Old Man’s River: On The Road To Freedom

One of the things I’ve been trying to do with Old Man’s River is to stay away from the big hits, try and introduce people to stuff they wouldn’t have come across easily.

So, today:

Recommendation 3: (Album)

On The Road to Freedom. Alvin Lee and Mylon Lefevre and some very interesting sessions men.

When I was in my mid-to-late teens, one of my favourite pastimes was to take a gentle wander down Free School St, stopping at the second-hand shops, loitering with intent and going through each shop’s stock of used books, comics and, occasionally, vinyl.

An aside. For people like me, “Western” music was limited in supply those days: there were only four ways of getting it. One, you waited for the then local monopoly, Gramophone Company of India, to issue it. Because they believed in traditional forms of marketing and distribution, they were driven towards a hit culture, which meant I could buy Boney M but not Blind Faith. So if you waited for them you could be waiting a long time. A second route was to go to the Kidderpore Docks, where there was an active and open smuggler’s market straight out of Dickens. Dark and dank, ill-lit and illicit. There, amongst the t-shirts and the watches and colognes, you would occasionally come across a “Japanese” or “Singapore” copy: these had covers which were obvious photocopies of the originals, with a poor cut-and-paste of the vernacular titles over the English original, laminated in thin polythene. A third way was “taping”, when you made a copy of someone else’s album (something I didn’t like doing even then). And the fourth was the most productive: you waited for some passing hippie to sell his stash of records for drugs, and, if you were lucky, you had first dibs on his erstwhile possessions….. the Calcutta 1970s variant of the pawnshop.

Actually there was a fifth way: you had someone go abroad and bring something back for you. But in those days this was so rare it wasn’t worth counting: the number of people you knew who were going abroad roughly equalled the number of divorced people you knew. Counted on the fingers of one hand.

I digress. On the Road to Freedom. An album I bought in a second-hand store, probably as a result of hippie bartering. Absolutely fantastic. A soft and gentle album, one that grows on you the first time you listen to it. Guest musicians include Steve Winwood, George Harrison, Jim Capaldi, “Rebop” Kwaku Baah, Mick Fleetwood, Ron Wood and Boz Burrell.

By the time I heard the first four tracks I was toast. This is such a one-off album; it’s not a supergroup, it’s not cult, it’s not anything I can describe easily. Alvin Love-Like-A-Man Ten Years After Lee meets Mylon Holy Smoke Doo Dah Lefevre; friends join in, and some wonderful music was made.

It’s only recently been released on CD, four or five years ago. One of my favourite albums.

6 thoughts on “Old Man’s River: On The Road To Freedom”

  1. Thanks for this …. if you find daily is to frequent, which I suspect you may, weekly is fine. Mainly I am thinking, don’t stop. I appreciate the music reflections because they map closely to mine from the 70’s. I went through the whole, Nice, Deep Purple, Neil Young, David Bowie, ELP, etc etc period, from Caird Hall in Dundee, to Hammersmith Odeon in London. Wonderful memories :-)

  2. JP – are you and I REALLY the only people who know this album? My vinyl would still be in good nick – I didn’t play it often, and not for about 30 years … must pull it out to see if the moths and silverfish have devoured it!

  3. I remembered George Harrison and Mick Fleetwood guesting, but had forgotten about the Traffic guys – silly really because Rebop is one of my favourite percussionists …

    Wasn’t Alvin Lee heralded as about the fastest guitar player around at one stage?

  4. oh dear just come across this blog

    pretty predictable stuff ranting on about agile, al noor etc

    agile is just another psuedo religious methodology, guess what its good for some projects and the wrong choice for others, good leaders who can select the best methodology for a given project are what is needed not some bigot ramming their hobby horse methodology down everyones throat for everthing

    agile as implemented at the organisations youve been at has many cons, do i really have to list them?

    isnt BT such a meritocracy giving mates of the political class at the top jobs like urs instead of going for the best people they can find

    so sad

  5. Hi David, haven’t heard Diamond Head as yet. Diamond Life yes, Machine Head yes, but not DH. So I will look out for it, I like Manzanera. Thanks

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