REVIEWS 2nd Street
Despite poor health and major drug problems, Paul Kossoff managed to pull a band together and recorded two albums before his tragic death in 1976. I've yet to hear Back Street Crawler's debut album but have been suitably impressed with "2nd Street" and plan on buying the debut soon. I really like the tasteful folky blues tunes on "2nd Street" and Kossoff's playing is wrenching as usual. I've yet to hear a guitar player who plays with such body and anguish, every note is full of sustained heartfelt emotion when Kossoff plays. "Just For You" is a great example of his style, improvising and reacting to the throbbing groove and emotive vocals. "Stop Doing What You're Doing" is a thunderous rocker with more stunning guitar work and an unstoppable rhythm. "Some Kind of Happy" brings in passionate female backing singers to compliment Terry Slesser's vocals to create a powerful, soulful song. Slesser sounds like a mix of Rod Stewart and Paul Rodgers to me and the tone of his voice adds a lot of strength to the material. It's heartwarming to see that Kossoff could maintain such high standards after the demise of Free, but a shame that such emotive guitar playing came at such a heavy price.
Dedicated to "Koss"
1976 was an epic year of hard rock recordings, which included the Atco Records release of Back Street Crawler's 2nd Street. Unfortunately, the year also witnessed the passing of two young, yet legendary guitarists.
The 2nd Street LP proved to be the swan song studio recording from Hempstead born Paul Francis Kossoff. The former Free guitarist, who battled drug addiction and depression, passed away during a flight from Los Angeles to New York, on March 19, 1976. The cause of death was diagnosed as a drug-related heart problem. Like gifted guitarist Tommy Bolin, who died later in '76, as a result of rock 'n' roll excesses, Kossoff was merely 25 years of age. Paul Kossoff and Tommy Bolin left the world with a wealth of epic recordings during their short tenure, but there was so much more left in the tank.
Released shortly after Kossoff's tragic death, the nine-song 2nd Street is highlighted by the emotive blues-based fretboard work of the son of actor David Kossoff. Each heartfelt solo reverberates with passion, as Koss fronted the overlooked English group.
In addition to Kossoff's deft six string performance, vocalist Terry Wilson Slesser delivers a riveting performance with his soulful pipes. Keyboardist Mike Montogomery, who had a hand in penning eigth of the ten songs from B.S.C.'s 1975 LP, The Band Plays On, was replaced by John "Rabbitt" Bundrick. 2nd Avenue is guided by album opener "Selfish Lover", plus "Stop Doing What You're Doing", the acoustic strains of "Raging River", the six-minute "Just For You", and "On Your Life".
RIP P.K. ..KNOCK IT BACK!...JONFOX
This is simply one of the great underrated rock albums of the 1970's and the last album to feature Paul Kossoff on guitar. He actually died before the album was released due to a heroin addiction. It almost seems as if Koss knew this was to be his last effort and his playing is of an unusually melancholic and lilting quality on tracks like, "Blue Soul", "Some Kind Of Happy" and particularly the end portion of "Leaves In The Wind."
Blending beautifully with Koss' guitar is the keyboard work of John 'Rabbit" Bundrick. He has a haunting and equally reflective style that embraces aspects of melancholy and longing. His unique style brought a similar layer of sophistication to Free's final album "Heartbreaker." In more recent years he has been the regular touring keyboard player with The Who.
Of equal importance is the powerful, soulful and curiously unaffected vocals of Terry Wilson Slesser. His voice is just perfect for these well crafted songs which vary between the funky "Stop Doing What Your Doing", the acoustic driven "Raging River" and the pleading "Some Kind Of Happy." The latter song also features some nice blending of his voice with some impassioned female back-up singers. His voice never falls into any overwrought bellowing or bluster and always provides what the song needs without drawing special attention to embellishments. A perfect example of this is on the song "Just For You" which many other singers of the era would have delivered in an overdone bluesy growl. Here Slesser sings like a man truly pining for a woman he has recently lost. No bravado just a wish unfulfilled.
Two real highlights are the last two songs, "On Your Life" and "Leaves In The Wind." "On Your Life" is a perfect example of this band working as one with no showboating. The keyboards blend perfectly with the vocals, and the drumming of Tony Braunagel are tight but never intrusive. It's a a sad remembrance captured in song. "Leaves In The Wind" starts out as a nice funky groove with some tasty bass from Terry Wilson (like this band in general, an underrated bass player) before moving into its reflective second half where, appropriately, Paul Kossoff shows off his lilting guitar playing in all its glory. When Slesser sings "If you can't imagine, what is the use...Leaves in the wind" with Kossoff's sad guitar weeping along it's true magic and a perfectly fitting end to a very brief life, of not only Paul Kossoff, but a band with great promise. Of course, the band would carry on under the shortened moniker Crawler, with a new guitarist, but the rare magic captured here was never quite matched again. The only negative about this album is that it is too short! Pick up the 2004 CD release of this on the Wounded Bird Records label!
Just found the website and though it's late just wanted to scribble a quick hello and thanks for one of the most memorable gigs I ever attended, Back Street Crawler at Birmingham Town Hall, must have been sometime in '75.
The band came up on the stage lift, Koss with a pint and fag in hand!
At 17 I was in awe of Koss, pushed to the front and was under his gaze all night. He was aware of my adulation and at one point made as if to kick a monitor at me only to give me a wry smile. It sounds almost pathetic but I stretched to touch his hand whilst he was playing on his knees at the edge of the stage, you though will understand why that is a cherished memory.
I remember he cut a finger breaking a string and played for a while before taking a break for a string change and another pint and a fag!
As for Terry Wilson-Slesser, well you weren't Paul Rodgers so you had some work to do!
At first I couldn't get my head round this lithe, almost elastic and camp front man, compared with the more moody, macho Rodgers I also idolised.
As the gig went on though, the rapport between you and Koss, the tightness and at times the looseness of the entire band, allowed me to appreciate the excellence of the job you were doing. You weren't Rodgers, you were different, you were above all a progression at that time for Koss and a perfect foil for his guitar with your voice, and for his laid back humour with your aggitated, almost desperate rock star strutting.
The first Back Street Crawler album remains one of favourite and most played albums ever.
In parts it is on a par with Free, not Free of course but uniquely different, taking the sound of the Free At Last album to another level. I love the stripped down sound allowing each instrument and vocal to stand alone yet compliment each other, and the live production feel. The near the surface humour seemed to suit Koss and offered so much hope for a truly unique band and excellent live experience which was so much more real rock and roll than much of the pompous crap emerging at that time.
So sad, you and Koss could have been one of the great marriages of rock, what with all that tension and banter, a perfectly balanced harmony and discord if that makes any sense.
So, thanks again for the memories and I'll be looking out for Freeway.
Ian Crean (Deke)..Aug 2007