CD Review – The Steve Gibbons Band – Rollin’ The Albums (1976 – 1978)

Whilst not achieving the superstardom of some of its contemporaries, The Steve Gibbons Band was a well-respected, liked and commercially successfully group in the mid to late Seventies. Whilst centred in the music of an earlier era, the band managed to compete with the prevailing punk ethos comparatively well. (Perhaps it was due to the band’s souped-up rock and roll sound that stood them in good stead. Punk after all was just rock and roll with a youthful snarl). The group had hit singles, toured alongside some heavyweight bands including The Who, Be Bob Deluxe, ELO, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Little Feat and Nils Lofgren, and produced a string of albums.

Steve had been on the music scene since the early Sixties, at first in and around his native Birmingham then farther afield. He had been a frontman of The Uglys until they disbanded in late 1968. In 1969 Gibbons co-founded the group Balls with Trevor Burton and Denny Laine, but that group fell apart within a relatively short period of fourteen months before he joined the last incarnation of The Idle Race in 1971. It was this line-up, which also featured Dave Carroll and Bob Wilson on guitars and Bob Lamb on drums, that eventually evolved into The Steve Gibbons Band with the arrival of Trevor Burton on bass and vocals. Burton had been a member of The Move until 1969 and had also been a member of Balls. With this line-up in place, the band honed their hard, driving blend of rhythm and blues and rock, touring the pub and club circuit in Britain. In 1975 they were spotted by Peter Meaden, The Who’s first manager, and were soon signed to The Who’s management stable.

This boxset Rollin’ gathers together the band’s three classic studio albums, Any Road Up, Rollin’ On, and Down In The Bunker, the live album Caught In The Act, a Radio One In Concert from 1977, and a host of bonus tracks, including hit singles, BBC Sessions, and studio outtakes, presented in a clamshell box accompanied by an illustrated booklet.

The music itself is mainly a combination of Rhythm and Blues and straight-ahead rock, with strong elements of rock’n’roll interspersed with touches of doowop. It can be quite poppy, being quite melodic and pithy. There is some great collective playing whilst the tenor of the vocals has a John Lennon feel about them from time to time. Some of the songs are decidedly Lennonish anyway, but that might not be a surprise as they obviously had a shared influence in Chuck Berry. Indeed, The Steve Gibbons Band had a hit single with Berry’s Tulane, which reached number twelve in the UK and remained in the Top Forty for eight weeks. It is included here several times, as an album track, as a session, and in a live rendition. The Beatles connection raises its head once or twice throughout, but most noticeably in the cover of Day Tripper on the live discs. The albums have all been remastered, it would appear quite successfully as it is quite a clean sounding release. There are the odd moments of fuzziness, but given the age of source material and the then contemporary recording techniques that isn’t too surprising.

For the most part the music collected here is quite colourful and well-paced. There are a variety of themes on display, from the traditional love songs, or indeed lack of, quite traditional in popular music, to social comment and the human condition. There’s quite a joyful vibe in the celebrations of rock ‘n’ roll and doowop, and a little humour in song titles such as No Spitting On The Bus. Some of the songs actually start in a similar manner, with repeated guitar notes or chords allowing the band to get into a groove before the songs broadens out. The songs are mostly quite short. Several of the band contribute to the vocals which leads to some nice harmonisations and allows the group to enter into doowop, as on Git It.

The Steve Gibbons Band continued to produce albums after these releases, producing two more albums for the Polydor label before a change of record label and personnel saw the group creating further albums. In 1982 the group became one of the first western rock bands to tour in East Germany. The group continued to release albums throughout the 1980’s and 1990’s, whilst continuing to tour. The now eighty-year-old Gibbons continues to tour with his band.

This is a handsome release capturing a snapshot of a band in what many consider to be its classic phase. The band existed before and since, but perhaps never reaching the heights achieved during this period, certainly commercially. This is a well-researched and presented collection, comprehensive and celebratory. It presents The Steve Gibbons Band in its full glory, and is an always compelling reflection on an overlooked band. 

Disc One: Any Road Up (Remastered)

1. Take Me Home

2. Johnny Cool

3. Rollin’

4. Spark Of Love

5. Standing On The Bridge

6. Natural Thing

7. Speed Kills

8. Strange World

9. Sweetheart

Bonus Tracks

10. Back Street Cat

11. Dick Malone

Disc Two: Rollin’ On (Remastered)

1. Wild Flowers

2. Light Up Your Face

3. Now You Know Me

4. Mr Jones

5. Till The Well Runs Dry

6. Tulane

7. Cross Me Over The Road

8. Till The Fire Burns Out

9. Low Down Man

10. Right Side Of Heaven

11. Rollin’ On

12. Please Don’t Say Goodbye

13. Tupelo Mississippi Flash

14. Rounden

Bonus Tracks

15. Gave His Life To Rock N’ Roll

16. Make The Good Times Last

17. Dick Leaps In

BBC Session February 1977

18. Please Don’t Say Goodbye

19. Right Side Of Heaven / Rollin’ On

Disc Three: Caught In The Act

(Remastered)

1. Watching The River Flow

2. Light Up Your Face

3. Shopping For Clothes

4. Git It

5. He Gave His Life To Rock ‘N’ Roll

6. And The Music Plays On

7. Day Tripper

8. One Of The Boys

9. You Gotta Pay

10. Tulane

11. Speed Kills

12. Rollin’

Bonus Tracks

BBC Session June 1977

13. Tulane

14. The Music Plays On

15. He Gave His Life To Rock ‘N’ Roll

16. Boppin’ The Blues

Disc Four: Down In The Bunker (Remastered)

1. No Spitting On The Bus

2. Any Road Up

3. Down In The Bunker

4. Big Jc

5. Mary Ain’t Goin’ Home

6. Down In The City

7. Let’s Do It Again

8. Eddy Vortex

9. Chelita

10. When You Get Outside

11. Grace

Bonus Tracks

12. Gold Coast

13. Body Talk

14. Let Me Go

15. Satisfying Moves

16. I Am Here

17. The Great Escape

18. Get Up And Dance

19. Little Suzie

Disc Five:

BBC Radio One In Concert – 17th November 1977

1. One Of The Boys

2. Johnny Cool

3. Speed Kills

4. Shopping For Clothes

5. Girl In The Bunker

6. No Spitting On The Bus

7. Mr Jones

8. Boppin’ The Blues

9. Tulane

10. Git It

11. Tupelo Mississippi Flash

12. He Gave His Life To Rock ‘N’ Roll

13. Rollin’

14. Day Tripper

Release date: 3rd December, 2021

Label: Cherry Red Records

Format: CD Boxset

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