Ten Years After – A Space In Time (1971, 2011 Audio Fidelity Remaster)

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After 1968’s Undead made them stars in their native UK, Woodstock got them noticed in the USA and Cricklewood Green (1970) gave them a hit with “Love Like A Man,” Ten Years After looked around and saw their fellow British blues-rock brethren the big breakthrough success that’s eluded them so far. The Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, and earlier, Cream, became household names on both sides of the pond, while TYA seemed to have reached a certain level of fame and got stuck there. Lead guitarist, lead vocalist and primary songwriter Alvin Lee was certainly good enough at all three of things to get the band to the next level (especially that first thing, just listen to “I’m Going Home” for validation).

After completing their contract with their original label Decca, a jump to behemoth Columbia gave them the chance elevate their profile. A Space In Time released in August, 1971 (Chrysalis Records handled distribution in the UK), and a single “I’d Love to Change the World” was spun off that summer and became the band’s highest ever charting song in the Billboard Hot 100, just breaking into the Top 40. Lee’s tasty, highly reverbed electric guitar work on the song showed a off contrast to the rough, blistering style he was known for up to that time and cemented his rep as one of finest rock guitarists out of the UK. Corresponding with the times, Lee’s song worrying over societal ills like war and the environment was mated to a folk melody that was carried out not by heavy riffs but Lee’s arpeggiated acoustic guitar chords.

A memorable song that still resonates today, but it wasn’t enough to put the band into a much wider orbit. That’s a pity, because A Space In Time succeeded in breaking the band outside the blues-rock box enough to earn the wider appeal that came to some of their peers, but not so far removed from their heritage as to abandon their original fans. The album even begins with the vintage TYA sweaty, dense blues “One of These Days,” but the variance from that formula is more pronounced than before; A Space In Time is a more refined, less rough effort.

Variety can be found all over. “Over the Hill” is augmented by strings, “Baby Won’t You Let Me Rock ‘N Roll You” is a earth-shaking rocker in the mode of Jerry Lee Lewis, tape loops and an electric sitar permeate the psychedelic “Let The Sky Fall,” and Lee shows off his jazzy chops on the brief swinging instrumental “Uncle Jam.”

Audio Fidelity could hardly find a more appropriate TYA album to apply their remastering treatment. Cricklewood Green, which many consider the band’s best album overall, had its remastering done in 2002, but the band’s all-time best selling album A Space In Time hadn’t previously. As one of their most nuanced records, the increased use of electronics through a primitive synthesizer, a mellotron and pedal effects, as well as tape manipulation benefits from the treatment, as does Lee’s extensive guitar fingerpicking. Clearly a relic of its time, the production was better than average, making this a good listen forty years later. Out roughly the same time as Led Zeppelin IV, A Space In Time ain’t no IV, but proved that Ten Years After was much more than a flash in the pan blues rock band.

A Space In Time was reissued by Audio Fidelity in July of last year.

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S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron is an SQL demon for a Fortune 100 company by day, music opinion-maker at night. His musings are strewn out across the interwebs on jazz.com, AllAboutJazz.com, a football discussion board and some inchoate customer reviews of records from the late 1990s on Amazon under a pseudonym that will never be revealed. E-mail him at svaaron@somethingelsereviews .com or follow him on Twitter at https://twitter.com/SVictorAaron
S. Victor Aaron

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