Back Street Crawler – Atlantic Years 1975-1976

Back Street Crawler – Atlantic Years 1975-1976

Paul Kossoff is mostly known for his guitar work with Free, but his solo output is often missed out, unfortunately cut short due to his untimely death. For me, his guitar work was most distinctive, he felt it was not what you play, but what you don’t, which is a noticeable feature of his work with Free, and he carries this over to his solo project, Back Street Crawler.

Forming in 1968, British blues rock legends Free finally called it a day after the release of Heartbreaker in 1972. This was untimely as the band were on the verge of succeeding in America. Paul Kossoff’s first move was to record his solo album, Back Street Crawler, which was released on Island Records in 1973. Assisted by Terry Wilson, Mike Montgomery, Tony Braunagel and singer Terry Wilson-Slesser, the record gave the band its name. They were then signed by Ahmet Ertegun to Atlantic Records, unfortunately the history of the band proved to be a short one.

Cherry Red Records have again created a nice package to cover the output of this band, Atlantic Years 1975-1976 consists of four CDs, two featuring their studio albums and two live recordings. Although I have not seen the finished product it is to include plenty of rare, contemporary memorabilia and has the full involvement of front man and singer Terry Wilson-Slesser. There are some newspaper articles and snippets included, which I have read and they are most informative, giving a short snapshot of this bands history.

The debut Back Street Crawler album, The Band Plays On, consists of ten tracks with a total running time of forty-four minutes, which was typical of the time. The band gives us some blues tinged rock which is definitely a product of the seventies, but an enjoyable listen nevertheless. Paul Kossoff’s guitar still has his distinctive sound and is ably supported by the band. It contains some of their live favourites amongst its tracks, Survivor, Stealing My Way and Train Song.

The second album, 2nd Street, was recorded after Kossoff’s bout of ill health, featuring keyboards from former Free and future The Who member John “Rabbit” Bundrick. Kossoff tragically passed away before the album’s release and it was posthumously issued, the LP “Dedicated To Koss”. The blues tinged rock continues with Kossoff’s signature sound still present, and despite his ill health he was still as sharp on guitar, with some great playing and interesting solos. 2nd Street has nine tracks over a running time of thirty-seven minutes, a class presentation of their music, raising the ‘what if?’ question about their future.

Prior to the debut album’s release, they played a handful of UK shows, and on CD3 we get their appearance at Croydon’s Fairfield Hall on the 15thth June 1975, in what appears to be a well received performance. It contains not only tracks from the debut album but Kossoff’s Molten Gold and the classic blues rock song The Hunter. This is a great record of the band’s live gigs, here showing the promise that the debut album would deliver, they play tight and appear to be enjoying themselves. Add to this Paul Kossoff on top, blistering form and this is a good live album. Overall it demonstrates what this band had to offer, and the potential promise of great future unfortunately and tragically cut short.

CD four contains the last live performance – at the Starwood Club in Los Angeles – before Paul tragically passed away. Fortunately this was recorded by a fan, so giving the audio quality a bootleg feel. That said, this is an important document of Paul’s last gig and has been included out of historical importance and I feel that this has been a good move. Cherry Red have gone the extra mile to ensure this is the best audio quality that could be presented, it does not distract from the great guitar skills Paul demonstrates, showing that he remained a top quality guitarist right up to his passing, also showing a band who where tight and focused. Seven of the tracks are from the gig and the remaining ones on the CD are made up of two unreleased and two outtakes.

This set is a worthy addition to sit alongside his more well known achievements with Free, it gives a further insight into one of rock’s great but often overlooked guitarists, and makes the listeners wonder what might have happened subsequently. As always, Cherry Red provide a nice package as a fitting reminder of the late great Paul Kossoff.

Disc One: The Band Plays On (1975)

01. Who Do Women (4:18)
02. New York, New York (4:39)
03. Stealing My Way (4:21)
04. Survivor (3:36)
05. It’s A Long Way Down To The Top (5:59)
06. All The Girls Are Crazy (3:33)
07. Jason Blue (4:58)
08. Train Song (4:35)
09. Rock & Roll Junkie (3:17)
10. The Band Plays On (5:03)

Time – 44:22

Disc Two: 2nd Street (1976)
01. Selfish Lover (3:30)
02. Blue Soul (3:48)
03. Stop What You’re Doing (3:29)
04. Raging River (3:18)
05. Some Kind of Happy (5:03)
06. Sweet, Sweet Beauty (3:15)
07. Just For You (6:22)
08. On Your Life (3:57)
09. Leaves in the Wind (5:12)

Time – 37:58

Disc Three: Live at Fairfield Hall, Croydon (1975)
01. The Band Played On (5:54)
02. Sidekick To The Stars (3:14)
03. It’s A Long Way Down To The Top (6:44)
04. New York, New York (4:34)
05. Train Song (4:56)
06. Survivor (4:10)
07. Stealing My Way (6:29)
08. All The Girls Are Crazy (3:30)
09. Jason Blue (5:21)
10. Rock & Roll Junkie (4:31)
11. Molten Gold (7:23)
12. The Hunter (6:04)
13. We Won (6:04)
14. Bird Song Blues (6:49)

Time – 78:15

Disc Four: Final Performance (1976) Live at The Starwood Club, Los Angeles, 3rd March 1976
01. Who Do Women (6:31)
02. Stealing My Way (5:08)
03. Cheat On Me (6:29)
04. Common Mortal Man (7:43)
05. Train Song (6:11)
06. Just For The Box (4:46)
07. It’s A Long Way Down To The Top (6:16)
Bonus tracks
08. Jason Blue (outtake) (5:12)
09. Evening Time (unreleased) (5:37)
10. It’s A long Way Down To The Top (outtake) (6:24)
11. She’s Gone (unreleased) (4:23)

Time – 64:45

Total Time – 225:20

Paul Kossoff – Guitar
Terry Wilson-Slesser – Vocals
Terry Wilson – Bass, Guitar
Tony Braunagel – Drums
Mike Montgomery – Keyboards, Vocals (Disc 1)
John “Rabbit” Bundrick – Keyboards, Vocals (Disc 2 :tracks 3 & 4)
~ with:
Pete Van – Baritone Saxophone (Disc One: tracks 7 & 9)
Eddie Quansah – Trumpet, Flugelhorn (Disc One: tracks 7 & 9)
George Lee – Flutes, Tenor & Soprano Saxophones (Disc One: tracks 7 & 9)
W.G. ‘Snuffy’ Walden – Guitar (Disc 2 – not credited)

Record Label: Cherry Red Records
Catalogue#: QHNECD137Q
Date of Release: 28th August 2020

Back Street Crawler – Info at Cherry Red Records