"This final album is no scraping-the-barrel shambles for 'Blood On Your Wheels', about an air crash Brox witnessed, is vivid and horrifying while the slow blues 'Downhearted' features outstanding Moorshead guitar."
British blues band the Aynsley Dunbar Retaliation released four albums in a hectic three-year period between 1968 and 1970. Curiously by the time final effort ‘Remains To Be Heard’ saw the light of day, the Liverpool-born drummer who gave the group its name had left to form jazz-rockers Blue Whale; singer, keyboardist and frontman Victor Brox was the man behind this title.
But if ‘Remains…’ sounds a dubious proposition, let your ears be the judge. British blues expert Harry Shapiro has lauded it as being ‘not the makeweight odds and sods album on might have expected,’ while anyone who has followed the band’s career either at the time or via current reissues ‘The Aynsley Dunbar Retaliation’ (BADCD001), ‘Doctor Dunbar’s Prescription’ (BADCD002) and ‘To Mum From Aynsley And The Boys’ (BADCD003) will not want to miss out on the final chapter.
The album owes its existence to the deal reportedly struck by manager Bryan Morrison with US record label Blue Thumb. While their music came out in Britain on the Liberty label, the Retaliation had caught the ear of Bob Krasnow, a Stateside mover and shaker who had been involved with the careers of Love’s Arthur Lee and Captain Beefheart. He also had Dave Mason and the Pointer Sisters on his label as more marketable propositions, and saw Dunbar’s crew as both commercial and credible.
Krasnow it was who had altered the running order of the second Retaliation album and remixed lead track ‘Change Your Lowdown Ways’. His deal with Morrison apparently obliged him to accept an album a year, the advances going up significantly each time. Unfortunately for the band, delivering the first two albums in the year of 1968 had effectively been a ‘buy one, get one free’ situation, so a fourth album was needed to count as year three’s submission.
But Brox did not have to start from scratch. The first three tracks you hear here, ‘Invitation To A Lady’, ‘Blood On Your Wheels’ and ‘Downhearted’, were recorded when the band was still a four-piece and only left off third album ‘To Mum From Aynsley And The Boys’ because keyboardist Tommy Eyre had joined the ranks. Aside from Dunbar and Brox, the line-up then consisted of John Morshead (guitar) and Alex Dmochowski (bass); Dmochowski, who had earlier played in Neil Christian’s Crusaders, had replaced original four-stringer Keith Tillman after a first Retaliation single, ‘Warning’.
Track two, Blood On Your Wheels’, was inspired by the plane crash in Stockport, Manchester, in 1967 that claimed 72 lives and remains the fourth biggest air disaster in the UK today. Victor, who lived nearby, was one of the first on the scene. John Morshead’s work on track three, the slow blues ‘Downhearted’, was hailed by John Holmes in the British Blues Review as ‘one of the finest recorded guitar solos by a white blues player.’ The last number on the vinyl side one, ‘Keep Your Hands Out’ may have been recorded for ‘Dr Dunbar’s Prescription’, and is the only other one to feature Aynsley.
Brox used different musicians for the songs that made up the LP’s second side. These included his wife Annette, Ginger Johnson’s African drummers and ex- Graham Bond drummer Keith Bailey. The track ‘Bloody Souvenir’ was inspired by sights Victor saw during Retaliation’s one and only tour of the States. It was originally entitled ‘American Souvenir’.
So what happened to the Aynsley Dunbar Retaliation? By far the easiest career to trace is that of the man himself. The band Blue Whale was destined to be short-lived, but his drumming skills had been noted by Frank Zappa, who encouraged him to move to the States and join his band. From there it was only a short strep to the Los Angeles session scene.
He then enjoyed Seventies spells with supergroups Journey and Jefferson Starship, while other big names whose albums he’s graced include David Bowie (the ‘Pin Ups’ album), Whitesnake (their self-titled US Number 2 LP of 1987), Alvin Lee and Eric Burdon. He remains domiciled in the States today.
Victor Brox appeared with wife Annette on the original studio album of rock opera Jesus Christ Superstar, singing the part of Caiaphas the High Priest. His subsequent and much-valued presence on the British blues scene has been via bands like Blues Train and Mainsqueeze, the latter with late lamented saxophonist Dick Heckstall-Smith.
Bassist Alex Dmochowski appeared on Peter Green’s 1970 release ‘End Of The Game’ and reunited with Aynsley Dunbar on Frank Zappa’s ‘Grand Wazoo’ album of 1972. He latterly lived in Dorset and played with the Barrelhouse Band. John Morshead became a fish farmer in Africa, but returned to Britain in the Nineties to reunite with Alex and Victor for a one-off reunion.
In the same year as this album was released, Black Sabbath’s debut long-player, containing the previously mentioned Retaliation song ‘Warning’, headed up the chart to peak at Number 3. ‘Remains To Be Heard’ never reached these commercial heights, but it’s still a worthwhile postscript to a unique British blues story.
Also available on Vinyl