Ten Years After: Undead - A blues-rock masterpiece and Alvin Lee's guitar heroics

Exploring the energetic fusion of blues, rock, and jazz in a timeless live album

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Ten Years After is a British blues rock band that was active during the late 1960s and early 1970s. They gained popularity for their energetic live performances and their fusion of blues, rock, and jazz

Ten Years After released a killer live album called Undead in 1968. The album showcased the band's skillful musicianship and, thankfully, the CD reissue features notable additional tracks like "I Can't Keep From Crying, Sometimes" and "Rock Your Mama."

The band features guitarist and vocalist Alvin Lee, organist ChickChurchill (back when organists were far more common in rock music), drummer Ric Lee, and Leo Lyons on bass.

Ten Years After: When live performances really mattered

Many know Ten Years After for their hit song "I'd Love to Change the World," but the CD version of the album more fully captures the intensity of the band's musicality. They were already popular and making money from tours, and it was their live performances like this (and at the Woodstock festival) that really put them on the map and secured their place in rock history.

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It takes us back to an era where stellar musicianship was often the musical breakthrough or the impetus to further commercial success, rather than a band merely being commercially safe. It's also the kind of album that reminds people why the electric guitar was such a dominant force in music for quite some time.

Ten Years After: Alvin Lee as a guitar hero

Jimi Hendrix was a master, and Jeff Beck may have been one of the most unique guitarists out there, but some of Alvin Lee's guitar work on Undead is about as beautiful and quirky as anything mainstream rock jams can muster up. It really is a rather playful and inventive style that Alvin Lee conjures up throughout this album.

Granted, the other musicians are all masters as well, but it's still clearly Lee who is the main driving force here, which is almost unthinkable in the modern era where so much is dominated by repetitive electronic drum and bass patterns, sample, and autotune (not that those are always bad, but
it's just not the same).

The epic jam "I May Be Wrong, But I Won't Be Wrong Always" (Alvin Lee) is nearly ten minutes long, but it really breezes by. The same could be said for the even longer track, "I Can't Keep from Crying,
Sometimes..." which is a whopping 17 minutes (similar to Iron Butterfly's "In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida," though the jamming sounds somewhat less extraneous). The song "At the Woodchopper's Ball" has some great guitar lines that showcase Alvin Lee's seemingly endless flexibility within blues patterns (despite the clichéd presentation of blues as merely simple music).

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Final thoughts

Though Ten Years After explores a fair amount of directions on this album, it's all still an accessible blues-rock musical partnership. The band perfectly complements Lee's Gibson ES-335 ("Big Red"), and it should be mentioned that there is also a compelling and snappy bass solo, which means Alvin Lee doesn't hog the spotlight at literally all times. Lee was at one point considered "the fastest guitarist in the West" and Ten Years After a precursor to shred. However, don't let
that fool you: These notes and beats somehow always seem to fit the song, which is definitely not true of all shred music. It's just a great album.