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Stone The Crows & Maggie Bell: Best Of

Angel Air have long been a supporter of Maggie Bell and her music, so it’s fitting that the label have decided to gather together the best of the singer’s four albums with the short lived Stone The Crows, alongside a disc featuring the best of her solo work. The Stone The Crows disc is rocked up hard hitting blues that was all the rage back between 1970 and 1973 when all ten tracks here were recorded - and, to be fair, which has never gone out of fashion since. It’s easy to hear why Bell was likened to Janis Joplin, with her gritty but immensely powerful delivery being a true force of nature. However, as you discover, this lady wasn’t just about belting it out, “Penicillin Blues” introducing a seductively subtle side that’s hard to resist. However, there’s no denying that the excitement and vigour behind “Big Jim Salter” and “Good Time Girl” leave them as true highlights. “Ode To John Law” brings a different side to proceedings, the slick off kilter feel adding a psychedelic edge that finds the singer revealing a completely different aspect to her voice.

“Blind Man” is an out and out blues crier of a track, whereas “Sunset Cowboy” is a gloriously overblown ballad. On a personal level, if I never hear the Stone The Crows version of The Beatles “A Fool On The Hill” ever again I’ll be a happy chappy and yet I know many people simply adore this bluesified version. So the beauty is, as ever, in the eye of the beholder. It is worth remembering however that Stone The Crows were no one woman show, with credit due to guitarist Lesley Harvey, drummer Colin Allen and the pair of bassists, James Dewar and Steve Thompson and keyboard players, John McGinnis and Ronnie Leahy, who between them propelled the four albums this band created.

Once Stone The Crows had come to a premature end, Bell recorded a pair of solo albums, Queen Of The Night (1974) and Suicide Sal (1975), which continued and extended the style she was already known for. Still with a bluesy edge but with a funk side, “Cado Queen” kicks things neatly into gear, while the contribution from Jimmy Page on guitar to “If You Don’t Know” ensures a classy touch that’s simply sublime. With “In My Life” moving things into a more mainstream rock direction, hearing Bell’s voice in a much more controlled situation proves hugely rewarding, while the soul of “I Was In Chains” continued the gentle evolution.

Only two songs on this second disc come from outside of Bell’s first pair of solo offerings, the Taggart theme tune of “No Mean City”, recorded in 1983, still an undeniable classic, even it if doesn’t feel in any way connected to the rest of this collection. While the live cover version of Alice Cooper’s “Only Women Bleed”, from ten years later, really is quite special.

A good collection of songs that have stood up remarkably well to the tests of time, this best of set is an excellent way to discover the much underrated talent of Maggie Bell.

Track Listing
CD1 - Stone The Crows
1. Good Time Girl
2. Big Jim Salter
3. Penicillin Blues
4. A Fool On The Hill
5. Sunset Cowboy
6. Don’t Think Twice
7. Blind man
8. Ode To John Law
9. The Touch Of Your Loving hand
10. Mad Dogs And Englishman

CD2 - Maggie Bell
1. Cado Queen
2. Oh My My
3. Trade Wind
4. If You Don’t Know
5. In My Life
6. Hold On
7. It’s Been So Long
8. No Mean City (theme from Taggart)
9. Only Woman Bleed (live Glasgow 1993)
10. I Was In Chains

Added: June 22nd 2019
Reviewer: Steven Reid
Related Link: Stone The Crows/Maggie Bell @ Angel Air
Hits: 1250
Language: english

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Stone The Crows & Maggie Bell: Best Of
Posted by Jon Neudorf, SoT Staff Writer on 2019-06-22 19:57:31
My Score:

Unbeknownst to many, Stone The Crows had a short but impactful career from 1970 to 1973. The band released their self-titled debut in 1970 and later that same year came their sophomore effort Ode to John Law. Their third and final album Teenage Licks came out in 1971. A couple years later tragedy befell the band as guitarist Leslie Harvey was tragically electrocuted on stage while tuning up for a concert. The band was understandably devastated and disbanded a short time after.

Angel Air records have released a two CD Best Of set featuring Stone The Crows and their lead singer Maggie Bell.

The Stone The Crows disc should carry plenty of appeal to fans of ‘70s hard rock and blues. The first track “Good Time Girl” has that old time rock and roll feel with rollicking honky tonk piano and catchy guitar hooks. Bell’s vocals are gritty and soulful, much like the great Janis Joplin and the horns add a New Orleans flavour. “Big Jim Salter” is a hard driving salt of the earth rocker with pulsating organ and more catchy guitar riffs. The bass playing really stands out as well. The gritty hardcore blues of “Penicillin Blues” and the beautiful piano led ballad “Sunset Cowboy” are more great tracks. If the latter track doesn’t tug on your heart strings nothing will. I also like the band’s version of “Fool On The Hill”, keeping the heart and soul of the original classic yet making it their own.

The Maggie Bell Best Of is equally rewarding. After the demise of Stone The Crows the Scottish songstress released a couple of solo albums; Queen Of The Night (1974) and Suicide Sal (1975). Seven of the ten tracks appearing on this collective were culled from those albums and the result is a cohesive batch of tunes that fits well alongside the Stone The Crows disc. “Cado Queen” is a funky R&B burner that has Bell’s signature gritty vocals amidst bubbly organ and catchy guitar leads. The Ringo Starr penned “Oh My My” is an irresistible and infectious upbeat pop rocker while “Trade Winds” features jazzy piano and vocals, a song that defines the crooner style. Her vocal performance here is stunningly beautiful. The bluesy “If You Don’t Know” is as pure as you can get as is the acoustic guitar led “In My Life”, another music from the heart stunner where Bell’s voice and some tasty slide guitar will certainly appeal to any fan of ‘70s rock music. And so it goes…

Hard rock and blues fan cannot go wrong here. Thanks to Angel Air Records for another excellent production.

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