On the Road to Freedom

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On the Road to Freedom
OnTheRoadToFreedom.jpg
Studio album by Alvin Lee and Mylon LeFevre
Released 2 November 1973
Recorded 1973
Studio Space Studio, Oxfordshire
Genre Country rock[1]
Length 38:30
Label Chrysalis
Producer Alvin Lee
Alvin Lee chronology
On the Road to Freedom
(1973)
In Flight
(1974)
Singles from On the Road to Freedom
  1. "Fallen Angel"
    Released: November 1973
  2. "So Sad (No Love of His Own)"
    Released: 17 December 1973 (US); 19 April 1974 (UK)

On the Road to Freedom is an album by English rock musician Alvin Lee and American gospel singer Mylon LeFevre. Released in November 1973, it was the first solo project by Lee, who had achieved international success through his leadership of the blues rock band Ten Years After. The album was recorded at Lee's home studio in south Oxfordshire, which he and LeFevre built especially for the project. The guest musicians at the sessions included George Harrison, Steve Winwood, Jim Capaldi, Ron Wood and Mick Fleetwood. "Fallen Angel" and the Harrison-composed "So Sad (No Love of His Own)" were issued as singles from the album.

On the Road to Freedom was well received by music critics, although Lee's more subtle guitar playing and new musical direction were not welcomed by fans of Ten Years After. Lee released a sequel to the album in 2012, titled Still on the Road to Freedom.

Background[edit]

In late 1972, Alvin Lee decided to undertake a solo project as a departure from the routine of touring and recording with his band Ten Years After.[2][3] He later attributed his motivation to boredom with his role as a heavy rock guitar virtuoso[4] and a belief that financial rewards had become the only factor in the band's continued existence.[5] Having met Mylon LeFevre, an American gospel rock singer, when LeFevre's band played as a support act to Ten Years After, Lee invited him to Jamaica for a holiday. The two musicians began writing songs there and recording rough demos with a local reggae group.[6]

At Lee's suggestion, LeFevre moved to England, where he helped convert a barn on Lee's property, Hook End Manor, near Woodcote in south Oxfordshire, into a recording studio.[2] While construction was underway on what Lee named Space Studio, the pair worked on their songs at Roger Daltrey's home studio.[6]

Recording[edit]

In a 1974 interview with Zoo World magazine, Lee described his and LeFevre's collaboration as "[not] a commercial effort, just an LP recorded at home with some neighbors" and said that their starting point musically was country and western.[6] Music journalist Charley Walters later summed up the album as a "potpourri of American rock and rhythm & blues" with elements of country and bluegrass.[7][nb 1] Among the many guest musicians, LeFevre met George Harrison at a pub in nearby Henley-on-Thames, after which Harrison became a regular visitor to Hook End Manor and provided his sound engineer to help prepare the new recording facility. Other members of what became known as "the Thames Valley Gang" who also contributed to the album included Ron Wood, Tim Hinkley and Boz Burrell.[9] Three members of the band TrafficStevie Winwood, Jim Capaldi and Reebop Kwaku Baah – were among the other participants, along with drummer Ian Wallace.[2]

According to music journalist Chris Welch, the atmosphere at the sessions was "raucous and 'down home'". A potentially fatal incident occurred when heavy rain caused the roof of Lee's indoor tennis court, which he was using as an echo chamber, to collapse, moments after he and his engineer had retrieved the recording equipment from the building.[10] The episode was later recalled in poet George Kalamaras's posthumous tribute to Alvin Lee, "The Bluest Blues"; according to Kalamaras, Winwood and LeFevre were "outside, discussing a take, smoking a joint" at the time, while Harrison was in the adjoining building.[11]

All of the album's twelve tracks were written by Lee or LeFevre, apart from Wood's song "Let 'Em Say What They Will" and Harrison's "So Sad (No Love of His Own)".[12] The latter was recorded in August 1973, with Fleetwood Mac drummer Mick Fleetwood also participating.[13] The supergroup aspect of the recordings appealed to Lee's management, who had originally been opposed to the project, wanting Lee to instead maintain his lucrative touring schedule with Ten Years After. According to Lee, due to the prohibitive financial terms imposed by some of the guest artists' record companies, he and LeFevre were unable to acknowledge all of Harrison's contributions to the album, nor those of Mick Jagger.[6][nb 2]

Release and reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
AllMusic 3/5 stars[15]
The Rolling Stone Record Guide 3/5 stars[7]

Chrysalis Records issued On the Road to Freedom on 2 November 1973 in the UK,[16] with the catalogue number CHR 1054.[12] The album was released in the United States by Columbia Records on 7 December.[16] The first single from the album was Lee's song "Fallen Angel".[17] "So Sad (No Love of His Own)" was issued as a single on 17 December in the US and on 19 April 1974 in Britain.[18]

The album received a favourable response from music critics[10][19] but, according to Lee, it was not popular with fans of his previous work.[20] In the United States, the album peaked at number 138 on the Billboard Top LPs & Tape chart.[21][22]

Writing in Rolling Stone, Bud Scoppa said that in combining their respective strengths, "each [of the two artists] has released the other from the conventions in which they both stagnated. On On the Road to Freedom, we discover that Alvin Lee isn't just a slick blues guitarist and purveyor of boogie, and that LeFevre can do more than spew out gospel jive." Scoppa highlighted "Fallen Angel", "Carry My Load" and "On the Road to Freedom" as the best of the songs written by Lee or LeFevre, and similarly praised the Harrison and Wood compositions.[23] In The Rolling Stone Record Guide (1983), John Swenson described the album as "excellent" while Charley Walters admired the expressivity of LeFevre's voice and the variation in Lee's guitar playing, which, he said, eschewed "the showing-off tendencies of Ten Years After".[24] Walters deemed the mix of musical styles to be "Pleasingly pastoral and rustic".[7]

Aftermath and legacy[edit]

In a February 1975 issue of Rolling Stone, Barbara Charone cited On the Road to Freedom as the start of "The rejuvenation of Alvin Lee as a musician" and "the first step out of the musical prison TYA had become".[25] Encouraged by the positive reviews for the LP, Lee followed it with a double live album, In Flight, recorded at London's Rainbow Theatre with a band that included Hinkley and Wallace from the 1973 sessions.[10] Lee rejoined Ten Years After for a final US tour in 1974, after which, despite the band's management insisting otherwise, he announced their break-up.[3]

Although Lee had told Zoo World that he and LeFevre would be collaborating again,[6] and he confirmed the possibility of a follow-up album in 1975,[25] LeFevre returned to his gospel career in the United States and later became a Christian church minister.[26] Repertoire Records reissued On the Road to Freedom in 2003,[27] with a liner note essay by Chris Welch and the addition of a bonus track – the UK single edit of "So Sad".[8]

In 2012, Lee released a sequel to the 1973 album, titled Still on the Road to Freedom. In a concurrent interview with Rock's Backpages, Lee said that it had taken up to ten years for his core audience to fully appreciate On the Road to Freedom and that the album had sold well in the ensuing decades.[20] Among reviews of the 2012 release, Glide Magazine described the Lee–LeFevre collaboration as a "landmark" album,[28] while Blogcritics identified it as Lee's best recorded work outside of Ten Years After.[29]

Track listing[edit]

Original release[edit]

  1. "On the Road to Freedom" (Alvin Lee) – 4:13
  2. "The World Is Changing (I Got a Woman Back in Georgia)" (Lee, Mylon LeFevre) – 2:45
  3. "So Sad (No Love of His Own)" (George Harrison) – 4:34
  4. "Fallen Angel" (Lee) – 3:20
  5. "Funny" (Lee) – 2:48
  6. "We Will Shine" (LeFevre) – 2:37
  7. "Carry My Load" (Lee) – 2:58
  8. "Lay Me Back" (LeFevre) – 2:53
  9. "Let 'Em Say What They Will" (Ron Wood) – 2:52
  10. "I Can't Take It" (LeFevre) – 2:51
  11. "Riffin" (Lee, LeFevre) – 3:31
  12. "Rockin' 'Til the Sun Goes Down" (Lee, LeFevre) – 3:08

2003 reissue[edit]

Bonus track
  1. "So Sad (No Love of His Own)" [Single Version] (Harrison) – 3:00

Personnel[edit]

According to the 2003 reissue CD booklet unless otherwise noted:[12]

Musicians
Production
  • Producer: Alvin Lee
  • Recording engineers: Harold Burgon, Andy Jaworski
  • Mixing: Alvin Lee
  • Photography: Andy Jaworski, Roger Lowe
  • Liner notes (2003 reissue): Chris Welch

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ According to the product information supplied by Muze, the album's style "could be best described as hard spiritual rock".[8]
  2. ^ Harrison was credited, under his pseudonym "Hari Georgeson", only for his playing on "So Sad".[13][14]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Pedersen, Erik (6 March 2013). "Alvin Lee Dies; Guitarist Electrified Woodstock". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 30 June 2016. 
  2. ^ a b c Chris Welch's liner notes, On the Road to Freedom CD booklet (Repertoire Records, 2003; produced by Alvin Lee), p. 5.
  3. ^ a b Patricia Romanowski & Holly George-Warren (eds), The New Rolling Stone Encyclopedia of Rock & Roll, Fireside/Rolling Stone Press (New York, NY, 1995; ISBN 0-684-81044-1), p. 992.
  4. ^ Ingham, Jonh (11 October 1975). "Alvin Lee: TYA's Animated Man". Sounds.  Available at Rock's Backpages (subscription required).
  5. ^ Welch, Chris (22 March 1975). "Alvin Lee: Going Home No More". Melody Maker.  Available at Rock's Backpages (subscription required).
  6. ^ a b c d e Bronson, Harold (14 February 1974). "Alvin Lee and Mylon Lefevre: They'd Rather Do It Themselves". Zoo World.  Available at Rock's Backpages (subscription required).
  7. ^ a b c Marsh, Dave; Swenson, John (eds) (1983). The New Rolling Stone Record Guide. New York, NY: Random House/Rolling Stone Press. p. 292. ISBN 0-394-72107-1. 
  8. ^ a b "Alvin Lee / Mylon Lefevre – On the Road to Freedom CD Album" > "Product Description". CD Universe/Muze. Retrieved 30 June 2016. 
  9. ^ Herb Staehr, "The George Harrison/Alvin Lee connection", Goldmine, 25 January 2002, p. 63.
  10. ^ a b c Chris Welch's liner notes, On the Road to Freedom CD booklet (Repertoire Records, 2003; produced by Alvin Lee), p. 6.
  11. ^ George Kalamaras, "The Bluest Blues (for Alvin Lee, 1944–2013)", Chicago Blues Guide, 2013 (retrieved 29 June 2016).
  12. ^ a b c Track listing and credits, On the Road to Freedom CD booklet (Repertoire Records, 2003; produced by Alvin Lee), pp. 2–3.
  13. ^ a b Harry Castleman & Walter J. Podrazik, All Together Now: The First Complete Beatles Discography 1961–1975, Ballantine Books (New York, NY, 1976), pp. 129, 207.
  14. ^ Album credits, On the Road to Freedom LP (Chrysalis Records, 1973; produced by Alvin Lee).
  15. ^ "Alvin Lee and Mylon LeFevre On the Road to Freedom". AllMusic. Retrieved 7 December 2014. 
  16. ^ a b Harry Castleman & Walter J. Podrazik, All Together Now: The First Complete Beatles Discography 1961–1975, Ballantine Books (New York, NY, 1976), p. 129.
  17. ^ Back cover, On the Road to Freedom CD booklet (Repertoire Records, 2003; produced by Alvin Lee).
  18. ^ Harry Castleman & Walter J. Podrazik, All Together Now: The First Complete Beatles Discography 1961–1975, Ballantine Books (New York, NY, 1976), p. 130.
  19. ^ "Alvin Lee Bibliography", alvinlee.com (retrieved 29 June 2016).
  20. ^ a b Trakin, Roy (March 2013). "Finally Going Home: Alvin Lee". Rock's Backpages. Retrieved 30 June 2016. 
  21. ^ "Billboard Top LPs & Tape", Billboard, 9 February 1974, p. 60 (retrieved 29 June 2016).
  22. ^ "Alvin Lee: Awards", AllMusic (retrieved 29 June 2016).
  23. ^ Bud Scoppa, "Alvin Lee: On The Road To Freedom", Rolling Stone, 11 April 1974; available at Rock's Backpages (subscription required).
  24. ^ Marsh, Dave; Swenson, John (eds) (1983). The New Rolling Stone Record Guide. New York, NY: Random House/Rolling Stone Press. pp. 292, 293. ISBN 0-394-72107-1. 
  25. ^ a b Barbara Charone, "Alvin Lee's Long Road To Freedom", Rolling Stone, 13 February 1975 (retrieved 2 July 2016).
  26. ^ Chris Welch's liner notes, On the Road to Freedom CD booklet (Repertoire Records, 2003; produced by Alvin Lee), pp. 5, 6.
  27. ^ "Alvin Lee – On the Road to Freedom". Repertoire Records. Retrieved 30 June 2016. 
  28. ^ Hart, Ron (14 September 2012). "Alvin Lee: Still on the Road to Freedom". Glide Magazine. Retrieved 30 June 2016. 
  29. ^ Britton, Wesley (27 July 2012). "Music Review: Alvin Lee – Still on the Road to Freedom". Blogcritics. Retrieved 30 June 2016. 
  30. ^ Simon Leng, While My Guitar Gently Weeps: The Music of George Harrison, Hal Leonard (Milwaukee, WI, 2006; ISBN 1-4234-0609-5), p. 151.