Savoy Brown light up the City Night

This is a story worth retelling…Savoy Brown has been a constant in the blues scene since 1965, and a criminally underappreciated band that has gone through more line up changes than any other band I can think of. They have, by my reckoning, had 59 different players at one time or another excluding the only constant member, Kim Simmonds. (Previous ‘visitors’ include such well-known musicians as Hughie Flint, Bill Bruford, Trevor Jeavons, Bob Brunning and Jackie Lynton to name but few). When they formed, the ‘British Blues Boom’ was in full sway and so they initially called themselves the Savoy Brown Blues Band to emphasise their predominantly Chicago style of blues. As Kim explains “We took Savoy from the US blues label, Savoy Records, which we thought sounded elegant and “Brown” because we perceived it as being about as plain as you can get. Strung together, the words created a balance of opposites”. They soon dropped the “Blues Band’ bit and set about letting the world know they had arrived. Numerous tours in Britain garnered many plaudits as well as a loyal fan base. Success, however, never seemed to truly arrive. It was a different story in the USA; both live and on vinyl, the American audiences took to them in a way the British fans did not.

His current band is the most stable with Pat De Salvo on bass and Garrett Grimm on drums. Simmonds himself plays guitar, vocals, keyboard and harmonica, although ‘only’ vocals and guitar this time.

Last year’s Witchy Feeling album was a blues based rock record of the highest order and now we are blessed with their 40th Album, City Night that carries on the blues and rock melange with even more panache and quality songs.

It all kicks off in fine style with the sort of riff that makes you feel good straight away…Walking On Hot Stones has it all and the slide is brilliant. Yes, it has a classic and familiar feel, but the playing is of such a high standard and the slide solos so majestic, that it’s totally new. By the way, it bears no similarity to the similarly titled and similarly brilliant Walking On Hot Coals by the similarly brilliant Rory Gallagher. Don’t Hang Me Out To Dry is next and has a Free texture about it in its sparseness and, as with Kossoff, the spaces say as much as the notes and that’s perfectly illustrated by the way Simmons can speak volumes with a string bend. Blues brilliance! Payback Time has an infectious, simple and clever riff and the bass behind it all is genius. The guitar solo is another example of how to keep everything new with a superb, neck travelling solo. Red Light Mama is all about traffic lights…OK, not really: the riff is another familiar yet new backing, and the slide takes it to another level, especially in the solo. Conjure Rhythm does just that; the latter part of the alphabet could do with listening to this to show how to vary the recognisable. The solos are inventive, varied and a sheer delight. Neighbourhood Blues (spelt correctly) goes down the Free route again and it is…well, brilliant; the guitar and backing are an unalloyed joy. Selfish World is not, as I thought, a song about the underwater habitat of lobsters and mussels, but a slow and effusive blues in a ballad-like format about the state of the world today; all backed by exquisite guitar phrasing over a background of clever yet simple chord work. Wearing Thin is an upbeat blues rocker that simply revels in its guitar patterns and solos; another glorious use of the whole neck and tonality that he wrings from his guitar. The title track, City Night, is a blues shuffle with drums on point in a great way: it all shows, yet again, how simple can be magnificent…the guitars are just right and the bass behind it all has a tenor and complexity of its own that is worth adjusting the tone settings on your player to bring it out and so get the full benefit. Hang In Tough is like heavier and bluesier Stones and may appear, at first listen, a bit clichéd but the slide interludes are great and, therefore, all is forgiven. Superstitious Woman has some superb discordant chords interjecting over the basic riff: almost like they were played behind the bridge. The solo is either cleverly echoed, phased or overdubbed: regardless it is another inventive, though short, solo. Final track, Ain’t Gonna Worry wraps it up with a blues-rock song that has the Spirit In The Sky echoes beloved of many…in Kim’s hands it becomes a bit more involved and he takes the familiar and weaves some fabulous patterns around it. The solo is a masterstroke…with the stop/start backing and fluid fretwork combining to bring a smile to the face of any guitar lover.

For a guitar freak/geek like me, there are few better blues albums than this one…every note has meaning; every bend, every chord and every slide has such depth and a tone I have tried and failed to achieve on Strat and Musicman alike….and I can’t just blame the amp! It is worth remembering that Kim has been doing this since 1965 and any comparisons to current players is the wrong way round…the chances are high that it his and Savoy’s influences that you are hearing in todays guitar players. So, if you love your blues with lots of guitar (I think I heard a Stratocaster, a PRS and a Les Paul…no doubt there are others), loads of feeling and acres of skill from a trio of quality musicians…the answer is simple, buy it!

TENpawprint half inchdoodle paws out of TEN …

Tracklisting:

  1. Walking On Hot Stones
  2. Don’t Hang Me Out To Dry
  3. Payback Time
  4. Red Light Mama
  5. Conjure Rhythm
  6. Neighbourhood Blues
  7. Selfish World
  8. Wearing Thin
  9. City Night
  10. Hang In Tough
  11. Superstitious Woman
  12. Ain’t Gonna Worry


  13. Musicians:

    Kim Simmonds: vocals, guitar

    Pat De Salvo: bass

    Garrett Grimm: drums

    Savoy Brown light up the City Night

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