By Mike O’Cull
British blues/rock legends Savoy Brown still sound vital and alive on the group’s 42nd album Blues All Around.
Out February 17th, 2023 on Quarto Valley Records, the record is the final release by Savoy Brown founding father Kim Simmonds. Singer/guitarist/songwriter Simmonds launched the band in London in 1965, which makes Savoy Brown one of the longest-running groups in music history. Sadly, Simmonds lost his hard-fought battle with cancer December 13th, 2022, just a week shy of his 75th birthday. He had begun working on Blues All Around while he was recovering from his initial treatments and passed shortly after its completion. The record is a strong and soul-drenched last statement from a true icon of British blues/rock who will never be forgotten.
Savoy Brown were contemporaries of Cream, Hendrix, and John Mayall in the late 1960s. By the early 1970s, they were an international sensation with hits like “Tell Mama” and “I’m Tired” making the Billboard charts. They also graced the stages of historic venues including Carnegie Hall, The Academy of Music, and the Fillmore East and West. Simmonds and his band helped define the sound of their era and created a proud body of work that few artists can match. The current SB lineup is Simmonds (guitar, harmonica, organ, and vocals) and his longtime bandmates Pat DeSalvo (bass) and Garnet Grimm (drums/percussion), which is as good a group as any other period in their career.
Blues All Around was tracked in layers, piece by piece, and not in the live-in-the-studio manner Savoy Brown has always used. The change doesn’t affect the vibes and grooves at all and you’d never know if you weren’t told.
“Here’s how it went,” Simmonds explains. “My tracks, guitar, vocal, etc were laid down first. Pat and Garnet then added bass, drums, and percussion and the whole process worked beautifully. They clinched the deal using my tracks as a guide. Brilliant work. They’re heaven sent. The concept wasn’t my brainchild. Studio owner and engineer Ron Keck suggested the approach due to my failing health to make things easier, and I’m forever grateful.”
After a short solo guitar and vocal piece called “Falling Through,” Simmonds leads off with the rocked-up shuffle “Black Heart.” It’s a cool, mid-speed tune with a brooding heart rendered in shades of blue. It’s not a party anthem but rather a meaningful and real monologue from someone in over their head with someone else. After so many years in the game, Simmonds can go for the deep stuff right from Jump Street and get us all to focus in. His playing is fluid and inventive, invoking a lifetime of six-string knowledge and his lead vocals capture the proper tone for his message.
“Blues All Around”
“Going Down South” is a straight-ahead track that features Simmonds’ tasty touch on slide guitar. His economical licks and thick tone are pure ear candy and he plays with the grace of someone who has already proved his point long ago. Kim was only playing the notes he truly felt at this point and each line he puts down is masterful.
Simmonds’ title cut “Blues All Around” is a driving minor key blues full of fire and energy. He was still going hard on this number and you can feel all of his years in every note and bend. “Texas Love” is a gravelly roadhouse shuffle built around a heavily-distorted guitar tone that will make you wonder if Simmonds was shooting sparks out of his amplifier.
Other unmissable moments on Blues All Around include “California Days Gone By” and “Falling Through The Cracks.” Savoy Brown and Kim Simmonds will always be remembered as an outfit that left it all out there and created an enduring legacy that will influence fans and musicians forever. Highly recommended.
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