I got my first look at Alvin Lee and Ten Years After when I saw them hard-charging through “I’m Going Home” in the film version of Woodstock. In short order, I began adding their albums to my collection including Ssssh (1969), which opened with the memorable “Bad Scene,” Cricklewood Green (1969), best known for the song “Love Like a Man,” and the apex of their commercial success, A Space in Time (1971), which yielded their highest-charting single, "I'd Love to Change the World."
After Lee left Ten Years After in 1974, he produced a series of solo albums that continued to demonstrate his distinctive vocals and linear guitar chops, even if they didn’t always contain memorable material. But one standout was 1973’s On the Road to Freedom, which co-billed Lee and Gospel singer Mylon LeFevre. Supporting players included George Harrison, Steve Winwood, Jim Capaldi, Ronnie Wood, and Mick Fleetwood. Now, one year shy of being 40 years later, Lee has released a sequel, Still on the Road to Freedom. It not only invokes its 1973 namesake, any Ten Years After fan will find more than enough on this disc to take them back in space and time.
This time around, Still on the Road to Freedom doesn’t rely on an all-star cast. Keeping close to the simplicity of roots traditions, Lee’s group is Pete Pritchard (bass), Richard Newman (drums), and Tim Hinkley (keyboard). Together, they touch quite a few musical bases from very old schools. For example, the beautiful, haunting title track is not only pure Ten Years After, it’s a reminder Lee was and is a lyricist who has something to say, in this case how the road to freedom never ends. “Back in ’69” is another standout where Lee tells us we’ve gotten older and have lost the values of peace and love once so cherished by a generation. This one, in terms of the lyrics, is very reminiscent of “I’d Love to Change the World.”
In the main, however, Still on the Road to Freedom is a musical homage to many of Lee’s inspirations. Lee blows Jimmy Reed-ish harp on the straight up blues of “Save My Stuff," a nod to Big Bill Broonzy, Sonny Terry, and Brownie McGhee. The happy, shuffling rockabilly of “I’m a Lucky Man” is another tip to Lee’s early rock mentors. Remember, Ten Years After got its name in 1966 in honor of Elvis Presley’s breakout year, 1956.