Aynsley Dunbar Retaliation: Doctor Dunbar's Rescription (CD)
(2014/Not Bad Records) 10 tracks
Aynsley Dunbar’s early progress from youthful drumming prodigy in
Mersey beat-era Liverpool to a bandleader with a Top 30 LP has been
covered in the sleevenote to first album ‘The Aynsley Dunbar
Retaliation’ (BADCD002). Briefly, that album – recorded by the same
quartet of Dunbar (drums), Victor Brox (vocals), John Morshead (guitar)
and Alex Dmochowski (bass) – reached some versions of the UK chart
thanks to heavy live promotion.
The drummer might not have been around to lead his band in a second
studio foray that year had he taken up an opportunity to join the New
Yardbirds – soon, of course, to be renamed Led Zeppelin. It wasn’t the
first time he’d turned down a supergroup, having asked Jimi Hendrix for a
£30 weekly wage instead of the offered £20 and losing out to the less
expensive Mitch Mitchell.
November 1968 was the release date, and on the 16th of
that month the Retaliation were enthusiastic participants in a one-day
festival held at London’s Royal Festival Hall. Others to be seen and
heard at ‘The Blues Scene ’68’ included Muddy Waters, Champion Jack
Dupree and John Mayall. Dunbar had featured in Mayall’s band the
Bluesbreakers alongside John McVie and Peter Green, the quartet
recording seminal album ‘A Hard Road’; legend has it Retaliation were
so-named as a consequence of Aynsley getting the sack!
The new album featured a generous ten tracks, five per vinyl side,
and ‘Low Gear Man’, ‘Call My Woman’ and ‘I Tried’ were all in the live
set as performed at the RFH. Interestingly, the album’s running order
was changed by US label Blue Thumb, with ‘Change Your Lowdown Ways’
promoted over ‘The Fugitive’, and we have reflected this in our reissue.
Interestingly, while ‘Change Your Lowdown Ways’ was picked out as the
standout track by Blue Thumb boss Bob Krasnow, it was ‘The Fugitive’
that became a hit single in France, earning the band a place on a pop
tour headlined by ‘French Elvis’ Johnny Hallyday. Back in Britain,
Retaliation would be part of a ‘Blues Scene ’69’ tour inspired by the
previous year’s festival, appearing with the Groundhogs, John Lee
Hooker, Jo Ann Kelly and Champion Jack Dupree. They would later back
Dupree in the studio.
The album’s spontaneous feel comes from the fact that, unlike the
(also Ian Samwell-produced) debut, it had not been possible to take time
off the road to routine it. Hence the songs were rather more
straightforward in nature, having had to be road-tested and routined
while on tour. Its title was a sly reference to Dr Ian Dunbar, an
(unrelated) doctor who had prescribed cannabis as a medicine in the late
Sixties before it was classed as a banned substance.
The covers this time included Larry Davis’ ‘I Tried’ and Little
Walter’s ‘Mean Old World’, the album closer that was also recorded by
Fleetwood Mac. Original compositions of note include the previously
mentioned ‘Call My Woman’, a song in the vein of US bluesman Freddie
King. For unknown reasons, Victor Brox wrote or co-wrote six of the ten
tracks using the nom de disque of Hickley.
The multi-talented Brox, who supplied most of the vocals, had played
guitar, horn and keyboards on the first album, but had concentrated
mainly on organ for this one; hence, a keyboard-player was sought to
bring the ranks up to a five piece.
A six-week American tour included four dates supporting Country Joe
& the Fish at the prestigious Fillmore West in San Francisco. On
returning to Britain, a suitable keyboard-player was found in the Grease
Band’s Tommy Eyre, whose recent pedigree included contributing the
organ part to Joe Cocker’s smash hit version of ‘With A Little Help From
Eyre was a superb musician, and his addition certainly increased the
possibilities open to the band. But, as so often happens, the dynamic
within the ranks changed. There was also the beginning of a backlash
against British blues, with Melody Maker’s Chris Welch – a big supporter in the early days – calling the record ‘unmoving’. Against that, Beat Instrumental approved ‘another set of driving white blues’.
Perhaps it was the ‘another’ that gave away the fact that music was
changing, and groups like Retaliation would have to show a more
progressive attitude if they were to compete with the up-and-coming
likes of Led Zeppelin. Ironically Black Sabbath, another major prog band
about to make their impact, would include a cover of the first
Retaliation single, ‘Warning’, on their debut LP which hit the UK Top 10
in early 1970.
For Aynsley and his four cohorts, the next task was to record a third
album. This was the peculiarly titled ‘To Mum From Aynsley And The
Boys’, and is now available as BADCD004. We’ll see you there…
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