Ten Years After, released in 1969. The album charted #20 on the Billboard 200 and #4 at the UK charts.
Ssssh was Ten Years After's
new release at the time of their incendiary performance at the
Woodstock Festival in August, 1969. As a result, it was their first hit
album in the U.S., peaking at number 20 in September of that year. This
recording is a primer of British blues-rock of the era, showcasing Alvin Lee's guitar pyrotechnics and the band's propulsive rhythm section. As with most of TYA's work, the lyrics were throwaways, but the music was hot. Featured is a lengthy cover of Sonny Boy Williamson's
"Good Morning Little Schoolgirl," with reworked lyrics leaving little
doubt as to what the singer had in mind for the title character. Also
included was a 12-bar blues song with the ultimate generic blues title
"I Woke Up This Morning." Ssssh
marked the beginning of the band's two-year run of popularity on the
U.S. album charts and in the underground FM-radio scene.
When Ten Years After released ‘Ssssh,’ their third studio album (and fourth overall, counting the live ‘Undead’) in August of 1969, the British quartet had no idea that their still-nascent career was about to accelerate into overdrive through a serendipitous set of circumstances — within and beyond their control.
In terms of the former, the new album represented an unconditional improvement upon the often tentative and unfocused releases that preceded it by dispensing with some of the myriad psychedelic distractions of the day in order to crystalize the definitive blues-rock direction that would become the signature Ten Years After sound.
The opening ‘Bad Scene’ alternated between frantic boogie and breath-catching breaks, before the remainder of side one began addressing band leader Alvin Lee’s wide-ranging suspicions about the opposite sex with growing intensity. First came the relatively tame and slippery, bite-sized ‘Two-Time Mama,’ then the more forceful, fierce, and fuzz-laden ‘Stoned Woman,’ and finally a fittingly lecherous cover of Sonny Boy Williamson’s ‘Good Morning Little Schoolgirl’ that duly evolved into an extended instrumental jam.
Side two opened in a more relaxed, almost pastoral fashion via the acoustic guitar-driven, slowly building ‘If You Should Love Me,’ before segueing into the rather Mod-ish ‘I Don’t Know that You Don’t Know My Name’ (showcasing Chick Churchill on piano and Ric Lee’s tribal bongos), the mumbling, stumbling groove of ‘The Stomp,’ and, wrapping things up, another gut wrenching, virtually proto-metallic reading of a classic blues grind — this time Lightnin’ Hopkins’ ‘I Woke Up This Morning.’
As for circumstances beyond the band’s control: the same month of ‘Ssssh’s’ release found Ten Years After performing a career-making set at the historic Woodstock Festival, and the resulting publicity and acclaim put them on the map, boosting the new album all the way to No. 20 on the Billboard 200 and No. 4 back home in the U.K.
What’s more, even the music fans who initially failed to recognize the significance of TYA’s Woodstock appearance amid the sheer hype surrounding megastars like the Who, Janis Joplin and Hendrix (or had missed out on the event, altogether), eventually “got the memo” when the festival’s official soundtrack LP emerged the following year, carrying the band’s sizzling blast through ‘I’m Going Home’ as a highlight.
By then, the men in Ten Years After were already busy promoting their next album of era-defining blues-rock, ‘Cricklewood Green,’ with many more creative and commercial benchmarks still ahead, waiting to solidify their legacy for the ages. But you could make strong case that this golden period began with ‘Ssssh’ and the one-of-a-kind circumstances surrounding it’s arrival.
All songs composed by Alvin Lee, except where noted.
"Bad Scene" – 3:30
"Two Time Mama" – 2:02
"Stoned Woman" – 3:30
"Good Morning Little Schoolgirl" (Sonny Boy Williamson) – 7:01
"If You Should Love Me" – 5:27
"I Don't Know That You Don't Know My Name" – 2:02
"The Stomp" – 4:35
"I Woke Up This Morning" – 5:30
Alvin Lee – guitar, vocals
Leo Lyons – bass
Ric Lee – drums
Chick Churchill – organ