It's probably fair to say that this band existed because of Paul Kossoff, the former guitarist of Free.
Allmusic have a rather short entry on them. Well, they were around for only one album but Paul Kossoff was a reasonably big name at the time.
Former Free guitarist Paul Kossoff called his 1973 solo album Back Street Crawler, then formed a group of the same name in 1975. It featured singer Terry Wilson-Slessor, keyboard player Mike Montgomery, bassist Terry Wilson, and drummer Tony Braunagel. This lineup made The Band Plays On, but Kossoff died of an apparent heart attack (March19, 1976).
Free were big in England and had done OK in the US (their signature song "All Right Now" went to #4 in the US in 1970).
They were another blues based hard rock band that were everywhere in the early to mid 70s. You can thank the success of Led Zeppelin for that probably though they took the music off in all sorts of other directions. Free weren't as adventurous but they were probably a cut above other bands in the genre.
Free folded in 1973 but blues rock was still the rage….think, Montrose, Mountain, Cactus, Humble Pie, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Faces, Savoy Brown , ZZ Top , Spooky Tooth, Canned Heat, Foghat, Johnny Winter And, The Allman Brothers Band, Black Oak Arkansas, Skid Row, Taste, (some of) Mott the Hoople, Ten Years After, Edgar Winter, Frankie Miller, Bon Scott era AC/DC, anything with Eric Clapton
When you are onto a good thing or otherwise need to pay the bills then …. why take a chance.
Free singer, Paul Rodgers, and drummer, Simon Kirke, went on to form the successful errrr blue rock Bad Company while Kossoff released a solo blues rock album, Back Street Crawler. He had some critical support but no sales. He also had a substantial heroin drug habit.
It was thought that a band would give Kossoff stability so rather than recruiting new musicians he asked most of the Houston (though New York based) blues rock band Bloontz (drummer Tony Braunagel, keyboardist Mike Montgomery, bassist Terry Wilson) to become his band. They did. He then had English singer Terry Wilson-Slesser, who had recorded an album with the blues rock band Beckett to front them and he did (yes, there were two Terry Wilson's in the same band).
Have I mentioned that back Street Crawler were a blues rock band?
If you don't like blues rock you should stop reading. Actually if you don't like blues rock I suspect you have already checked out.
The band took their name from Kosoffs solo album and they were signed almost immediately (I suspect the deal had already been done).
Product was needed …this album was pumped out. It included the Mike Montgomery songs, "Jason Blue" and "The Band Plays On", which had been on the earlier Bloontz album
Look, I don't mind some blues rock (as a style of music in the 70s) but a little of this music goes a long way. Blues in itself was a very structured (and perhaps rigid genre). Blues rock is going to have those same limitations.
People like blues rock because of the guitar, showmanship and familiarity win every tune even if they haven't heard it before.
There is nothing wrong with that and if that gets you off then familiar beats and breaks are like a tonic to the brain.
The real tragedy is that blues rock inspired countless talentless, witless hacks to the genre. And that is something we are still suffering from in suburban pubs, small town halls, and any mainstream fete or festival where gormlessness is a requirement.
The logic is, I suspect, "I can do that". And the genre isn't hard so that is true but the question remains, "Can you do it well?"
If I use suburban Australia as a yardstick then the answer is a big fucking "no!".
Part of that "no" is the lack of originality.
And this is the problem with Back Street Crawler (on this album at least). The can play and are more than competent (though the sound is distinctly lo-fi and not in a good way) but they aren't really pushing the boundaries and are content to go with the flow. There aren't a lot of new ideas. Some of this sounds like Free (or even Bad Company – though Rodgers is the better vocalist) but a lot sounds like Mott The Hoople as well.
Would Kossoff have taken this somewhere else? It's hard to say.
He died just after this album from a heart attack (drug related) whilst on a flight between LA and New York.
He was 25.
Guitars, heroin, rock n roll … the usual story.
Maybe if he played the zither he would be alive now.
Tracks (best in italics)
- Hoo Doo Woman – (Paul Kossoff / Mike Montgomery / Terry Slesser/ Terry Wilson) – There is a nice repeated "Hoo Doo" backing vocal behind the lyric akin to the structure of The Rolling Stones "Sympathy for the Devil " (the "who whos" in the background) but the aforementioned bad production sinks this.
- New York, New York – (John Kander / Mike Montgomery) – this works better with a catchy melody – again, similar in structure to the opening track with the "New York", New York" is repeated behind the lyric.
- Stealing My Way – (Paul Kossoff / Mike Montgomery / Terry Slesser) – Free / Bad Company stuff …
- Survivor – (Mike Montgomery) – Sung by Montgomery rather than Wilson-Slesser…and sounding a little like Mott the Hoople.
- It's a Long Way Down to the Top – (Mike Montgomery) – the slow blues rock bore me more than the fast blues rock. Great song title though.
- All the Girls Are Crazy – (Mike Montgomery) – a good hook with some nice creeching 70s guitar.
- Jason Blue – (Mike Montgomery) – lyrically this is a, sort of, white blue rock version of Robert Johnson's "Crossroads" …. naff but fun.
- Train Song – (Tony Braunagel / Terry Wilson) – blues and trains …of course there has to be at least one train song (sic).
- Rock and Roll Junkie – (Mike Montgomery) – Sung by Montgomery rather than Wilson-Slesser. Again Mott the Hoople type stuff (and not unlike Australia's Skyhooks). This rocks though I thought the subject matter would have been close to the bone …
- The Band Plays On – (Terry Wilson) – more bad Company styling. This one is a mid tempo rocker with the blues minimised a little.
Tape a few and then sell …
New York, New York
Kossoff video biography
- Following on from this album keyboardist Montgomery left and was replaced by John "Rabbit" Bundrick. They toured and then went to work on a second album. Kossoff was too far gone (he even broke his fingers at some stage) so session musician W.G. 'Snuffy' Walden played most of the guitar at the recording dates (apparently Kossoff later playing lead over the mostly completed tracks). Waldemn also played live when Kossoff couldn't. The album "2nd Street" was released in 1976.
- After Kossoff died guitarist Geoff Whiteborn (ex "If") was added, and the band changed their name to Crawler. They released a third self-titled album in 1977 and a final LP, Snake, Rattle and Roll, in 1978.
- Wikipedia: "Following Kossoff's death, his father, actor David Kossoff, established the Paul Kossoff Foundation which aimed to present the realities of drug addiction to children. Kossoff's father spent the remainder of his life campaigning against drugs, touring a one-man stage performance about the death of Paul and its effect on the family"