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Keef artly band - The Battle of North West Six
 

Keef artly band - The Battle of North West Six

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Genre: blues-rock
Rating: *** (3 stars)
Title:  The Battle of North West Six
Company: Deram
Catalog: DES 18035
Year: 1969
Country/State: Preston, Lancashire UK
Grade (cover/record): VG/VG+
Comments: gatefold sleeve; mild hiss in spots
Available: 1
Catalog ID: 301
Price: $15.00

The debut LP offered up a decent enough slice of blues-rock and to be truthful, I wasn't expecting much more from 1969's "The Battle of North West Six". Judging by the liner notes and performance credits (former lead guitarist Spit Jones showed up on a number of the tracks),, the album seemingly featured quite a bit of material previously recorded and shelved ('The Dansette Kid Hartley Jam for Bread', 'Don't Be Afraid', and 'Not Foolish, Not Wise'). That wasn't necessarily a bad thing since the album had a far more diverse sound that the debut, including several tracks that featured commercial radio potential - check out the ballad 'Don't Give Up' and the closer 'Believe In You'. And here's the funny thing about the album - namesake Hartley was largely relegated to the background. Yeah, his playing was never less than professional (coupled with Gary Thain's excellent bass), but with the exception of a brief solo on 'Not Foolish, Not Wise' and a couple of brief breaks on 'Don't Give Up', there were no spotlight grabbing solos, or needless displays of exotic percussive instruments. Kudos to Hartley for putting the spotlight on the band.1.) The Dansette Kid Hartley Jam for Bread (instrumental) (Hewitson - Spit James - Keef Hartley - Gary Thain) - 3:58
The opening instrumental suite put the spotlight on guitarist Spit Jones who turned in a killer lead guitar that managed to blow way the BS&T-styled horn charts. Surprisingly effective way to open the album. According to the liner notes: "Basically a rhythmic tune featuring Spit Jones. Credit must go to Mick Weaver and Gary Thain for a basic arrangement and also to Henry's brass arrangement." rating: *** stars
2.) Don't Give Up (Hewitson - Spit James - Keef Hartley - Gary Thain) - 4:07
I've never associated these guys with sensitive ballads, which certainly made 'Me and My Wman' a major surprise. Seriously, who would have expected to hear them churning out a pretty, slightly jazzy-tinged, but highly commercial ballad? I'm not saving it was a great performance - Anderson seemed uncomfortable in the high key, but boy was it ever different. Here's what the liner notes said: "A good example of the other side of Miller's voice. This was to have been a short track, but Henry and Harry Beckett played such well integrated solos on the fadeout that it was quite naturally became a feature for flugelhorn." rating: **** stars
3.) Me and My Woman (Barge) - 4:24
Showcasing Miller's voice in a far more comfortable, growling pitch, 'Me and My Woman' brought the band back to hard--core blues territory. "The brings back memories (?) from y days as a Bluesbreaker. It features Miller on vocal and lead guitar. A nice, heavy arrangement by Henry, high notes by courtesy of Mike Davis." rating: *** stars
4.) Hickory (instrumental) (Hewitson - Spit James - Keef Hartley - Gary Thain) - 2:45
Another surprise - 'Hickory' was an almost cocktail jazzy instrumental. Kind of Herbie Mann-ish. Something you might have heard on your parents hi-fi if you're now in your 50s. "A flute instrumental written about a horse of thje same name. main themes and improvisanation by Ray Rarleigh; counter melody by Lynn Dobson and Barbara Thompson. A musical Breathing space between the last number and 'Don't Be Afraid'." rating: ** stars
5.) Don't Be Afraid (Hewitson - Spit James - Keef Hartley - Peter 'Dino' Dines - Gary Thain) - 4:25
Easily the album's highlight, 'Don't Be Afraid' aptly demonstrated Hartley and company could handle a conventional blues-rocker without any sweat. Once again the spotlight was on Miller who turned in a great vocal and Skip Jones who contributed the album's best guitar solo). Also kudos to Gary Thain for the underlying bass line. "A tune from the early days of the band with a solo by Spit Jones." rating: **** stars

1.) Not Foolish, Not Wise (Hewitson - Spit James - Keef Hartley - Gary Thain) - 3:56
This could have been a killer track, but quickly degenerated into a faceless mix of hard and horn rock.
"This is an "on-stage" number enhanced by the added power of a big band. It features Jim Jewell on sax. Drums by Gretsch." rating: ** stars
2.) Waiting Around (Hewitson - Keef Hartley - Gary Thain) - 2:29
"This along with 'Don't Give Up' and 'Believe In You' shows the maturity and originality of the band's presentt compositions." I'd actually agree with that description. 'Waiting Around' was probably the album's best pop tune with a surprisingly catchy and effective Motown feel ... seriously !1 rating: **** stars
3.) Tadpole (instrumental) (Hewitson - Keef Hartley - Gary Thain) - 7:00
A conventional slice of 12 bar blues, this in-studio instrumental jam session went on way too long. Yeah, you got to hear Mick Weaver, Jim Jewell, and Spit James solo, but so what ... rating: ** stars
"After several attempts to record the basic track for "Poor Mable" we laid back on a 12 bar for about half an hour. The section contained here features Mick Weaver and Jim [Jewell]."
4.) Poor Mabel (You're Just Like Me) (Hewitson - Skip James - Keef Hartley - Gary Thain) - 3:08
Country jam ? Spit James slide guitar was nice, but otherwise this really wasn't necessary.
"Basically tongue-in-cheek, but listen to the words." rating: ** stars
5.) Believe In You (Hewitson - Keef Hartley - Gary Thain) - 5:23
The album's prettiest song, 'Believe In You' sported a wonderful melody; Miller's nicest vocal, and some horn charts that didn't distract from the song, rather enhanced the overall impact.
"At this point the band personnel changed. With the now fill time participation of Henry and Jim, we recorded 'Believe In You'. This number marks an important step forward for the band as it is now. No extra instruments were added, except for Mick Taylor's guitar in the middle and end passages, and Henry's violin solo. Everyone in the band felt strongly that this number gives an excellent indication of things to come." rating: **** stars

Was it as good as "Halfbreed"? Nope, but still worth looking for since you can still find copies at a reasonable price.
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