Alvin Lee, one of the greatest rock guitar supermen of all time has unexpectedly died at the age of 68 following a complication after a routine surgery. Alvin Lee was widely respected as one of the greatest rock guitar players of all time, and viewed as in a elite group of rock guitarists along with Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck and a few others. Strangely, his last album, STILL ON THE ROAD TO FREEDOM, seemed to be a sort of life retrospective and served as his own eulogy of sorts, opening with a reprise of his early 70’s album, ON THE ROAD TO FREEDOM, and closing with LOVE LIKE A MAN #2, which seemed like a big band type production of his classic 1960’s song, LOVE LIKE A MAN.
Even as a teenager, Alvin Lee seemed like a music prodigy, first listening to his parents extensive record collection, and then spending nearly a year just practicing his own guitar by himself in his room at one point, and even building his own guitar amplifier at the age of 16. In later years with his legendary band, Ten Years After, named for ten years after Elvis Presley, Alvin Lee’s most noticeable companion was his red Gibson guitar, named “Big Red” that he used at Woodstock with the awesome performance of “I’m Coming Home” which gave the band it’s peak of popularity in the late 60’s through parts of the early 70’s. A SPACE IN TIME was the group’s biggest selling album, with “I’d Love To Change The World” the band’s biggest selling hit single, although Ten Years After released many other singles, but few were given much airplay from this mostly album and FM radio oriented act. The band was so good live that a huge number of bootleg albums of the group and Alvin Lee’s solo performances exist. Alvin Lee was such a great showman, that any live performance of his was really a real epic. His chiseled handsome good looks and great vocal quality made him seem like one of the best rock and roll showmen straight from central casting. Couple these handsome showmen looks, with that great voice and being one of the world’s best rock guitarists, and Alvin Lee was one of the best triple threat performers of all time, although a few like Jimi Hendrix dismissed him, others like George Harrison and others were always anxious to work with Alvin Lee.
It’s extremely difficult to pick out the best Ten Years After album of all time, but ROCK AND ROLL MUSIC TO THE WORLD from 1972 might just come the closest to be they’re best album ever. It’s a terrific album, although 1971’s, A SPACE IN TIME was a much larger commercial success. 1974’s POSITIVE VIBRATIONS marked a period where Ten Years After broke up as a band for a time while Alvin Lee embarked on a solo career, largely propelled by his reputation from Woodstock and Ten Years After. But, a reunion album and tour in 1989 and the great album, ABOUT TIME, included some great TYA music including “Let’s Shake It Up”, which should have been a top ten single because the song was so good, and a great new live song for the band to perform.
Ten Year After not only had Alvin Lee was a great front-man, but bass player Leo Lyons was one of the greatest bass players of all time as well. On the their awesome blues cover of “Good Morning Little Schoolgirl”, Leo Lyons puts in one of the most unconsciously incredible bass guitar performances ever witnessed. Live it was incredible. Alvin Lee on lead guitar and vocals, and Leo Lyons, banging on that bass guitar like a machine gun. Their performance at Woodstock certainly electrified the fans and critics alike.
Like many British bands, Ten Years After started their career with many blues cover songs, but grew to pen and perform many incredible compositions of their own. And although they never achieved top tier success, Alvin Lee was a pure talent of such greatness that he really ranks up there as good of a musician and creative genius as any of The Beatles or The Rolling Stones.
Alvin Lee was one of the greatest rock musicians of all time. A great, great performer and artist. The rock music world has to be very sad today. One of the very greatest rock legends is dead.
A few months ago, I was horrified at the thought that Alvin Lee had turned 68. I thought to myself, has this guy only got another 10 or 12 years to produce more great music. I didn’t want his music to ever stop. I loved his music that much.
Alvin, you took a lot of hard work on stage, gave a performance your all, and every effort, and were really the best rock stage performer of any guitarist of my lifetime. I’ll deeply miss you. There’s a very lonely Gibson guitar today too….