Review: Back Door, Back Door et al

Thoroughly annotated collection of three albums from pioneering British jazz-rock band shows how little new ground there was left to cover 40 years ago


CD1: [Back Door] (1) Vienna Breakdown; Plantaganet; Lieutenant Loose; Askin’ The Way; Turning Point; Slivadiv; Jive Grind; Human Bed; Catcote Rag; Waltz For A Wollum; Folksong; Back Door; [8th Street Nites] (2) Linin’ Track; Forget Me Daisy; His Old Boots (Sein Alter Stiefel); Blue Country Blues; Dancin’ In The Van; 32-20 Blues; Roberta; It’s Nice When It’s Up; One Day You’re Down, The Next Day You’re Down; Walkin’ Blues; The Bed Creaks Louder; Adolphus Beal (67.10)
CD2: [Another Fine Mess] (3) I’m Gonna Stay A Long, Long Time; Blakey Jones; T.B. Blues; Candles Round Your Hat; Detroit Blues; The Spoiler; Shaken By Love; Streamline Guitar; Manager’s Shirt; The Dashing White Sergeant (36.16)

(1) Ron Asprey (ss, as, f); Colin Hodgkinson (elb); Tony Hicks (d). London, 3-4 June 1972. (2) Asprey (ss, as, f, elp); Hodgkinson (elb, v); Hicks (d). Guest: Felix Pappalardi (p, pc). Electric Ladyland, NY, June 1973. (3) Asprey (ss, as, c-mel, elp); Hodgkinson (c, elb, 12-stg g); Hicks (d, pc). Guests: Dave MacRae (p, elp); Bernie Holland (g); Peter Thorup (v); Mike Gibbs (arr., Detroit Blues). London, 1975.
Beat Goes On 1170

In the early 70s, radio hidden under the covers as John Peel’s Sound Of The 70s played, I was captivated by Back Door and much other stuff I never heard anywhere else. Fast forward to the 2010s and many UK jazz college bands were effectively revisiting a narrow sliver of the creative style heard here. In these febrile days when almost every other “new” “jazz” release is trumpeted as a superhuman feat of musical catholicism, this collection of three Back Door albums shows how little new ground there was left to cover 40 years ago.

The group’s first tunes were born from jams between Aspery and Hodgkinson in downtime during a summer season with Eric Delaney in Bournemouth. Rejected by record companies, the trio was financed to record a demo by Brian Jones, landlord at the remote Lion Inn in Blakey Ridge, Yorkshire, its Tuesday night residency. In eight hours in London in June 1972, the 12 tracks of the landmark Back Door album were recorded, the music a then unique and spirited combination of jazz, folk, blues, funk and rock with clear shades of Dolphy (Turning Point), Ornette Coleman (Askin’) and even Boots Randolph’s Yakety Sax (Vienna) in Aspery’s capacious sax style. The complexity of those earlier compositions is less apparent in the later albums, which focus more or rock and blues with vocals. Yet Blakey Jones, a sophisticated jazz-rock theme, shows how far the Aspery/Hodge duo had come in three years.

The usual thorough BGO presentation, including a fat booklet with photos and very good essay on the band from Charles Waring and new commentary from last-surviving member Hodgkinson, completes an excellent chronicle of one of the UK’s most original jazz units.

Mark Gilbert

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