Saturday, October 14, 2023

Leo Lyons & Hundred Seventy Split - Movin' On

Leo Lyons & Hundred Seventy Split is a hell of a mouthful for a band name – though in fact the ‘&’ is only there because I’ve stuck it in to make it sound more logical.  Presumably Leo Lyons’ name is on the tin because he still has some kind of recognition factor after playing for Ten Years After for many years, including their Woodstock heyday.  What does Hundred Seventy Split signify?  Don’t ask me Jack, ‘cause I don’t know.
Whatever, Lyons and his fellow Splitters Joe Gooch (guitar and vocals) and Damon Sawyer (drums) have been working together for over a decade now, and it shows in the cohesion of their musicianship.  Movin’ On – a bland title it has to be said – is a varied set of ten
Hundred Seventy Split - where'd the road crew go?
tunes, but regardless of the styles involved their delivery is polished.
Some of their best moments are British blues-leaning, as you might expect given Lyons’ roots. Opener ‘Walking In The Devil’s Shoes’ kicks in with a Creamy-sounding riff, switching between brisk verses and a mid-tempo chorus.  It has a satisfying heft that puts me in mind of latterday Savoy Brown – except that Joe Gooch’s clean, accurate vocals don’t have the character Kim Simmonds could bring to the party.  Gooch does offer plenty of sharp guitar work though, so he does earn his corn.  ‘Deep Beneath That Muddy Water’ is a moodier, gritty affair, balancing steely, acoustic-sounding strumming with flickering electric guitar fills, over a sombre beat, for me evoking Walter Trout in reflective mode – a serious compliment.  But while Gooch’s ducking and diving soloing gets high marks, he can’t match Trout’s personality on the vocal front – not that I want to mark the guy down for what is a pleasing, light voice, but I’d prefer some pipes of an earthier bent.
His voice benefits from some double-tracking on the lick-strewn boogie of ‘Mad Bad And Dangerous’ though, on which the trio’s sound is also beefed up by some guest Hammond organ from Bob Hadrell to produce one of the most satisfying tracks on offer.  A more mid-tempo rocker is ‘Sounded Like A Train’, which recalls a Nashville hurricane with appropriately guttural Gooch riffing, rubber band bass work from Lyons, and a suitably urgent Gooch vocal.  ‘Time To Kill’ aims for similar territory, with an ear-catching rumblin’ an’ rollin’ riff, matched by Lyons’ bass, over snapping drums from Sawyer.  But as a closing track it doesn’t quite pack enough punch.
A couple of swingier tunes work nicely though.  On ‘It’s So Easy To Slide’ Sawyer’s drums skip around breezily, complemented by Lyons’ bass bopping along jazzily, while Gooch hits the spot with a sackful of guitar frills and an easy-going vocal, and ultimately a pretty damn satisfying guitar solo too. And ‘Meet Me At The Bottom’ is perky fun too, a boozy, woozy blues with acoustic-ish guitar and stripped back, tripping drums.
Other songs are decent enough, but overlong.  ‘The Heart Of A Hurricane’ is an okay slice of Bryan Adams-like AOR, with some tasty sustained, ringing chords, but at seven minutes long it stays up way past its bedtime.  The slower ‘Black River’ isn’t quite so extended, but still doesn’t have sufficient content to justify its length.  But while ‘The Road Back Home’ could also do with a shave, it interweaves acoustic strumming and discursive lead guitar to good effect, together with a twirling Bad Company style riff, and an intriguing coda.
Movin’ On (still don’t rate that title) is an entertaining album, but a bit short in the raunch department.  It makes me visualise a stylish boxer who can jab and move all night, but who doesn’t have the haymaker to lay you out or the body punch to take your breath away.  All the same, it may do enough to win you over on a split decision.
Movin’ On is out now on Flatiron Recordings.

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