Steve Ellis : Finchley Boy : Deluxe 10CD Box Set Review
Edsel / Demon Music Group
This is a stunning career spanning 10 CD Box Set that come with an excellent booklet and a signed print from the artist.
It contains literally everything that Steve Ellis has been involved with and for the price point is absolutely fantastic. The design is similar to the Electric Prunes, Iron, Iron Butterfly and Pentangle Box Sets from Cherry Red, and I really liked this kind of design.
The ten discs are absolutely packed with music and the booklet contains a proper essay. I mean sometimes I see boxset booklets and they skim over the top with the main stories but can lack detail.This is full of detail and you can really immerse yourself in the story and the music of this artist through every aspect of Steve’s career.
I’m going to say straight away this is on the list of my top box sets of 2022 It really is. Now while I’ve said this before, I love box sets which enable me to just dive in to an artist back catalogue and through the booklet and the imagery just immerse myself and be part of that story. And this is especially true with artists and bands where I may have missed out on a lot of their key material first time around, because my money only went so far back then!
My personal experience and journey to the music of Steve Ellis was in back 1976 via The Old Grey Whistle Test. when he appeared fronting Widowmaker. They were seen as a new supergroup and they did two songs which I remember being On The Road and Aint Telling You Nothing. The latter being an absolutely fantastic rock song.
Bob Harris mentioned Steve Ellis more than the other members which made me wonder where he was from. I was coming to this band due to Ariel Bender from Mott The Hoople. This box set has made me realise I missed out on a lot of fantastis and varied music. If only I had have explored Steve Ellis back catalogue then!
Some of my favorite blues rock vocalists were Paul Rodgers, Steve Marriott, Jess Roden, Chris Farlowe and Steve Ellis has a voice that blended the best of these whilst still having an original sound.
The first CD concentrates on The love affair 1967 to 1969. Steve was only a teenager during this period and the band were huge with six hit singles. He became firm friends with Roger Daltrey and Keith Moon at this time and there’s also Mott the Hoople connection here with Morgan Fisher playing on keyboards.
The early songs are drenched in strings as many fit singles were back then but it is interesting how the bands sound developed with more hammond organ and heavier arrangements as the 60s rolled on. There is also a great version of Hush which was also covered by Deep Purple. By the end of the disc the band are exploring the blues rock world which was now exploding around them with songs like Tobacco Road.
The second disc is called ‘Rollin With The 69 Crew’ and features songs for a projected solo album that remained unreleased until 2013. Steve was really wanting to be in a band again after leaving ‘The Love Affair’ during this time. There are 22 tracks on this disc and it is just brilliant, timeless, heartfelt, with great singing and a wonderful version of Sympathy and Gimme Shelter by The Rolling Stones.
The remastering makes it sound like these were recorded last week. As I was listening to it, and I just thought, I don’t want this to end. Steve was involved in the soundtrack for Loot from 1970 which is also included on Disc 3 which also has further Love Affair tracks and a superb song from Peter Bardens later of the PROG band Camel.
Further highlights for me are the two albums by Ellis which are on Disc 4. ‘Sitting On The Crest of a Slump’ was produced by Roger Daltrey in 1972 and ‘Why Not’ from 1973. I missed out on both of these first time around the music reminds me of Vinegar Joe and in places The Allman Brothers. Just wonderful soul infused rock music.
Disc 5 is where my journey actually began with Steve Ellis via the band Widowmaker. This is a great rock album which also featured Ariel Bender from Mott The Hoople, Huw Lloyd Langton from Hawkwind and Bob Daisley on Bass. This disc also features some superb live tracks from 1976. I thought this would be the highlight of the box set for me but I was wrong there is so much to explore and enjoy in this set. It’s just part of a multiple series of high points to me.
Disc 6 The Last Angry Man is another high point for me released the year that punk exploded in the UK. My favourite track is Rag and Bone. After this Steve leaves the music business for a while and on the eve of his return suffers an accident at work which sees him unable to perform for many years.
During this period he works on ‘The Basement Tapes’ (Disc 7). Some of these are demos, but they don’t really sound like demos. They sound like having Steve Ellis in your living room with his mate! Eric Wright plays guitar and is a fantastic guitarist and there are some excellent rock inspired solos and work on these tracks.
For Disc 8 with find ourselves in 2008 for ‘Best of Days which is another great CD. This is where I start to really understand that Steve could have pushed for the rock sound more but he chose to just be himself. Taking in the the best of his peer group but essentially being his own voice. You can just hear his joy for singing on every track.
Discs 9 and 10 bring us up to date with ‘Ten Commitments’ (2011) and Boom Bang Twang (which features Paul Weller) in 2018. Also included are songs from the Steve Marriott Memorial Concert Boom Bang Twang was one of Classic Rock Magazine albums of the years and it is not hard to see why when listening to it now.
Steve Ellis is now in his early 70s, but his voice is just immaculate. This is a man who just loves music and just loves singing.
This is highly recommended and if you are quick you can even get a copy with a signed print from Steve Ellis himself!
Phil Aston | Now Spinning Magazine