Between 1968 and 1974, Ten Years After were one of the most successful British bands. They released their eponymous debut album, Ten Years After in October 1967, which was recently reissued by Universal Music. Ten Years After failed to make an impression on either side of the Atlantic. However, Ten Years After showcased the band’s considerable skills. So, it was no surprise that when Ten Years After released their live album Undead in 1968, it was a game-changer. 

Ten Years After were well on their way to commercial success on both sides of the Atlantic. Six of Ten Years After’s studio albums and their two live albums reached the top forty in Britain. However, America had an insatiable appetite for Ten Years After.

That was the case from 1968s Undead. It was heard by legendary promoted Bill Graham. He championed Ten Years After in America. From 1968s Undead to 1974s Positive Vibrations, Ten Years After were frequent flyers in the US Billboard 200. Ten Years After could do no wrong in the eyes of the American record buying public.

Even when Ten Years After left Deram, and signed to Columbia, Deram released an album of unreleased tracks and alternate takes. Alvin Lee and Company reached number fifty-five in the US Billboard 200 in 1972. Ten Years After were just the latest band to make it big in America. However, forty-one years after the split-up for the first time, people are still unsure how to describe Ten Years After’s music?

Often, Ten Years After’s music is described as blues rock. While there’s elements of blues rock in Ten Years After’s music, there’s also elements of folk, pop, psychedelia and rock. The reason why it’s so hard to categorise Ten Years After’s music, is they were continually experimenting, and pushing musical boundaries. Ten Years After were pioneers. That had been the case since they released their eponymous debut album in 1967. It was released a year after Blues Trip became Ten Years After. However, the Ten Years After story began in 1960.

That’s when Ivan Jay and the Jaycats were formed. They consisted of musicians from the Nottingham and Manfield area. This included vocalist Ivan Jay, guitarist and vocalist Alvin Lee and bassist Leo Lyons. In 1962, Ivan Jay became The Jaycats and later, Ivan and The Jaymen. Just as the name changed, so did the lineup.

Ivan Jay was the lead vocalists until 1962. He was replaced by Ray Cooper, who also played rhythm guitar. Drummer Pete Evans  joined in 1962, but left in 1965, to be replaced by Dave Quickmire. Then in 1965, Ric Evans became The Jaybirds drummer. The following year, 1966, The Jaybirds were on the move, and changed their name.

Like so many bands, The Jaybirds headed to London, where they became The Ivy League. Later, in 1966, keyboardist Chick Churchill joined The Ivy League. They soon came to the attention of future Chrysalis founder, Chris Wright. He became The Ivy League’s manager, who changed their name to Blues Trip. However, the quartet made their debut as Blues Yard.

Chris Wright got the newly named Blues Yard the job of opening for Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band. That was their one and only concert as Blues Yard. Not long after this, Blues Yard became Ten Years After. This was the start of the rise and rise of Ten Years After.

Through the Chrysalis Booking Agency, Ten Years After secured a residency at the Marquee. This was a prestigious residency. Suddenly, people were taking notice of Ten Years After. However, it was their appearance at the Windsor Jazz Festival in 1967 that resulted in Ten Years After signing to the Deram, a subsidiary of Decca.

Now signed to Deram, Ten Years After began work on their eponymous debut album. Deram didn’t bother getting Ten Years After to record a single. Even then, it was obvious that Ten Years After were more of an albums band. So Ten Years After were sent into the studio to record their debut album.

For their eponymous debut album, Ten Years After chose a mixture of cover versions and new songs. Cover versions included Paul Jones’ I Want to Know, Al Kooper’s I Can’t Keep from Crying, Sometime, Willie Dixon’s Spoonful and the blues standard help me. Alvin Lee penned Feel It for Me, Love Until I Die and Don’t Want You, Woman. He also cowrote Adventures of a Young Organ with Chick Churchill and Losing the Dog with Gus Dudgeon. These ten tracks became Ten Years After.

Recording of Ten Years After took place at Decca Studios, London during September 1967. The rhythm section featured drummer Ric Lee, bassist Leo Lyons and guitar and vocalist Alvin Lee. Augmenting the rhythm section was keyboardist Chick Churchill. Producing Ten Years After were two experienced and practised producers, Mike Vernon and Gus Dudgeon. Once Ten Years After was completed, it was released in October 1967.

When Ten Years After was released in October 1967, the album was well received by critics. Many described the album as purely blues rock. That wasn’t quite the case.

Granted blues rock was the most obvious influence on Ten Years After. That was the case on I Want Know. Ten Years After seemed to be following in the direction of John Mayall and The Bluesbreakers. However, tracks like I Can’t Keep from Crying, Sometimes had a moody psychedelic hue. Adventures Of A Young Organ saw Ten Years After head in the direction of jazz. There’s a return to the blues on Spoonful. Loosing The Dogs is the perfect showcase from Alvin Lee’s virtuoso performance on guitar. Elements of Americana, blues and country shine through on the track that close side one of Ten Years After.

Side two of Ten Years After featured a trio Alvin Lee penned tracks. Feel It for Me and Love Until I Die are blues rock. Don’t Want You, Woman  is an understated blues ballad. Help Me which closes Ten Years After, is an oft-covered blues classic. It comes to life in the hands of Alvin Lee and co. They sound as if they’re from Mississippi Delta, rather than the Midlands of England. However, despite the undeniable quality of Ten Years After, commercial success eluded the album.

Ten Years After was released on October 27th 1967. The album failed to chart on either side of the Atlantic. While this was a disappointment for Ten Years After and everyone at Deram, critics forecast a bright future Ten Years After.

And so it proved to be. From the release of their second album, the live album Undead in 1968, Ten Years After were riding a wave of commercial success and critical acclaim. Championed by Bill Graham, Ten Years After became one of British music’s most successful exports. Twelve of Ten Years After’s albums charted. America had an insatiable appetite for their music. That was the case whether it was studio albums, live albums or compilations. America couldn’t get enough of Ten Years After. Back home, it was a similar story.

Eight of Ten Years After’s albums charted. Their most successful period was between 1969 and 1971. This started with the release of Stonedhenge in February 1969. It reached number six. Sssh was released in October 1968, and reached number four. So did Cricklewood Green, which released in may 1970. Watt was released in January 1971, and reached number five. After that, Ten Years After stalled in the upper reaches of the top forty. It was in America where Ten Years After were most successful. That was the case until 1974, when Ten Years After split-up. 

For six years Ten Years After could do no wrong, and were one of the biggest bands on both sides of the Atlantic. The album that launched Ten Years After on to the road to commercial success and critical acclaim is Ten Years After, which was recently reissued by Universal Music.

The newly reissued version of Ten Years After features both the mono and stereo versions of the album on disc one. Disc two features eleven bonus tracks, including versions of Portable People, The Sounds, Spider In My Web, Hold Me Tight and (At The) Woodchopper’s Ball. They’re a welcome addition, and will especially be of interest to completists. This newly reissued version of Ten Years After is one of three reissues. Undead and Stonedhenge have also been released. These reissues are a reminder of one of British music’s most successful exports, as they embark upon what would prove to be a career where commercial success and critical acclaim were constant companions to Ten Years After.



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