Sunday, October 11, 2015

Savoy Brown - 1972 [1991] "Hellbound Train"

Hellbound Train is the eighth album by the band Savoy Brown.

Comprising the same lineup as Street Corner Talking, Savoy Brown released Hellbound Train a year later. For this effort, Kim Simmonds' guitar theatrics are toned down a bit and the rest of the band seems to be a little less vivid and passionate with their music. The songs are still draped with Savoy Brown's sleek, bluesy feel, but the deep-rooted blues essence that so easily emerged from their last album doesn't rise as high throughout Hellbound Train's tracks. The title cut is most definitely the strongest, with Dave Walker, Simmonds, and Paul Raymond sounding tighter than on any other song, and from a wider perspective, Andy Silvester's bass playing is easily Hellbound's most complimenting asset. On tracks like "Lost and Lonely Child," "Doin' Fine," and "If I Could See an End," the lifeblood of the band doesn't quite surge into the music as it did before, and the tracks become only average-sounding blues efforts. Because of Savoy Brown's depth of talent, this rather nonchalant approach doesn't make Hellbound Train a "bad" album by any means -- it just fails to equal the potency of its predecessor. But there is a noticeable difference in the albums that followed this one, as the band and especially Simmonds himself was beginning to show signs of fatigue, and a significant decline in the group's overall sound was rapidly becoming apparent. 

It wasn't until years later that I heard Kim Simmonds explain that Hellbound Train was his anti-war ode to Viet Nam. It is a haunting, spellbinding journey that builds to a climax that leaves you stunned. The guitar work is incredible and Kim Simmonds is one of the most underrated guitar players and song writers I ever heard. He is also a very gracious and approachable person if you ever get the chance to talk to him. Savoy Brown is one of the cornerstone British blues groups of all time. I like the jazzy sound of some of their songs which is very reminiscent of Alvin Lee and Ten Years After. Hellbound Train is my favorite of all their albums. They are still touring so try to see them if you can.

Savoy Brown and Hellbound Train. In 1971 they gave us Street Corner Talking with their biggest and maybe only radio play hit Tell Mama. For the follow up album in 1972 Kim Simmonds and the band gave us Hellbound Train, with no radio play, never used on television shows or movies. This would make us say that their must only be a Highway to Hell.

For all the misery that hell is suppose to be, do you think that we would be able to just simply travel down the highway for 3 minutes 2o seconds or would the devil make it last longer like 9 minutes and some change. Heavy metal is all about the dress and banging music but when you watch and listen to stories about “The Crossroads” what music is always playing? Blues guitar! When your lead guitarist has been compared to the legend Rory Gallagher, and can play some of the best blues guitar on the planet, the table starts to lean heavily towards there being a train going down versus traveling down the highway.

Hellbound Train begins slow and runs that way with but a minor speed change for the first 5 plus minutes, but it allows all the band members to enjoy the spotlight without losing any of the quality of the song. With the late Dave Bidwell’s symbols keeping the time we get a heavy dose of Paul Raymond’s organ. Paul’s biggest claim to fame came after he left the band and joined UFO. Dave Walker voice fits in so well with the mood and tone of the song during this slow time and helps build the song up. Walker’s voice picks up around the 5:30 mark and the band members follow suit. The biggest surprise is for a song from the early 70’s we get way past the 6 minute mark and you haven’t heard from Kim Simmonds but that is soon to change. For the rest of the song Kim leads the band through this guitar blazing jam session that comes to a MAJOR halting end that will catch you off guard the first time that you hear the song. But by far makes up the final reason for why it’s a ride on the Hellbound Train that takes you to your abrupt ending in hell.

On the US LP, the title track on Side 2 ends abruptly, as if to add dramatic finality. On most cuttings, the song ends just as the cut is brought to the runoff groove. On the US CD, the song is faded out.

Track listing

    "Doin' Fine" (Kim Simmonds, Andy Silvester) – 2:46
    "Lost and Lonely Child" (Kim Simmonds) – 6:00
    "I'll Make Everything Alright" (Kim Simmonds) – 3:18
    "Troubled by these Days and Times" (Paul Martin Raymond) – 5:43
    "If I Could See an End" (Kim Simmonds, Paul Martin Raymond) – 2:54
    "It'll Make You Happy" (Kim Simmonds) – 3:26
    "Hellbound Train" (Kim Simmonds, Andy Silvester) – 9:07


Savoy Brown

    Kim Simmonds – guitar, harmonica, vocals
    Paul Raymond – guitar, keyboards, vocals
    Andy Silvester – bass
    Dave Walker – vocals
    Dave Bidwell – drums

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