Album review: STONE THE CROWS – Stone The Crows/Ode To John Law (reissues)

This is an exclusive extract from a longer interview with Maggie Bell which is featured in an artist special broadcast on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio, Sunday 23 August  (5:00).  This is now available via Mixcloud (see above)

Part 2 is also available via Mixcloud

Stone The Crows/Ode To John Law

Angel Air Records [Release date 04.09.15] 2-CD

Rock music is nothing if not cyclical and I am sure that many early seventies musicians stifle a wry smile when they hear the latest generation of wannabe blues rockers, taking their cue from Led Zeppelin and contemporaries.

Stone The Crows were one of those early seventies bands, a staple at festivals, popular on the student circuit, and managed by Led Zep’s supremo Peter Grant.  Their early rise was effectively curtailed after May 1972 when their guitarist Les Harvey was electrocuted on stage in Swansea and sadly became another member of the “27 Club”.

Angel Air have done much to keep the band’s memory alive, and also highlighting their feisty singer Maggie Bell with several solo albums.  The latest reissues feature bonus live tracks, although these have previously been available on the 2-CD set ‘Radio Sessions 1969-72′ culled mainly from the BBC including – on CD1 – ‘Freedom Road’ and ‘Hollis Brown’.

The eponymous 1970 debut opens with ‘The Touch Of Your Loving Hand’ (also a live bonus on CD2) introducing two of the best blues-rock vocalists this country has produced: Maggie Bell and Jim Dewar.  The joint approach on vocals (echoed by the band’s contemporaries Robert Palmer and Elkie Brooks in Vinegar Joe) continues on ‘Raining In Your Heart’ (included on CD2 as a bonus live track). This track cracks along at a fiery pace with some super Les Harvey guitar and John McGinnis’ keyboard interjections.

Two covers (a Josh White song ‘Blind Man’ and the Beatles’ ‘Fool On The Hill’) give Maggie Bell the chance to stretch out with bluesy accompaniment from Harvey. ‘I Saw America’ filled one side of the original LP and features a number of blues rock to jazz themes with McGinnis’ keys and Harvey’s guitar to the fore. In places, they sound like The Doors at their moody best, with Harvey’s input always tastefully economical, much like Robby Kreiger.  ****

That debut album was followed up within a year by Ode To John Law which built upon their ballsy blues rock calling card.  Check out the opener ‘Sad Mary’, and ‘Love’ with its insistent and infectious riff whilst Curtis Mayfield’s ‘Danger Zone’ highlights Maggie Bell’s slow blues. With Jimmy Dewar providing bass and vocals (replaced by Steve Thompson in 1972), ex-John Mayall and future-Focus Colin Allen on drums, this band was a veritable “supergroup” at the time with, potentially, a great future.  ****

Hopefully these reissues will be followed by the re-packaging of their later albums and a reappraisal of both the band and Maggie Bell’s subsequent career.  Although she semi-retired to Holland in the eighties – “with a husband and a dog” – in the last decade she has returned to Blighty and performed with several artists including long-time musical journeyman Colin Allen.  She still performs regularly in Europe and the UK.

Review by David Randall

(This review includes material previously published by Get Ready to ROCK! in 2004-6)

David Randall presents ‘Assume The Position’ on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio every Sunday at 22:00 GMT.

The latest Facebook Live session from Canadian singer-songwriter Josh Taerk Sunday 21 February, 16:00 EST, 21:00 GMT

More about Josh:

David Randall presents a weekly show on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio, Sundays at 22:00 BST (GMT+1, repeated on Mondays and Fridays), when he invites listeners to ‘Assume The Position’. This show was first broadcast on 7 February 2021 and includes the Top 10 albums at for that week.

UK Blues Broadcaster of the Year (2020) Pete Feenstra presents his weekly Rock & Blues Show on Tuesday at 19:00 ( BST, GMT+1) as part of a five hour blues rock marathon “Tuesday is Bluesday at GRTR!”. The show is repeated on Wednesdays at 22:00, Fridays at 20:00). This show was first broadcast 26 January 2021.

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