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Reviewers: Tony Augarde [Editor], Steve Arloff, Nick Barnard, Pierre Giroux, Don Mather, James Poore, Glyn Pursglove, George Stacy, Bert Thompson, Sam Webster, Jonathan Woolf

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Back Door /
8th Street Nites /
Another Fine Mess





Back Door

1.Vienna Breakdown

2. Plantagenet

3. Lieutenant Loose

4. Askin’ the Way

5. Turning Point

6. Slivadiv

7. Jive Grind

8. Human Bed

9. Catcote Rag

10. Waltz for a Wollum

11. Folksong

12. Back Door

8th Street Nites

13. Linin’ Track

14. Forget Me Daisy

15. His Old Boots (Sein Alter Stiefel)

16. Blue Country Blues

17. Dancin’ in the Van

18. 32-20 Blues

19. Roberta

20. It’s Nice When It’s Up

21. One Day You’re Down, The Next Day You’re Down

22. Walkin’ Blues

23. The Bed Creaks Louder

24. Adolphus Beal


Another Fine Mess

1. I’m Gonna Stay a Long, Long Time

2. Blakey Jones

3. T. B. Blues

4. Candles Round Your Hat

5. Detroit Blues

6. The Spoiler

7. Shaken by Love

8. Streamline Guitar

9. Manager’s Shirt

10. The Dashing White Sergeant

Colin Hodgkinson – Fender bass, vocals, 12-string guitar

Ron Asprey – Alto sax, soprano sax, C Melody sax, flute, electric piano

Tony Hicks – Drums, percussion

Felix Pappalardi – Piano, tambourine, percussion (tracks CDI/13, 14, 20, 22)

Dave McRae – Fender piano, piano (all tracks CDII)

Bernie Holland – Guitar (tracks CDII/6, 7)

Peter Thorup – Vocals (tracks CDII/1, 8, 9)

It must have been the early seventies when I first heard Back Door in concert, and I was knocked out. They combined jazz with rock and the blues and even some hints of folk music. Remarkably, the trio produced a rich sound which might normally have needed twice as many musicians to produce. Colin Hodgkinson used the bass to fill in the accompaniments on its own, as well as playing some powerful solos. Drummer Tony Hicks supplied a robust beat, while frontman Colin Asprey played searing solos and melodies.

This double CD contains the first three albums that the group recorded. The trio had first got together at a pub in the North York Moors, where they played every Tuesday. It is depicted on the front cover of the band’s first album. They sent demo tapes to record companies but their unusual line-up didn’t appeal to promoters. So they made an LP themselves in 1973 and sold it at the pub to the increasingly enthusiastic audience. Eventually the LP fell into the hands of reviewers on a music magazine, who competed to review it. The second album was recorded in 1974 at Electric Lady studios in New York.

All three musicians are virtuosi, making an opulent mixture. In a way Colin Hodgkinson is the backbone of the group, playing chords as well as phrases and single notes on his Fender bass. He often plays in unison with Ron Aspery’s saxophone. Adolphus Beal shows how Colin gives his guitar a stretched-out feeling which fills in the background behind the saxophone. Aspery’s style is sometimes abrasive and certainly outspoken, giving the music an avant-garde mood. But a track like Askin’ the Way proves that the group can be restrained and often sensitive. Aspery’s flute provides moments of placidity. Most of the tracks are short, avoiding self-indulgence. Colin adds bluesy vocals to some of the later tracks.

The third album, Another Fine Mess, added some extra instruments which changed the group’s sound – possibly not for the best. The addition of keyboards forfeits some of the group’s vigour, and loses the feeling that one is listening to three virtuosi.

Back Door broke up in 1977 because of a lack of commercial success. The trio assembled again in 1986 and 2003, but Aspery died in December 2003 and Hicks in 2006, both in their fifties. The group was short-lived but it presented listeners with a unique sound which has never been surpassed.

Tony Augarde

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