I am saying nothing new when stating that the UK in the 1960's was a kind of blues mecca. At that time there were so many groundbreaking bands that have marked rock history, so that it would be superfluous to start name dropping. I will therefore restrict myself to the heavier British blues rock bands who emerged especially in the late 1960's. Of course everyone's heard of Led Zeppelin or Free, but there were also lesser known bands such as Black Cat Bones or Killing Floor, to give but two examples. And then there was STEAMHAMMER whose history started in the English south-coast town of Worthing in 1967, and ended in 1972 after four albums and the sudden death of drummer Mick Bradley. The years in between were packed with lower record sales, even though STEAMHAMMER had a reputation for being a powerful live act. Unfortunately they never really made a big breakthrough, although their first single, 'Junior's Wailing' has been commercially successful, especially here in Germany.
But in other respects, too, STEAMHAMMER deserved a wider audience, because they were a really great band. This is further underscored by this extensive compilation which was released by Repertoire Records at the end of September 2012. Here you will find 24 songs, which have been taken from all four albums including the single A-Side 'Autumn Song' as well as the B-Side 'Windmill' from the first single. So, if you already an owner of the entire discography of STEAMHAMMER, it's not necessary to purchase a copy of this compilation. But if you have never heard of this band (and if you dig the heavy rock of the 1970's), then it is definitely appropriate to buy 'Riding On The L&N - The Anthology'.
Now you may ask yourself: Why? Quite simply because STEAMHAMMER were a strong creative force who were not afraid to move away from their blues foundation in favour of a more progressive and complex sound. This applies in particular to their last album 'Speech' of which only the song 'Telegram (Nature's Mischief)' did make it on the compilation. But already after the brilliant self-titled debut (also known as 'Reflection') the band started to opening the door for other influences, focusing in particular on jazz and progressive rock. There were constant changes in the lineup, which had a positive effect on the entire sound. All the different influences melted into this unique impressive entity named STEAMHAMMER, but they never forgot their blues-y roots. This is demonstrated by killer songs such as 'Another Travelling Tune', 'Riding On The L&N' or 'Hold That Train', which still blow me away.
STEAMHAMMER had a really rich sound and especially the production of the first albums is superb. This is emphasised by the expertly remastered sound of this compilation, but also in other respects Repertoire Records put a great amount of effort into it. In addition, there are extensive liner notes written by Michael Heatley in order to provide a better picture of STEAMHAMMER. By the way, after the end of the band lead guitarist Martin Pugh and bassist Louis Cennamo joined forces with ex-Yardbirds singer Keith Relf and ex-Captain Beyond drummer Bobby Caldwell to form Armageddon (not to be confused with the German band), who released only one great album. But that is another story and should perhaps be told a different time. To summarise, dear reader, 'Riding On The L&N - The Anthology' is an excellent compilation and belongs in every well-sorted blues rock CD collection. Particularly recommendable for newcomers.