Review: Fifty Years After Its Release, Ten Years After’s Classic Gets a Much-Needed Upgrade

Ten Years After
A Space in Time-50th Anniversary Edition
(Chrysalis)
4 out of 5 stars

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OK, so they missed the official 50th-anniversary date of Ten Years After’s most popular release by a couple of dozen months. Few will care when they hear this superb sonic upgrade.

The British blues rockers’ sixth and most popular album, initially released in 1971, was their first for the Columbia label after finding moderate fame on Derem. They then ignited as a highlight of Woodstock with their explosive performance of “I’m Going Home.” Most impressive, and surprising, is that the session’s original legendary producer/engineer, Chris Kimsey (now 71), returns to do the honors. Who knew he was still active?

The Alvin Lee-fronted quartet had been on a touring tear since Woodstock. But this recording largely abandoned the somewhat bombastic boogie tendencies that brought them fame, substituting a more bucolic, if not quite folksy flair. Lee switches to acoustic guitar for a large portion of the disc’s ten selections, including their most resilient tune, “I’d Love to Change the World.” There are only nine tunes (a final two-minute jazz excursion “Uncle Jam” is little more than filler), but each sports striking riffs, relatively restrained playing, and memorable melodies.

Everything gels on blues rocking opener “One of These Days,” the glistening, reflective “Over the Hill” (with string quartet), and the insistent bass powering the tougher “Let the Sky Fall,” the latter could have been included in the band’s popular Cricklewood Green album. Lee’s vocals feel sympathetic and almost reticent for the lovely “I’ve Been There Too.”  Only the rote rocker “Baby Won’t You Let Me Rock N’ Roll You,” a straight Chuck Berry rip, displays the trite lyrics appearing occasionally here. Guitarist Lee reels in his more notes per minute frantic intensity to deliver a subtler, more nuanced approach, dovetailing well with the similarly oriented songs.

Unlike most 50-year-old albums, these songs and performances still sound vibrant, never more so than in Kimsey’s remix. He returned to the original tapes, tweaking the knobs to better define the instruments, in particular Leo Lyons’ creative bass lines. This package also includes a second disc, the remastered version of his initial mix, to compare the old and new. Those with surround systems will be thrilled to hear this ’70s classic now in full Dolby Atmos spatial audio, available (separately) on DVD and some streaming services. Oddly there are no extra tracks, demos, B-sides, or live performances typical of these reissues.

Ten Years After may be relegated to an afterthought to all but a dedicated cult still captivated by the ’70s Brit blues eruption. With the resilient A Space in Time though, their legacy is partially guaranteed, especially with this meticulous upgrade.

Photo by Michael Putland/Getty Images

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