering leads I was hooked.
The next song Working on the Road chugs in and at the one minute and fifty mark unleashes a torrent of Alvin Lee licks surrounded by a melodic chorus. Well then who started rap was it the jazz scat singers who cares Alvin is spitting out lyrics and licks as fast as humanly possible that defy the chugging rhythm section and I’m rockin hard my fifteen year old head.
I’m having a good time headed somewhere in the aftermath of the sixties all in on the peace and love. I mean hell the President and then his brother, the Vietnam War, dead bodies coming home all over the news along with actual war footage and Nixon being impeached, acid, pot, the summer of love, Woodstock, Selma Alabama and righteousness seems like a helluva lot better way to go than bullshit violence to me 50,000 miles Beneath My Brain.
Screaming at the Stars the intro weaves its way in slowly and the build up is immense and intense with a ferocious bass riff launching into a fuzzed up and out of this world riff that just keeps driving and driving, the bass launching an attack, the guitar answering back all in the tonal fuzz of the time….”yeah, yeah, yeah” never sounded so good.
Can you love me with a thousand eyes?
Can you see right through my bones?
Can you kiss me with a thousand lips?
Can you melt a solid stone?
Can you hear me from a thousand miles
When you’re screaming at the stars?
Can you pull me up to jupiter
When I’m all hung up on mars?
And then the rollicking, rolling riff that ties up the end. Holly shit this music has my attention and “Why the hell have you been hiding this from me”! My brother tells the story to this day.
A false fade out with another taste of the furious 50,000 mile ending then a sonic intro to a classic Nashville 50’s rockabilly back beat, with classic 60’s lyrics and blistering Chet Atkins riffs just flying off the fret board. What the what? Just relentless playing back in the mix fast and clean shwee.
Me and My Baby Never Get The Blues….Me and My Baby Never Get Uptight… Me and My Baby Never Do a Damn Thing Right. I mean how perfect is that sentiment for righteous, rebel love. Me and My Baby Always Feeling Good Love Each Other Sure No Reason Why We Should the righteous ha in your face lyrics couched in a bouncy up beat swing session and two upbeat songs in a row have you feeling pretty snappy and then in drops the bomb!
Love Like a Man: Another quintessential riff rumbles along and around the two minute mark builds with organ and slashing full chords and Alvin just takes off flying with shearing rock riffs dashing off the fret board sent through a wonderful distortion and delay and how it builds in a cataclysmic orgy of sound busting through any preconceived notions knitting Hendrix and the Doors together in an aha moment of hey this is what all music should sound like. Forget Clapton is God Alvin Lee has tapped into the consciousness of the cosmos.
Circles comes floating down next through the ethereal with an acoustic guitar. This is a hall of fame closing song for any concept album a thoughtful introspection with Zepplin like acoustic embellishments and its a beautiful moment, a beautiful outro to a blistering album framed in an atmospheric tonal sense and universe worthy of Arvo Part.
I have got what I once dreamed of As a child, so long ago
But my life just goes in circles ’Cause one answer I don’t know
Does it matter what I do
Who will hear me if I cry?
Does it matter what I do
Does it matter if I die?
Wow rinsed and complete, cool fresh air filling your lungs after an other worldly immense workout. But wait Cricklewood Green isn’t over it deftly brings back the meaningful heaviness. As The Sun Still Burns Away slowly comes to the fore an ode to our unconsciousness attitude “as few say thank you for the day”. Alvin is letting us know we aren’t living in the right frame as affects of the industrial world stomp through his classic rock n’ roll wail blowing apart the soft landing of Circles.
The beauty of eight tracks is that they wind right around to the beginning again and in moments we’re having a good time baby having a ball.
“Keep Working for your pension until your sixty five don’t dig it at all, no, no don’t dig it at all” and has much changed?
Back in the day when albums were works of art from beginning to end Cricklwood Green sits up on the top shelf. Alvin Lee has left behind some phenomenal music and we will always have it with us if we are smart enough to look behind the glare of the current media and pop rock commercial fame machine which he stepped away from. I’m so glad he enjoyed his freedom. I highly recommend revisiting his catalog his music stands the test of time and Cricklwood Green is his most fully realized album.