Chicken Shack – ‘Crying Won’t Help You Now: The Deram Years 1971-1974’ (2022)
After releasing four albums and several singles on producer Mike Vernon’s Blue Horizon label, British blues guitarist Stan Webb and his band Chicken Shack signed a recording contract with Decca Records in 1971, releasing two studio and one live LP for the label.
The three albums are joined by three non-LP single sides on ‘Crying Won’t Help You Now’ a new three disc box set on Cherry Red Records’ Esoteric Recordings imprint.
Disc one centers around the 1972 album ‘Imagination Lady’ which finds Chicken Shack in power trio form, with future Jethro Tull bassist John Glascock and drummer Paul Hancox joining guitarist/vocalist Webb. The album is a fine mix of Webb originals and carefully selected cover tunes, opening with a heavy, wah wah laden cover of B.B. King’s classic ‘Crying Won’t Help You Now’, wisely selected as the title track for this collection. The Webb original ‘Daughter Of The Hillside’ is another heavy blues rocker with Webb’s wah wah adding texture to his lead line and solo, Hancox contributing tasty drum fills, with he and Glascock locked into a heavy groove. The band’s take on Tim Hardin’s ‘If I Were A Carpenter’ is a nice change up with a gentle intro before the band puts it into overdrive with Webb’s solos and a nice tempo change highlighting the number. The highlight of the LP is a cover of Don Nix’s ‘Going Down’, a real piledriver with Webb’s lead guitar complementing the tight rhythm section of Glascock and Hancox and Webb contributing more heavy, creative solos. The Webb original ‘Poor Boy’ is another heavy blues rocker with stinging wah wah-laden guitar from Webb. The eleven minute Webb original ‘Telling Your Future’ features an extended drum solo by Hancox before Webb’s wah wah assisted guitar takes center stage, the melody being commercially accessible resulting in an edited version of the tune gaining single release. The album closes with another Webb original ‘The Loser’ , a short blues rocker with commercial possibilities thanks to its gorgeous melody, and was in fact released as a 7” in Germany. The disc is completed by the single versions of ‘Poor Boy’ and ‘Telling Your Future’.
Disc two opens with the tracks comprising 1973’s ‘Unlucky Boy’. Chicken Shack expanded to a quintet and changed the style of music considerably for this album. Webb retained only drummer Hancox, while adding bassist Bob Daisley, pianist Tony Ashton and saxophonist Chris Mercer whose playing was overdubbed to sound like an entire horn section. Once again the LP mixes Webb originals with cover tunes. The album opens with Webb’s ‘You Know Could Be Right’, a heavy number with a hot lead guitar line, crashing drums, a driving beat and a soaring solo outro by Webb. ‘Revelation’ features Mercer’s sax and Webb’s guitar producing a sound reminiscent of John Mayall and The Bluesbreakers. ‘Prudence’s Party’ has fiery guitar with Ashton’s piano adding texture to the gorgeous instrumental. Lonnie Johnson’s ‘Too Late To Cry’ offers more R&B tinged blues with country folkish flavor. ‘Stan The Man’ is a hot electric shuffle with Webb’s guitar and Ashton’s piano complemented by Hancox’s drum fills. Big Mama Thornton and Champion Jack Dupree’s ‘Unlucky Boy’ is a driving jazz blues rocker with Mercer’s horn accent added to Webb’s revved-up guitar, both players contributing tasty solos. ‘As Time Goes Passing By’ is a mid-tempo tune with strings added to its B.B. King influenced sound. ‘Jammin’ With The Ash’ is a seven minute tour de force, once again reminiscent of B.B. King, with Ashton’s piano solo and Webb’s two guitar solos being particularly impressive on this heavy blues tune. The album closes with Jimmy McCrackin’s boogie style ‘He Knows The Rules’ with Mercer’s sax and Webb’s guitar to the fore before the song moves into a heavy blues jam finale. The disc closes with the single version of ‘As Time Goes By’.
Disc three contains the live ‘Goodbye Chicken Shack’ recorded at Brunel University on the 26th of October 1973. Once again the band contains different personnel with only Webb remaining. Electric pianist Dave Wilkinson, bassist Rob Hull and drummer Alan Powell support the guitarist. The album opens with a cover of Peter Chatman’s ‘Everyday I Have The Blues’ , a hot number led by Webb’s guitar and Wilkinson’s electric piano. Art Benson and Dale Pettie’s ‘Thrill Is Gone’, B.B. King’s signature song is given a fiery guitar treatment with Webb’s six string delivering stinging, wah wah-laden licks supported by Wilkinson’s electric piano, while Hull and Powell hold the bottom end down tightly. A cover of Don Nix’s ‘Going Down’ showcases Webb’s guitar once again. Webb’s ‘You Take Me Down’ gives off a vibe mixing Fenton Robinson’s ‘Loan Me A Dime’ and ‘Thrill Is Gone’, a mid-tempo take with Webb’s outro solo especially notable. ‘Webb’s Boogie’ is another original with Wilkinson’s boogie woogie electric piano and Webb’s screaming wah wah aided guitar dominant, giving the song a Jerry Lee Lewis feel. ‘You’re Mean’ the b-side of B.B. King’s ‘The Thrill Is Gone’ again showcases Webb’s guitar and Wilkinson’s electric piano. Webb’s ‘Poor Boy’ is a hard rocker with Webb’s wah wah laden guitar and Wilkinson again to the fore. ‘Webb’s Guitar Shuffle’ lives up to its title with the band pouring it on to close out the number. A cover of Little Richard’s ‘Tutti Frutti’ features Wilkinson’s electric piano, Powell’s drums and Webb’s vocals with Webb cranking up his guitar to bring the song, show and box set to a close.
‘Crying Won’t Help You Now: The Deram Years 1971-1974’ comes in a clamshell box with its three discs each coming in individual cardboard mini-LP sleeves. The set also contains a full color twenty page booklet with album and single artwork, a detailed essay by compiler Mark Powell dedicated, as is the box set, to the late Malcolm Dome who supplied liner notes for so many releases and will be sorely missed. The set includes the lyrics to all the songs on ‘Goodbye Chicken Shack’. The band sounds better than ever thanks to the remastering job of Ben Wiseman. This box set will be of interest to Chicken Shack and Stan Webb fans, blues fans, and fans of 1970’s rock in general, and comes highly recommended.
Chicken Shack – ‘Crying Won’t Help You Now: The Deram Years 1971-1974’ (Esoteric Recordings 2022)