Chicken Shack - Crying Won’t Help You Now – The Deram Years 1971-1974
Following the release of their first four albums on the Blue Horizon label, including two with Christine McVie (Christine Perfect at that time), Chicken Shack signed with Decca’s Deram label, which is where Crying Won’t Help You Now - The Deram Years picks up. Covering the years 1971 to 1974, this box set includes their three CD’s with that label along with three single tracks.
Imagination Lady, the first of these albums, not only found them with a new label, but frontman and guitarist Stan Webb had formed a completely new band. Now a trio, the band was rounded out by bassist John Glascock, who would later go on to play with Jethro Tull, and drummer Paul Hancox. There was also a shift in their sound as they moved from the more straight-ahead blues of their earlier releases to heavier blues rock. Opening the release is the first of three covers, a solid rocking version of BB King’s “Crying Won’t Help You Now”, a track that still maintains their bluesy vibe, but explodes with Webb’s outstanding wah-wah heavy guitar work and a very prominent throbbing bass. “Daughter Of The Hillside” is an absolute blistering straight-on rocker that at times is very reminiscent of Cream’s “White Room”. Next up are covers of Tim Hardin’s “If I Were A Carpenter” and Don Nix’s “Going Down”. While the former starts really simple and quiet, it evolves into a powerful slowburning rocker and the latter is an all out, down and dirty track with more great guitar work and a thick, heavy groove. “Poor Boy" is another heavy blues rock track with some insane guitar playing and tons of wah wah that is often reminiscent of both Zeppelin and Hendrix and is to me the standout cut here. Unfortunately, it’s followed by the album’s only real misstep “Telling Your Fortune”. This eleven minute track starts off promising enough with a slower paced bluesy groove, but then a little past the one minute mark it becomes an almost six minute long drum solo before closing out with what is pretty much a bluesy jam. Even though Hancox’s drum solo shows how talented he is, it really doesn’t work as an album track. Ironically one of the bonus tracks is the single version of this song, which is just over two minutes long and works much better by completely removing the drum solo and stripping it down. Closing things out is “The Loser”, a catchy upbeat tune with a bit of a psychedelic pop sound that is a nice change of pace from the rest of the album. Disc one has one additional bonus track with the single version of “Poor Boy”.
Follow-up Unlucky Boy found the band once again switching up some members with Bob Daisley (Ozzy, Black Sabbath, Rainbow, Uriah Heep) replacing Glascock and the addition of Tony Ashton on keyboards and Chris Mercer on saxophone. Webb once again shifted the band’s sound here, largely moving away from the heavier rock of its predecessor back to the blues and with the addition of horns even a bit more R&B. Having said that, opener “You Know Could Be Right” is a strong midtempo blues tune that does dip it’s toes a bit in the rock end of things. “Revelation” is a laid-back bluesy tune that with the addition of sax takes on a bit of an R&B vibe, while “Prudence’s Party” is a quirky upbeat instrumental showcasing the great interplay between Webb’s slinky guitar work and Ashton on piano. The band once again mixes in a handful of covers here, starting with Lonnie Johnson’s “Too Late To Cry”, a delicate, stripped down tune with a really nice old school folk blues sound. Next up is “Stan the Man”, a killer electric blues jam with some blistering guitar work followed by a rocking blues cover of Big Mama Thornton and William Dupree’s “Unlucky Boy” (their version is “Unlucky Girl”) featuring more great sax from Mercer. Complemented with a string section, “As Time Goes Passing By” is a mellow blues ballad that really stands out from the rest of the album. “Jammin’ With The Ash” is a seven plus minute blues rock jam that really showcases Webb’s guitar, Ashton’s honky tonk flavored piano and Hancox’s drumming. Closing things out is an upbeat Chuck Berry styled boogie woogie cover of Jimmy McCracklin’s “He Knows The Rules”. The single version of “As Time Goes By” is also included here as another bonus track.
Disc three’s Goodbye Chicken Shack is a live album recorded on October 26, 1973 at Brunel University in Middlesex. Even though it was recorded just a few months after the release of Unlucky Boy, Webb is once again the only remaining member and is joined this time around by Rob Hull on bass, Alan Powell (Hawkwind) on drums and Dave Wilkinson on electric piano. Interestingly, while Unlucky Boy found them largely moving away from the heavier rock sounds of Imagination Lady, two of the tracks here were originally on that album and the live set is a good combination of songs tackling blues, rock and R&B. Opening the set is a cover of the Peter Chatman (better known as Memphis Slim) song “Everyday I Have The Blues”, that is best known by the BB King version and has the crowd clapping and singing along right out the gate. A cover of another King song, the classic “The Thrill Is Gone” is up next and is given an edgier, rocked up sound with some really good wah wah guitar. The band tears through a cover of “Going Down” with some blistering guitar work and then turns it down for the slow burning blues of “You Take Me Down”. “Webb’s Boogie” has a great boogie woogie piano opening and then evolves into a full band boogie woogie jam. King is represented one more time with a rocking version of “You’re Mean” and then there is a stellar take on “Poor Boy”, which is fleshed out nicely with Wilkinson’s piano, an element not on the studio version. Closing out the set is a some more boogie woogie courtesy the instrumental “Webb’s Guitar Shuffle” and an edgy take on Little Richard’s “Tutti Frutti”. Also included here is a really detailed twenty-four page booklet with an essay on this era of the band, including alot of comments from Webb, photos and reproductions of the original liner notes from Goodbye Chicken Shack.