Co-founder of Welsh wizards Man and lifelong rock’n’roll raconteur, Deke Leonard was in and out of that legendary band more times than Harold Wilson collected and handed in the keys to 10 Downing Street. After being sacked by Man in early 1972 Deke recorded his first solo album Iceberg, starting in May of that year, with the album eventually being released in 1973.
Leonard was always an old-fashioned rock’n’roller at heart, and during his spells in Man his presence kept a check on their looser jamband instincts, as you can see in the 20-minute version of Spunk Rock on the fabulous Greasy Truckers compilation album recorded earlier in 1972 with Deke in the band. This track remains my favourite ever jamming track, as there is not an ounce of fat on it. Contrast that with the following year’s similarly lengthy Deke-less C’mon, a different kettle of spacerockin’ hippy rambling entirely…I still love it all the same.
Deke tells a great story as his three “life on the road” autobiographies to date attest, and the cover booklet tale regarding his trademark humbug Telecaster is a fine example. If you look closely you will see that the Telecaster has a Stratocaster neck. This is because he had to replace the original after nearly getting electrocuted, which apparently “screwed the neck up”, requiring the temporary replacement for the photo. One wonders what it did to the guitarist, never mind the neck of his instrument!
A few of the tunes on this back-to-basics R&B knees-up of an album found their way into Man’s set when he rejoined in 1974. One of these is the belting 7171-551, and the tale behind that is a good one. Originally the tune had a working title that was actually Mike Nesmith’s phone number. Quite rightly Deke decided he couldn’t use that for the title on the record, so the track listing for the release was changed. Unfortunately the record label printed the first batch of the LP with Nesmith’s actual 10 digit phone number! Your reviewer now goes to check his vinyl copy…nope, not a first pressing, then…damn!
Mixing rock’n’roll stompers with souped up psychedelicised country rock, Leonard is joined by a fine cast of the Manband family past, present and future, and by members of the closely related band Help Yourself. Dave Edmunds lends production assistance on future Man track A Hard Way To Live, a song released as a single. Deke had to deconstruct Edmunds’ layered production, lest it sounded “exactly like a Dave Edmunds record”. Deke ponders in his wryly humorous way that had he left it alone he might have had a hit with it.
All in all this album is a fine representation of Leonard’s good time vibe, and the informative booklet plus six bonus tracks taken from non-album singles, b-sides and outtakes make this CD very good value for money indeed.
01. Razorblade And Rattlesnake (6:02)
02. I Just Can’t Win (2:42)
03. Lisa (3:54)
04. Nothing Is Happening (4:33)
05. Looking For A Man (3:50)
06. A Hard Way To Live (3:27)
07. Broken Ovation (5:28)
08. Jesse (4:08)
09. Ten Thousand Takers (3:06)
10. The Ghost Of Musket Flat (2:48)
11. Crosby (Second Class Citizen Blues) (1:53)
12. 7171 551 (5:29)
~ Bonus tracks:
13. Diamond Road (3:48)
14. Turning In Circles (3:34)
15. The Aching Is So Sweet (4:50)
16. Nothing Is Happening (3:50)
17. The Four Corners Of Hell (6:01)
18. After Burner Boogie (3:52)
Total time – 73:23
MUSICIANS (main album)
Deke Leonard – Guitar, Slide guitar, Keyboards, Harmonium, Vocals
Martin Ace – Bass (all tracks except 3 & 11)
Beau Adams – Drums (1 & 6)
Dave Charles – Backwards drums (1), Drums (3,5,12)
Martin Ace – Bass (2,4–10,12)
Tommy Riley – Drums (2,5,7,8,9,12)
Paul Burton – Bass, Vocals (3)
Byron Berline – Fiddle (3)
Mike Gibbons – Drums (4)
Malcolm Morley – Guitar (7 & 8)
Dave Phillips – Violin (10)
Cosby Eichler – Vocals (11)
Ralph Down – Electronics (11)
The Rockfield Choir – George Ace, Martin Ace, Malcolm Morley, Dave Charles, Deke Leonard – Backing vocals (4 & 8)
Record Label: Esoteric Recordings
Catalogue#: ECLEC 2479
Year Of Release: 1973/2015
Having released his debut solo album Iceberg in 1973, Deke Leonard formed a band of the same name to tour it. Original bassist Paul Burton was replaced by Martin Ace by the time Kamikaze was recorded, in typical fashion in between live dates promoting the first album. Another of Deke’s narratives describes the cover shoot. The tale involves searching for big cats, Jumbo jets, and being drenched to achieve the desired photographic intent, and so another chapter in Deke’s life on the road is written…
This record, not surprisingly, sounds more like a band than Iceberg, although oddly it is not as immediate as its predecessor. Kamikaze again features Deke’s penchant for good time rockers, kicking off with Jay Hawk Special. The addition of fiddle player Byron Berline on the initially bluesy Sharpened Claws playing a rumbustious jig’n’reel in the second half of the song lends it a downhome countrified feel, and as the song ends Byron’s fiddle carries on, a lone hoedown after everyone has gone home.
Deke’s vocal on the Quo-like rocker In Search Of Sarah And Twenty Six Horses bears an uncanny resemblance to Noddy Holder, something I had not considered before, but the resemblance is definitely there. You would think from the title that this song was inspired by a CS&N styled drug-fuelled haze, but the straight ahead nature of the music puts paid to that theory. Deke explains further in a convoluted tale involving a girl called Sarah Cheesewright and a book entitled Portrait Of The Artist And 26 Horses, another example of his way with a story. You’ll just have to buy the CD to find out more!
The personnel on the concluding track of the album proper Devil’s Gloves is a Man line-up in all but name, and points the way for the future, as Deke rejoined his natural home soon after the release of this album. The song itself is a charging energetic romp that crosses Deke’s R&B sensibilities with the soon-to-be new Man line-up’s taste for a different twist on funk rock, here driven by Terry Williams’ drums in tandem with Dave Charles’ congas.
The best of the bonus tracks is an early version of California Silks And Satins which would of course later appear on Man’s Rhinos Winos And Lunatics album. Co-written with former Help Yourself singer and songwriter Malcolm Morley, this first version is more electric and more strung out, and very “West Coast” in feel. Morley was another who joined Man’s new line-up a few months down the line.
Kamikaze and Iceberg before it showcase a songwriter in fine form, and as one of the bonus tracks here has it, Deke Leonard is definitely a joyful soul. If you’re a fan of Man you probably already have these two albums, but isn’t it about time you replaced those well worn vinyl copies with these pristine remasters?
01. Cool Summer Rain(0:31)
02. Jay Hawk Special (4:17)
03. Sharpened Claws (7:20)
04. Taking The Easy Way Out (5:28)
05. The Black Gates Of Death (4:42)
06. Stacia (1:04)
07. Broken Glass And Lime Juice (5:36)
08. April The Third (3:51)
09. Louisiana Hoedown (2:54)
10. In Search Of Sarah And Twenty Six Horses (6:47)
11. The Devil’s Gloves (5:16)
~ Bonus tracks:
12. She’s A Cow (3:34)
13. California Silks And Satins (8:01)
14. Joyful Soul (7:57)
15. Steel Painting Man (3:27)
Total time – 67:11
MUSICIANS (main album)
Deke Leonard – Vocals, Guitar, Piano
Martin Ace – Bass
Brian Breeze – Guitar
Keith Hodge – Drums
Dave Charles – Drums (1 & 2)
Byron Berline – Fiddle, Mandolin (3)
Tommy Riley – Drums (8 & 9)
Lincoln Carr – Bass, Guitar (9)
Micky Jones – Guitar (11)
Ken Whaley – Bass (11)
Terry Williams – Drums (11)
Dave Charles – Conga Drums (11)
Record Label: Esoteric Recordings
Catalogue#: ECLEC 2480
Year Of Release: 1974/2015
Cherry Red Records