Stone The Crows
Teenage Licks/Ontinuous Performance
When last we left the British blues-rockers Stone The Crows, they had just released their second album, Ode To John Law, a highly potent and enjoyable blast of contemporary blues-rock. Things looked good for the band; their two albums were well-received, as were their live performances. It was a time of great promise.
Teenage Licks, their third album, came quickly in 1971. Their sound had grown even stronger and more potent; vocalist Maggie Bell was quickly becoming one of the best female blues vocalists since Janis Joplin, and the music reflected that. The red-hot rockers of “Mr. Wizard” and “Big Jim Salter” were paired up with the powerful ballads of “Faces” and “Seven Lakes,” while a take on Bob Dylan’s “Don’t Think Twice” brings a definite tenderness to the masterful lyrics. So powerful is the band’s performance that one doesn’t really notice that the band had lost two of its founding members, keyboardist John McGinnis and bassist James Dewar. Live, they were on the top of their game as well; their potent take on George Harrison‘s solo track “Let It Down” that’s added here takes it in a direction only hinted at in Harrison’s take.
However, things would take a more gruesome turn for the band on May 2, 1972. Performing at a festival, Les Harvey reached for his microphone and wound up being electrocuted in front of his bandmate and audience.This shocking, bizarre, traumatizing public death of their bandmate would have naturally justified the band packing it in—Harvey’s guitar playing was a major attraction, and he was the chief songwriter and Bell’s lover—but the band decided to carry on.
In a prophetic move foretold by their previous album’s title, they would hire hotshot teenage guitarist Jimmy McCulloch as Harvey’s replacement, and they sallied forth into their fourth album, 1972’s Ontinuous Performance. It’s a fine record; McCulloch is an excellent replacement, and the songs are bigger, grander, and tougher. “Good Time Girl,” “Niagra” and “Penicillin Girl” are their strongest numbers, showing that in spite of the losses, their continuation looked to be an admirable feat that couldn’t stop the band’s progression. The music buying audience agreed; Ontinuous Performance was their best selling record.
But the damage was done; even thought they were getting better in the face of adversity, for the band, the magic was gone. The band would continue on before calling it a day in 1973. The members went on to other things; Maggie Bell continued on with a moderately successful solo career, while Jimmy McCulloch would soon go on to join the most successful iteration of Paul McCartney’s Wings. Drugs and addiction would haunt the young prodigy, who would die in 1979 of an overdose.
The unceremonious end of Stone The Crows wasn’t unsurprising, but it brought a premature end to a young band who was quickly becoming one of the best British blues-rock bands of the decade. Their four albums haven’t aged a bit, and are still potent today, four decades on, and this reissue campaign has been a worthy endeavor, serving to reintroduce the world to a talented group overlooked by time.