If you’re after a particular sound, it helps to go to the source. So when Alvin Lee felt the urge to cut a flat-out rock ‘n’ roll record in the style of early Elvis, he travelled to Nashville to enlist the aid of his idol, Scotty Moore.
Moore and drummer D. J. Fontana weren’t just present at the birth – they were among the architects of rock ‘n’ roll. And while Moore was only able to contribute his inimitable guitar to two tracks here, he’s nonetheless a large presence throughout; sessions took place at his own studio, and it was Moore who assembled the band; in addition to Fontana, there’s Pete Pritchard on double bass and pianist Willie Rainsford.
As Lee notes, these gentlemen are masters of the groove, and the flawless foundation they lay down gives Lee lots of room to show he’s learned his lessons well. His leads here are tasteful and fleet, and while his vocals won’t win any awards he proves more than adequate on most numbers, wisely opting not to try too hard. The songs are all original, most capturing the vintage sound effectively; there’s lots of rockabilly and the R&B influence is unmistakable, but stripped down to its basics one can argue that most of it’s just blues speeded up. Included is a reprise of Lee’s “I’m Coming Home,” the song he rode to glory at Woodstock.
Given the maturity of the participants it’s not surprising that experience has replaced some of the youthful fire and energy that fuelled the music in its early days. So rather than a defiant sneer we get knowing smiles and a sense of warm camaraderie and mutual respect. But when things slow down to a mellower groove the sound’s not terribly far from J. J. Cale territory, and that’s never a bad thing.
Ultimately, though, the project soars on the obvious joy Lee takes in playing with his idols, and the loose, relaxed feel everyone achieves. (Lee had originally scheduled a three-week visit but everything was captured in the first two days). Once upon a time the very notion might have seemed antithetical, but Lee and friends prove rock ‘n’ roll can indeed grow up.