Lee Kerslake will be best remembered as the man who drummed on several Uriah Heep albums and occupied the drum stool on Ozzy Osbourne’s 1980 LP ‘Blizzard of Oz’. Those works eventually earned him legendary status among two generations of rock fans. For Lee, it wasn’t enough: he’d more than proved his mettle as both hired hand and full time bandmate, but he yet to put his name to a solo album. That final piece of the musical puzzle began to slowly take shape in 2015 and with sessions taking place sporadically over the next few years, Lee’s solo debut became a reality in 2019. Like most solo albums made by rock drummers – excepting the extraordinary body of work created by Phil Collins – ‘Eleventeen’ (finally released in February 2021) isn’t what you’d call a world beater.
Like any band with a long history, Strawbs have gone through many changes over the decades. Musicians have come and gone; they’ve seen dozens of members come and go since their inception in 1964 – including legends Rick Wakeman, Sandy Denny and Curved Air’s Sonja Kristina – with each one bringing something different to the band. Through it all, Dave Cousins has been there to steer the ship. In fact, aside from very occasional silences, Strawbs have always existed in one form or other even though a lot of people would believe they threw in the towel some time during the mid 70s.
For most people, British progressive rock band Curved Air are known for two things: being the first band to ever issue a picture disc and for the having the legendary Stewart Copeland having occupy their drum stool in the mid 70s. Considering that vocalist Sonja Kristina had previously been an important part of the London theatre scene in the late sixties – appearing in Hair – and Curved Air actually scored a UK top five hit single in 1971, you’d expect them to be more widely celebrated. Perhaps the reason they aren’t is due to lots of their classically- and jazz-derived music being very hard going. Their earlier work often values complexity over obvious hooks – something that makes the funky ‘Back Street Luv’ single seem like something of an anomaly – and the way they switch between different moods from track to track can, at first, be disorienting. They are very much a band that requires a lot of time and patience before most of the listening rewards become obvious.
When The Almighty played the Donington Monsters of Rock Festival in August 1992, they were only the opening act, but they played like a band at the top of their game. Those forty minutes still play like one of the era’s most exciting live sets. Particularly notable was the performance of upcoming single ‘Addiction’, taking the band in a heavier direction – a sign of things to come on the soon to be released new album.
As co-leader of Dinosaur Jr and a reluctant figurehead for the slacker movement, Joseph Donald Mascis, Jr. became a hero to a generation. In the early mid-90s his band became favourites of MTV’s 120 Minutes, were fixtures on the festival circuit and were even booked for a live in-studio performance for the BBC arts review, The Late Show. During the first part of their career, Dinosaur Jr were a vital part of the alternative music scene; in their reconvened state and with great albums like ‘I Bet On Sky’ (2012), they continued to provide a huge influence over many bands where the distortion pedal reigns.
Given how much love has been lavished upon Dinosaur Jr over the decades, it’s strange how J’s solo catalogue has barely been afforded such high praise. Far fewer people have taken time to appreciate his ‘Songs For Amma’, his albums with The Fog or the one man acoustic works that have previously circulated. His extra curricular output has been met with such an indifference (by comparison) that even his classic ‘Martin + Me’ live recording failed to get a full UK release back in 1996.