Formed: 1966 in London, England
Formed during the mid-1960s British blues-rock boom inspired by John Mayall's Bluesbreakers, Kim Simmonds' Savoy Brown were part of a wave of bands that included Cream, Taste, Skid Row, Free, and many others. While the band's brief commercial heyday came during the early 1970s, and they found greater success in the U.S. than in the U.K., Simmonds has managed to extend Savoy Brown's legacy across five decades with various line-up that have always featured his amazing fretwork.
The Savoy Brown Blues Band
Savoy Brown was originally formed as the Savoy Brown Blues Band in 1966 in London, England by guitarist Kim Simmonds. The original Savoy Brown Blues Band line-up included singer Bryce Portius, guitarists Simmons and Martin Stone, bassist Ray Chappell, drummer Leo Manning, and keyboardist Bob Hall. It is this line-up that recorded the band's 1967 debut album, Shake Down, a collection of blues covers that included three Willie Dixon songs.
Establishing a pattern that Savoy Brown would follow all too often, the band's roster would change by the time of the band's 1968 release Getting To The Point. The album featured new lead singer Chris Youlden who, with Simmonds, began to pen new material to work in next to the standard blues covers. Blue Matter brought in guitarist "Lonesome" Dave Peverett, bassist Tony Stevens, and drummer Roger Earl, creating what is considered by many to be the band's classic line-up. Blue Matter would be the first Savoy Brown album to chart in the United States, yielding a minor hit single in the song "Train To Nowhere."
The Classic Years
The five-year period from late 1969 through 1974 is often considered to be Savoy Brown's "classic era." As the band began to incorporate more of a John Lee Hooker-inspired boogie-rock sound into its songs, their material would also feature more of Simmonds' blistering guitar playing, appealing to a blues-hungry U.S. audience. Savoy Brown released A Step Further in late 1969, inching up the Billboard Top 200 albums chart to reach #71, while the following year's Raw Sienna would introduce jazz elements, much like John Mayall at the time, to the band's trademark blues-rock bluster.
Youlden would leave the band after Raw Sienna to pursue an unremarkable solo career. Savoy Brown would soldier on under Simmonds' hand, Peverett taking over vocals for 1970's Looking In, another career highlight, the album inching into the U.S. Top 40. The band would be dealt another blow when Peverett, Stevens, and Earl left to form Foghat. Simmonds recruited singer Dave Walker and members of the recently-disbanded British blues-rock outfit Chicken Shack for 1971's Street Corner Talking and 1972's Hellbound Train, which would become the band's best-selling album, hitting #32 on the albums chart.
The Boogie Years
Although Savoy Brown would be unable duplicate the critical and commercial success of Hellbound Train, the band kept cranking them out year-after-year through the 1970s, each album displaying an increasingly boogie-rock dominated sound fueled by Simmonds' amazing fretwork and a constantly-changing line-up of backing players that included veteran musicians like Chicken Shack's Stan Webb, and guitarist Miller Anderson. While Simmonds would see his former bandmates in Foghat enjoy arena-headlining status with his musical formula, Savoy Brown's fortunes would diminish with each new record.
The guitarist would trudge on through the 1980s and '90s and well into the new century, various permutations of Savoy Brown, with Simmonds the only constant, recording sporadically and touring frequently entirely on past accolades. Simmonds and Savoy Brown seemed to find the old spark with the 2001 acoustic album Blues Like Midnight, signing with Blind Pig Records for 2003's critically-acclaimed Strange Dreams, which brought elements of funk, R&B, and rock to the band's trademark sound. Steel, from 2007, would take on even more of a sleek R&B sound.
Recommended Albums: Hellbound Train is the best-seller, notable mostly for the raging nine-minute title track and "Troubled By These Days And Times." Blue Matter, however, features both the classic band line-up and "Train To Nowhere." Nearly anything from the early 1970s is worthy, but stay far away from any Savoy Brown album recorded after 1976 or so....
Savoy Brown - Select Discography
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- Shake Down (Decca Records/Deram, 1967)
- Getting To The Point (Decca Records/Deram, 1968)
- Blue Matter (Parrot Records, 1969)
- A Step Further (Parrot Records, 1969)
- Raw Sienna (Parrot Records, 1970)
- Looking In (Parrot Records, 1970)
- Street Corner Talking (Parrot Records, 1971)
- Hellbound Train (Parrot Records, 1972)
- Lion's Share (Parrot Records, 1973)
- Jack The Toad (Parrot Records, 1973)
- Boogie Brothers (London Records, 1974)
- Wire Fire (London Records, 1975)
- Skin 'n' Bone (London Records, 1977)
- Savage Return (London Records, 1978)
- Rock 'n' Roll Warriors (Accord Records, 1981)
- Greatest Hits Live In Concert (Accord Records, 1981)
- Live In Central Park (Relix Records, 1985)
- Slow Train (Relix Records, 1986)
- Make Me Sweat (GNP Crescendo, 1987)
- Kings Of Boogie (GNP Crescendo, 1989)
- Live 'n' Kicking (GNP Crescendo, 1990)
- Let It Ride (Roadhouse, 1992)
- Bring It On Home (Viceroy, 1995)
- Solitaire (Blue Wave Records, 1997)
- The Blues Keep Me Holding On (Blue Storm Records, 1998)
- Blues Like Midnight (Blue Wave Records, 2001)
- Strange Dreams (Blind Pig Records, 2003)
- Struck By Lightning (Panache Records, 2004)
- You Should Have Been There (Panache Records, 2004)
- Steel (Panache Records, 2007)