Ten Years After – Watt (1970): Review

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Produced by Ten Years After
Label – Deram

By 1970 and album number six, Ten Years After were respected as a well honed blues rock quartet with a reputation as a fine live act and in lead guitarist Alvin Lee a performer of fearsome dexterity that rivalled many of the top musicians of the time. Their appearance at Woodstock the previous year and prominent feature in the subsequent movie cemented their commercial appeal, leading to the long haul of shows at virtually every festival both in Europe and Stateside. The year started with the highly successful and critically acclaimed “Cricklewood Green”, which for some remains their creative zenith. With little new material at hand and having completed an exhaustive tour during the latter part of the year it appears odd that they would want to release a new studio album less than 12 months later. It’s possible that this hurried recording may have been to fulfil contractual obligations, as soon after they signed a new deal with Columbia. That said, “Watt” is still a fine record even if some of the material is auto-piloted and Lee’s lyrics sound tired and throwaway, his guitar playing almost mechanically executed.

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As if to highlight the lack of creative spark, the album closes with a badly recorded live version of Chuck Berry’s “Sweet Little Sixteen” recorded at the Isle Of Wight festival from earlier that year. The inclusion of the silly Sergio Leone inspired “The Band With No Name” feels like the band are reaching for some form of inspiration and ending up drilling a dry well. Far superior is the funky groove that backs “I Say Yeah” with Lee cleverly complimenting his lead with a talk box accompaniment that sounds fresh and is one of the few times where the over used gadgetry from the 70s actually works to enhance the song. The exploratory “She Lies In The Morning” diffuses jazz rhythms with the slow burning blues and the instrumental section genuinely entrances the listener. “I’m Coming On” is a traditional upbeat blues rocker, and “My Baby Left Me” starts as a brooding ballad that builds to a powerful crescendo.

Whilst “Watt” may not be Ten Years After’s most challenging record there’s still bags of credits in the bank and even if this sounds a touch weary, they’re still producing a mostly engaging collection of songs.

7/10

Track Rating
1 – I’m Coming On 7
2 – My Baby Left Me 7
3 – Think About The Times 6
4 – I Say Yeah 8
5 – The Band With No Name 5
6 – Gonna Run 7
7 – She Lies In The Morning 7
8 – Sweet Little Sixteen 6

I’m Coming On

I Say Yeah

Gonna Run

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