if they were consciously shying away from evoking the ghost of Free, but even that is compensated for by three excellent Terry Wilson compositions. "Some Kind Of Happy" is a fine, funky up-tempo number, and "Blue Soul" is a mournful elegy about past mistakes with a superb vocal from Wilson-Slesser and beautiful use of dynamics. The real killer is "Sweet, Sweet Beauty," a song that steadily builds in musical and emotional intensity to a climactic instrumental passage supporting Rabbitt's organ solo. It's simply a bitch of a song!
But with the one element that everyone identified them with gone, the remnants of BSC returned to England to find that not too many people gave three goddamns about their continued existence. Having invested a sizable amount of money in promoting them, Atlantic made some noises about hooking them up with another guitar hero--Mick Taylor figured prominently in the discussions for a while–without even considering whether BSC wanted to continue with another famous axeman. When the band elected Geoff Whitehorn, a veteran of the Maggie Bell Band and If (an underrated British jazz-rock crew that has also contributed drummers Dennis Elliott and Cliff Davies to Foreigner and Ted Nugent, resepctively. Whitehorn had also turned down an offer to join Lynyrd Skynyrd after Ed King left the Jacksonvill^ brawlers.) to fill a guitar slot, Atlantic dropped the band and the members returned to the session scene in order to survive.
After a year of scuffling, they acquired new management, a shortened name in Crawler and a contract with Epic. The debut release of the revamped line-up demonstrates conclusively that their confidence in their own abilities wasn't misguided. In many respects, Whitehorn is a better guitarist for Crawler than Kossoff, whose instrumental repertoire seemed limited to sustained power chords and biting, vibrato-laden solos. Whitehom pitches in on the melodies as well, giving the band a harder, more electric edge that perfectly suits their approach. Wilson-Slesser has continued his maturation as a vocal stylist, easily adapting to the numerous styles demanded of him here. He may remind you of other singers at various points throughout the album, but what ultimately comes out is Terry Wilson-Slesser and that sounds just fine to these ears.
But the real clincher is the fact that the material,
again virtually all composed by Rabbitt and Terry Wilson, is the most consistently strong and varied collection offered by this crew to date. Most of the tunes settle comfortably into the funky-bluely rock mold that has become Crawler's trademark but there are more than enough variations off that theme–most notably on "Sold On Down The Line," a kind of jazzy voodoo piece that sounds like it was written about three in the morning while lost in a bayou outside New Orleans–to allow the album to avoid the kind of stifling sameness that occassinally plagued Back Street Crawler albums. This time out, Bundrick has come up with the real winners, ranging from "You Are My Savior," a straightforward gospel-tinged ballad featuring Wilson-Slesser to a pair of classy rockers in "You Got Money" and "Stone Cold Sober," that allows Whitehorn to stretch out on guitar–to excellent effect.
So, quite unexpectedly, Crawler has come up with one of the most consistently satisfying Ins of '77 and effectively laid their association with the Kossoff legend to rest as well. With their new label firmly behind them and a major Stateside tour scheuled for the fall, they're going to have every opportunity to break through in a big way. It's going to be interesting to see what kind of reaction they get, not so much for whether their accomplished musicianship and material is up to snuff, but simply whether audiences can appreciate their greatest attributes. Crawler's music is predicated on subtlety, a quietly understated sound for the most part that gradually insinuates its way into your blood and whether crowds bred on being smashed over the head musically are capable of sitting back and absorbing it is an open question. Likewise, their lyrics deal with real situations and emotional pain in the grand tradition of the blues, something diametrically opposed to the prevailing trends toward dream songs and wistful escapism. All I can say is that I hope there's still room for a musically accomplished and emotionally honest band of Crawler's caliber in the rock world.