Album Review: WIDOWMAKER – Widowmaker

Widowmaker

Angel Air Records [Release date 11.02.13 ]

Another interesting release from revival specialists Angel Air.

Widowmaker were a short-lived ‘70’s supergroup of sorts. Guitarist Luther Grosvenor was fresh out of a profitable stint with Mott The Hoople (and Spooky Tooth before that) when he put this band together with frontman Steve Ellis from Love Affair (‘Everlasting Love’. Yes, that one!) Grosvenor at the time went by the name of Ariel Bender, apparently at the suggestion of pop singer Lynsey de Paul!

The line up was completed by Bob Daisley on bass, previously of Chicken Shack and Mungo Jerry (and subsequently a hired gun with Rainbow, Ozzy, Uriah Heep, Gary Moore and Sabbath); Huw Lloyd Langton from Hawkwind on second/lead guitar; and Paul Nicholls from Lindisfarne on drums.

The material is a mixed bag and reflects the band’s diverse heritage. There are some juicy slabs of power-chording from Grosvenor on ‘Ain’t Telling You Nothing’, where Ellis opens up his vocal chords to good effect.  ‘On The Road’ and ‘Running Free’ highlight the twin guitar approach where Lloyd Langton’s slide lines are the light to Grosvenor’s shade. ‘Shine A Light On Me’ is built around a joyful gospel hook with colourful splashes of Hammond organ thrown into the mix. 

Some of it is pretty tame stuff though, ploughing a pleasant but unchallenging pop-blues genre. ‘Pin A Rose On Me’, and ‘Straight Faced Fighter’ don’t do much for the pulse rate. Given that Ellis has a fine rock/soul voice, it’s a shame his written output is much less ballsy here. ‘Leave The Kids Alone’ is the kind of mid-‘70’s pop pap that gave rock bad name. Punk couldn’t come soon enough.

The album didn’t chart when released in April 1976 and it is very much of its time. Infact the best tracks here by far are the bonus live recordings of non-album material recorded at the BBC’s Paris Theatre. These showcase the band’s rockier side, with plenty of riffage and gorgeous, fluid playing from Grosvenor on ‘Come Up’ and Ellis in fine voice on the excellent ‘Too Late’. El Doomo’ from Ellis’s previous self-monickered band is a beautiful power ballad, delivered with style and substance.  This material hints at what might have been possible under different circumstances.  ***

Dave Atkinson


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