After a break for Glastonbury its back to the world of 70’s saxophone. This week it’s 10 memorable sax solos from UK Artists (America you can wait). As Greenpete58 observed on my sax in the 70’s feature the Yanks invented Jazz but the Brits integrated it into rock music (probably because we invented prog).
Here are some good old fashioned sax solos though from popular songs, no jazz rock, no prog rock just prime British rock -with added saxophone.
Year of the Cat -Al Stewart. A great bug shiny lump of fairly lightweight pop.A triumph of production for Alan Parsons featuring all sort of instruments such as cellos and violins, it was inevitable that Parsons would squeeze in a sax solo and he did. Phil Kenzie got missed off my last saxophone feature because I had never heard of him. In fact he’s been on loads of records both in the UK and the States so I would imagine he’s gutted not to be included.
Apparently, Kenzie was watching a movie and was only dragged away as a favour to Abbey Rd. The story that he did two takes and then went back to his film seems a bit far fetched logistically but let’s just assume he wasn’t that committed to the song.
Walk on the Wild Side- Lou Reed. Yes I know he’s American but this was recorded in Trident studios London and featured the baritone sax of Ronnie Ross. Ross creates a wonderful fluttering solo because he was a proper jazz player who as well as Reed played with the Beatles and um ..Matt Bianco. Equally interestingly he taught sax to the following.
Sorrow- David Bowie. This is actually not a great song, but it’s lifted into the stratosphere by Bowie’s solo. Here is a saxophone solo you can whistle, its an essential part of the song now and Bowie’s alto is backed by a bit more baritone by Ken Fordham. It’s a timely reminder, as if we needed one, of the influence of producer Ken Fordham, Bowie’s own George Martin, an average song becomes a great record.
All the way from Memphis-Mott the Hoople. Possibly their greatest song when the band were moving into a big glam sound and honking saxophones were invited to the party. It may be Roxy Music’s Andy MacKay offering sax on this, details are sketchy and it kind of sounds the work of someone who first picked up the instrument 20 minutes ago. It all part of the fun and it’s a gonzo display by everyone.
Avalon-Roxy Music. What is it with Andy Mackay ? Is it low self esteem? having to work with Brian Ferry? maybe he’s just not that good but he always seems reticent about letting rip. Both Ends Burning is a good example, a fiery sax riff but then he’s off for a cup of tea while Phil Manzenera takes over the solo duties. With Avalon he had the opportunity to take the band into the 80’s but although he noodles away quite pleasantly he could have created Spandau Ballet’s ‘true’ five years early
Money-Pink Floyd. The band had wised up to the fact that the more solo’s they had the longer their songs could be and so a saxophone was recruited. It often amazed me that in the 70’s there just wasn’t a global pool of musicians at the click of a mouse and recruitment was usually word of mouth or friendships. Dick Parry has played with Dave Gilmour in Joker’s Wild and so he got the call and a whole load of subsequent PF work. It was a good choice, his honking tenor adds a change of mood and pace before a change in time and instrument takes us to another part of the song.
The Logical Song -Supertramp. John Helliwell’s solo is a minor masterpiece with a solo that is part of but also very different from the song. Like with ‘Sorrow’ it’s more than a solo. Heliwell ought to get some composers credit, but he wont.
Mirror in the Bathroom- The Beat. Yes, Saxa’s solos all sounded a bit the same but when he played the song somehow took off in a different direction and he seemed to float over the chord changes.
Miss You-The Stones. In the 70’s the band clearly wished they were American and a bit of sax would edge them closer to the dream. Bobby Keys is pretty essential to their Sticky Fingers period but here the Sax is a bit cooler as befits their flirtation with Disco. Mel Collins is the player.
The final Sax solo of the 70’s, yes you guessed it, it’s got to be..
Baker Street- Gerry Rafferty.
Eight bars of solo from the late Raphael Ravenscroft netted him £27 and made Rafferty considerably more. To add insult to injury Ravenscroft considered his playing was out of tune.
I cover this in more detail here.
I’ve missed someone -do let me know !