Album Reviews

Stone The Crows: Stone The Crows/Ode To John Law (Angel Air)

stonethecrows

Stone The Crows
Stone The Crows/Ode To John Law
Angel Air

Stone the Crows was one of the finest blues-rock bands of the early 1970s, a talented group fronted by two powerful vocalists, Maggie Bell and James Dewar, and featuring the talented guitar work of Les Harvey, younger brother of British guitar legend Alex Harvey. Their sound was a no-nonsense blues that was designed to highlight the powerful vocalists; Bell was a rare blues-belter who could have given Janis Joplin a run for their money. Shortly after forming in 1968, the band hooked up with legendary rock manager Peter Grant, and things happened quickly for the young group, who quickly set out on the road and making a name for themselves as a red-hot live band. (Check out this reissues four live tracks for evidence of just how hot a live band they were.)

1970 was a busy year, thanks to the rapid succession of albums released, both collected here in a handy two-for-one collection. Stone The Crows was released in the beginning of 1970, and quickly impressed those who heard it. The back-and-forth of album opener “Touch Of Your Loving Hand” showcased both Dewar and Bell, giving both the opportunity to show off their impressive vocal range over a stripped down accompaniment. “Raining In Your Heart,” however, highlights the power of the rest of the band, most notably Les Harvey’s guitar chops. Most impressive, though, is side two of Stone The Crows, an epic, seventeen-minute, side long jam called “I Saw America,” based on Harvey’s travels in America with his brother’s band. It goes from gentle guitar picking to heavy, hard-rock pounding and back to a soulful take on gospel. It’s an impressive feat that never once feels as self-indulgent as it might seem. The only weak moment on Stone The Crows is their cover of The Beatles’ classic “The Fool On The Hill.” For a record of hard blues, this pop confection feels awkwardly out of place.

The band’s second album, Ode To John Law, found the band honing its rock groove. Although the material was recorded mere months after the Stone The Crows material, the band had matured quite quickly, as thee songs are tighter and tauter than what appeared on their debut. The songs are sharp, powerful, and hard-hitting, with Bell coming to the forefront as lead singer. Opening “Sad Mary” throws down a powerful hard rock groove that’s met only by the title track and “Mad Dogs and Englishmen,” while their ballads “Love” and “Things Are Getting Better” are sublime, beautiful numbers. Then there’s the title track, a powerful political number written in response to Kent State massacre. Addressed to the police, it’s a plea for tolerance and understanding that sadly still rings true.

These two albums proved that Stone The Crows was a band with a bright future. Unfortunately, fate had other ideas…

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