Alvin Lee's Road To Freedom: the beginning and the end

In 1973, before the official breakup of Ten Years After came about, singer/guitarist Alvin Lee recorded his first non-TYA project, a collaboration with American Gospel singer Mylon LeFevre. To make this seemingly unlikely pairing even more interesting, the duo was backed by a stellar assortment of musicians, including George Harrison, Ron Wood, Mick Fleetwood, members of Traffic (Steve Winwood, Jim Capaldi, Rebop Kwaku Baah) and of King Crimson (Boz Burrell, Ian Wallace). Despite the large number of Brits involved, the material on this album mostly resembled American country rock. The album's title On The Road To Freedom reflected Lee's desire to escape from the commercial pressures and trappings of Ten Years After, as he felt that the band's musical development had been arrested after their Woodstock performance catapulted them to fame.

One of the high points of On The Road To Freedom is George Harrison's ballad "So Sad", which features the pseudonymous Hari Georgeson on slide guitar; Ron Wood and Mick Fleetwood also played on this track. As sung in LeFevre's tenor, this version is superior to Harrison's hoarsely sung version on his Dark Horse album from the following year. Ron Wood's "Let 'Em Say What They Will" -- on which Wood played guitar, bass, and drums -- is more along the lines of the dirty rock we would expect from the Stones or the Faces. The other ten songs were written by Lee and/or LeFevre, with LeFevre taking on the majority of the lead vocal duties.

After Lee's opening title track, which resembles A Space In Time-era Ten Years After, most of the other tracks written by Lee and/or LeFevre have a country-rock feeling that is often reminiscent of the Band, and is a notable departure from Lee's usual blues rock. (That is, except for one moment where LeFevre unexpectedly rocks out on Lee's "Fallen Angel", the kind of number you might expect to hear from Grand Funk Railroad). LeFevre's 12-string guitar adds extra flavor to "We Will Shine" and "Carry My Load". The last two tracks venture into the type of Southern Rock territory populated by Lynyrd Skynyrd and the Allman Brothers. On The Road To Freedom is a respectable album of its time and genre, and it still stands out as a surprising change of pace for Lee, possibly the farthest he has ever ventured away from his usual blues-rock virtuoso image.

Four decades later in 2012, Lee recorded an album titled Still On The Road To Freedom. His original co-star Mylon LeFevre did not reprise his role for this sequel, although two original cast members -- drummer Ian Wallace and keyboardist Tim Hinkley -- did participate. Lee wrote all 13 of the songs, singing all of the lead vocals and playing various instruments. Like the previous Road To Freedom album, this one starts off with a title track that is reminiscent of Ten Years After. But unlike the other album, this one does not venture very far from that sound for its remainder. In fact, the closing track is itself a sequel to the Ten Years After song "Love Like A Man", varied by a horn arrangement. Lee was the undisputed star of the show this time around, and he strutted his blues-rocking guitar stuff as he saw fit, though usually not in the flashier fashion of some of his earlier works. The keyboards on "Midnight Creeper" and "Rock You" sound as if they could have been played by his former bandmate Chick Churchill. This album does briefly revisit the country sounds of the earlier Road To Freedom album on "Nice & Easy", "Walk On, Walk Tall" and on the hidden instrumental at the album's end, as well as in the more rustic blues of the acoustic "Blues Got Me So Bad" and the harmonica-driven "Save My Stuff". Lee also threw in some '50's-style rockabilly with "I'm A Lucky Man" and the instrumental "Down Line Rock", and mixed some hip-hop beats into "Listen To Your Radio Station". One weak link: "Back In 69" is a reminder that lyrics and politics were never Lee's strong points.

Still, Still On The Road To Freedom turned out to be a satisfying finale to Lee's recording career, as it sadly marked the end of that road. Lee died the following year at age 68 from complications caused by surgery. If Lee was in fact still searching for some type of freedom that eluded him, hopefully he has found it in the next life.

Alvin Lee & Mylon LeFevre - On the Road to Freedom

Alvin Lee & Mylon LeFevre "On The Road To Freedom" (Columbia C 32729) 1973

Track Listing:

1. On The Road To Freedom -- (Lee)

Vocals, Guitar, Bass, Backing Vocals – Alvin Lee
Backing Vocals, Percussion – Mylon LeFevre
Piano – Stevie Winwood
Drums – Jim Capaldi
Congas – Rebop Kwaku Baah

2. The World Is Changing -- (Lee/LeFevre)

Backing Vocals – Mike Patto
Drums – Jim Capaldi
Guitar, Bass, Lead Vocals, Backing Vocals – Alvin Lee
Lead Vocals, Backing Vocals, Rhythm Guitar [Acoustic] – Mylon LeFevre
Organ – Tim Hinkley

3. So Sad (No Love Of His Own) -- (Harrison)

Drums – Mick Fleetwood
Guitar, Backing Vocals – Alvin Lee
Guitar, Slide Guitar, Bass, Harmony Vocals – Hari Georgeson
Lead Vocals, Harmony Vocals – Mylon LeFevre
Twelve-String Guitar – Ron Wood

4. Fallen Angel -- (Lee)

Drums, Percussion – Jim Capaldi
Guitar, Bass – Alvin Lee
Lead Vocals, Percussion – Mylon LeFevre
Piano – Stevie Winwood
Slide Guitar – Ron Wood

5. Funny -- (Lee)

Fiddle – Andy Stein
Guitar, Bass, Drums, Harmony Vocals – Alvin Lee
Lead Vocals, Harmony Vocals – Mylon LeFevre

6. We Will Shine -- (LeFevre)

Bass – Ron Wood
Guitar, Backing Vocals – Alvin Lee
Lead Vocals, Twelve-String Guitar, Backing Vocals – Mylon LeFevre
Piano – Stevie Winwood

7. Carry My Load -- (Lee)

Drums – Ian Wallace
Piano – Tim Hinkley
Vocals, Backing Vocals – Alvin Lee
Vocals, Backing Vocals, Twelve-String Guitar, Bass – Mylon LeFevre

8. Lay Me Back -- (LeFevre)

Drums – Ian Wallace
Guitar, Bass, Backing Vocals, Sitar, Talkbox [The Bag] – Alvin Lee
Lead Vocals, Backing Vocals, Rhythm Guitar [Acoustic] – Mylon LeFevre
Piano – Tim Hinkley
Steel Guitar – Bob Black

9. Let 'Em Say What They Will -- (Wood)

Guitar – Alvin Lee
Guitar, Bass, Drums – Ron Wood
Lead Vocals, Percussion – Mylon LeFevre
Piano – Tim Hinkley

10. I Can't Take It -- (LeFevre)

Drums – Ian Wallace
Guitar, Bass, Harmony Vocals – Alvin Lee
Piano – Stevie Winwood
Rhythm Guitar [Acoustic], Lead Vocals – Mylon LeFevre

11. Riffin -- (Lee/LeFevre)

Bass – Boz Burrell
Drums – Ian Wallace
Guitar – Alvin Lee
Organ – Tim Hinkley
Vocals – Mylon LeFevre

12. Rockin' Til The Sun Goes Down -- (Lee/LeFevre)

Backing Vocals, Percussion – Mike Patto
Bass, Backing Vocals – Boz Burrell
Drums – Ian Wallace
Guitar, Vocals [High Vocals] – Alvin Lee
Lead Vocals, Backing Vocals – Mylon LeFevre
Piano, Backing Vocals – Tim Hinkley

Alvin Lee - Still on the Road to Freedom

Alvin Lee "Still On The Road To Freedom" (Rainman RM12012) 2012

Track Listing

1. Still On The Road To Freedom
2. Listen To Your Radio Station
3. Midnight Creeper
4. Save My Stuff
5. I'm A Lucky Man
6. Walk On, Walk Tall
7. Blues Got Me So Bad
8. Song Of The Red Rock Mountain
9. Nice & Easy
10. Back In 69
11. Down Line Rock
12. Rock You
13. Love Like A Man 2

Both of these albums are currently available in physical and digital formats.