Steamhammer were an English rock band from Worthing, England, whose origins were in the blues. The band was founded in 1968 by Martin Quittenton (guitar) and Kieran White (vocals, guitar, harmonica). The first stable line up consisted of Quittenton, White, Martin Pugh (guitar), Steve Davy (bass), and Michael Rushton (drums). For me the band was an unknown name until I got a review copy of their third album titled Mountains.
Esoteric Recordings was responsible of this newly re-mastered edition of the classic 1971 album, which includes a booklet with liner notes and fully restored artwork.
As mentioned earlier Mountains was the third album of the band. Which they recorded in the summer of 1970. The group consisted at the time of Kieran White on lead vocals and harmonica and second acoustic and electric guitar, Martin Pugh on lead guitars and bottleneck guitar, Steve Davy on bass and organ and vocals, and Mick Bradley on drums. This is the last album White would play on, due to differences of musical direction. The band was starting to head in a more hard rock, progressive rock sound, which Kieran disliked. Steve Daly would also leave after this release. Nevertheless these four musicians worked together as a team to provide a selection of high-quality white urban blues songs. Songs which also had a connection with rock and even progressive rock. Most of all the guitar solos are worth a listen. A good example is the opening piece Wouldn't Have Thought. which starts as a shuffle sounding blues number with very strong lyrics. In the middle, guitarist Martin Pugh slows the proceedings down for a clean and thoughtful solo. Overall, not a bad opener that perhaps goes on for a couple of minutes to long. Another strong piece is the title track. The album has also some strong songs performed partly on the acoustic guitar. Songs such as Levinia, an obvious ode to a girl with another shuffle influenced guitar riff, but this time the solo is done acoustically. Leader Of The Ring is another acoustic guitar number that sounds like it was written sitting around a campfire.
The composition which probably has it all, is the live track, Riding On The L&N. This is without doubt one of the highlights of the Mountains album. It is a ten minute live track, the only one on the album, and is a somewhat poorly recorded, although well performed, blues jam, with fairly simple lyrics. Listen to the drumming and try and keep your feet still, bet you can't!. Also the bass parts are pretty awesome, but best of all are the brilliant guitar parts. They keep on going, on and on while the rhythm sounds like a runaway train. Also worth listening to is the harmonica solo. In a way the complete song reminded me of the early work of Led Zeppelin.
I guess to most people, Steamhammer's Mountains album is probably fairly ordinary. Well, ordinary by 70s rock standards, which means, it's still pretty darn amazing and totally enjoyable blues rock/ progressive rock. The guitars on the album are well-played and immediately enjoyable, and the overall sound is really good if you know the album was made forty six years ago. A highly detailed-sounding album that's for sure. Really good music that's worth owning even if you are a proghead like myself and like your daily progressive rock mixed with blues and rock music. Just give it a try!
*** Henri Strik (edited by Tracy van Os van den Abeelen)
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