street*walk*er (strèt'wô'ker) n. A prostitute who solicits in the streets.
Cool name for a band, eh? Just like Horslips and Pussy, band names which allude to the all-encompassing sphere of sex & sexuality, or some aspect thereof, will never go away. The five band members are depicted as no taller than rodents on the album cover, amidst a throng of high heels, smooth legs, and see-through skirts (on the street, natch). Downtown Flyers is good ol' sleazy, earthy hard rock, with songs called "Toenail Draggin'," "Crawfish," and "Ace O' Spades" (this was before the song and album of the same name by Motorhead).
Streetwalkers was the post-Family project of vocalist Roger Chapman and guitarist Charlie Whitney. Also onboard was ex-Jeff Beck vocalist Bob Tench, who could play guitar, Casablanca's bass player, Jon Plotel, and (drum roll, please) Nicko...as in McBrain, future drummer for Iron Maiden. Three guest keyboardists play on five of the nine cuts, usually piano, but I hear the exalted Clavinet in at least one song, and synth on three, perhaps the strutting of a Minimoog and Solina String Ensemble. Did I mention Nicko? I didn't know the man had a career before Maiden! (I guess he's older than I figured.)
It turns out there is indeed more milk than meat in this serving: this is some darn good music! This is why I like 70s recordings: everything is so raw, so honest. The title track is a rousing, ballsy number, with echo-effected guitars and talk-boxes—cheese or not, I don't hear enough of those on 70s recordings, for my taste. "Toenail Draggin'" is serious fun, and I don't just mean the playing, have a gander at some lyrics: Take me to the bottom/Roll me in my hearse/Take me to the bottom/Life's bin a doggone curse. Ha! I toldja! A cover of an old, uncredited blues ode, "Crawfish" may go down not as the best track, but the most memorable. Once you hear it, you'll have no urge other than to cherish it and lie awake at night wondering who originally wrote it.
The disc's real gem is "Burn It Down"; did Brian Robertson and Scott Gorham of Thin Lizzy secretly perform on this? Whitney's solo embodies everything a good guitar solo should be. Smokin' blues piano by Pete Wingfield, too! Chapman's gruff vox remind me of Paul Rodgers', but I much prefer Chapman's. One can't have it all: Chapman's harmonica solo is woefully undermixed. Not every song oozes bitterness or unrefinement: "Gypsy Moon" is a gentler, understated ballad with more smooth slide guitar work courtesy of Charlie W. Oh yes, that "Ace O' Spades" tune—turns out it's a slice of authentic blues. I can even picture Chapman with dark shades and a blue jacket, singing the lines I've bin a gambler all my life/When I go, this is what I crave/You send me poker players to the graveyard.
Equally funky, bluesy, and rockin,' Downtown Flyers will carve its initials right onto the surfaces of your eardrums. Hatred will build for this album as the songs and melodies aren't easily displaced, but consider it a love/hate relationship. Produce the plastic and order this ASAP.