Album review: STEVE GIBBONS BAND – Rollin’-The Albums 1976-78 (5CD boxset)

Pete Feenstra chatted to Steve Gibbons for Get Ready to ROCK! radio.  First broadcast 16 January 2022.

Cherry Red [Release date 07.01.22]

The Steve Gibbons Band family tree has so many branches, you’d be forgiven for thinking that it’s an impenetrable forest of rock’n'roll connections.

The man’s career is well documented, from his beginnings playing in strip clubs, to touring with The Who, Little Feat, Lynyrd Skynyrd and other rock’n'roll luminaries, to his time recording a bunch of streetsmart albums that still sound relevant today. And there is probably no better insider’s perspective than the one written by regular GRTR! contributor, Pete Feenstra, on his website. Take a look.

This (remastered) 5 CD boxset catches the band on the rise in the seventies, moulding blues, country, pop and pub rock into one homogenous sound that began to resonate loudly in the UK.

It’s the closest the band have come to offering up a representative body of work in one helping.

Any Road Up (1976) didn’t set the world alight, but in focusing mainly on rough edged, but finely tailored pub/street rock, it was a welcome alternative for many music fans to the rise of Punk.

It maybe attempts to tick too many stylistic boxes. Yet, that said, although the unrelenting drive of ‘Take Me Home’ and the poetic, hard edged pop of ‘Standing On the Bridge’ make for strange bedfellows, they are both exceptional examples of how to write and record outstanding material.

A year later the band recorded their follow up, Rollin On. (these were the days when labels pushed artists for at least one album a year).

An ironic cover of Chuck Berry’s ‘Tulane’, was subsequently released as a single, and became a welcome, if surprising Top Ten hit.

The same country rock (Now You Know Me) and pop (Wild Flowers) influences loom large on this second album as the debut, but overall the writing is sharper now and there’s a strutting, swaggering confidence across the board.

Live on stage is where the SGB separate themselves from other bands.

Remastered with clarity and crispness, Caught In The Act is testament to the power of live performance.

It’s the arena in which genuinely talented musicians can surprise their audience with “not previously released” rock’n'roll nuggets like ‘One Of The Boys’ and ‘You Gotta Pay’. Then deploy their bolted-to-the-floor rhythm section in building to the 1,2,3 knockout punch of ‘Tulane’, ‘Speed Kills’ and ‘Rollin’ to close the set.

1978′s Down In The Bunker is widely claimed by discerning music critics to be the pinnacle of the band’s studio recordings. Maybe they have been influenced by Tony Visconti’s populist production, which tries hard to bridge from the band’s street smart rock’n'roll groove to the sound of the late seventies’ zeitgeist. But the ornate instrumentation sometimes gets in the way of the songs.

That said, the catchy pop immediacy of ‘Eddy Vortex’ allowed for a minor hit single in the UK, and the toe-tapping ‘Any Road Up’ again demonstrated the sheer versatility of Gibbon’s songwriting talent.

The fifth and final CD in the set, a BBC Radio One In Concert, recorded live at the Golders Green Hippodrome in 1977, again demonstrates the excitement this band generates on stage. Being performed live seems to give their material an emotional weight, an intensity that grabs hold of the audience.

It might not be quite warts’n all, who knows, but one thing was clear, and was noted in the music press at the time – Gibbons’ live version of his self penned song, ‘One Of The Boys’ was easily the equal of Roger Daltrey’s version. It was The Who singer’s title track on his third solo album, released in the same year.

What we haven’t mentioned so far is the bountiful provision of bonus tracks across these 5 CDs. Many come from John Peel sessions, which is not surprising given Peels pioneering spirit. Others have been tracked down by Cherry Red’s archive detectives. There are 20 in all, helping form a clear musical picture of a talented band making its way in the world nearly fifty years ago. ****

Review by Brian McGowan

Josh Taerk’s latest Sunday Session was streamed on Sunday 17 July.

Check out previous videos here:

David Randall presents a weekly show on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio, Sundays at 22:00 GMT, repeated on Mondays and Fridays), when he invites listeners to ‘Assume The Position’. This show was first broadcast on 31 July 2022.

UK Blues Broadcaster of the Year (2020 and 2021 Finalist) Pete Feenstra presents his weekly Rock & Blues Show on Tuesday at 19:00 GMT 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 2 August 2022.

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