"On the band's John Mayall-produced third album the playing continues to be exceptional and Brox's singing, as before, is powerful."
This is the third of four Aynsley Dunbar Retaliation albums from the late Sixties to be reissued – so if you haven’t caught ‘The Aynsley Dunbar Retaliation’ (BADCD001) and ‘Doctor Dunbar’s Prescription’ (BADCD002), this is a good time to catch up.
For the benefit of latecomers, the band led by Liverpool-born drummer Dunbar and comprising Victor Brox (vocals), John Morshead (guitar) and Alex Dmochowski (bass) had been augmented for live performance by keyboardist Tommy Eyre, famous for contributing the organ part to Joe Cocker’s smash hit version of ‘With A Little Help From My Friends’.
Brox had been attempting to combine his frontman role with keyboards, which had been a major instrument on ‘…Prescription’, so this version of the line-up was soon to become permanent. Aynsley had already gone on record in Melody Maker as stating that ‘The next album will be more advanced,’ and Eyre’s recruitment was clearly with this in mind.
The Retaliation had played a six-week tour of the States, where they’d supported top acts like Creedence Clearwater Revival, Country Joe & the Fish and Spirit, and blown Rhinoceros off stage at the legendary Boston Tea Party venue. They were even recorded live at the Fillmore East, but the tapes were wiped when the record label declined to meet the cost.
But the experience of returning to club dates in Britain proved difficult for some band members, according to Aynsley, who told journalist Harry Shapiro that ‘Some of the guys thought we were at the top of the ladder; I looked at it as being the first rung of a huge amount of steps you have to take to get anywhere.’ Dunbar was also looking to depart from straight blues and take advantage of the musical freedoms that were letting progressive rock bands like Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath make their mark.
This musical move was apparent from the very first track of third Retaliation album ‘To Mum From Aynsley And The Boys’, which you hold in your hands. ‘Don’t Take The Power Away’, like ‘Let It Ride’, has all the vibrancy of the period, and newcomer Eyre, ‘jazzy and funky – just up my street’, according to Dunbar, was prominent. The Bach-influenced instrumental ‘Journey’s End’ was singled out in reviews as setting the band aside from their British blues contemporaries.
Eyre’s elevation to centre stage inevitably relegated John Morshead’s guitar in importance, however, and tensions began to grow within the ranks. Fortunately a taskmaster was in the studio to ensure smooth relations were maintained – and he was none other than Aynsley’s former boss, John Mayall! Melody Maker’s review highlighted the album’s ‘better recording quality’, which may have been down to the blues godfather’s presence. (The two previous LPs had been produced by Ian Samwell.)
While Aynsley professed himself ‘really surprised’ that Mayall agreed to participate, he explained that ‘we needed somebody to be hands-on…help the musicians get organised.’ Most of the songs were written and routined in the studio, unlike previous effort 'Doctor Dunbar’s Prescription’ which had come together on the road.
The tracks that relate most closely to the band’s first albums are, perhaps, ‘Run You Off The Hill’ and the two closing tracks, ‘Sugar On The Line’ and ‘Leaving Right Away’. Elsewhere, though, things were moving closer to jazz-rock territory; ‘Let It Ride’ has been compared to the up-and-coming Colosseum who, uncoincidentally perhaps, were also led by a drummer in Jon Hiseman.
Mention must here be made of this album’s unusual (to put it mildly) cover which saw the band sporting teddyboy apparel. It was nominally devised by manager Bryan Morrison who had links with Hipgnosis, the Pink Floyd-associated design team.
Reviews from New Musical Express and Music Business Weekly on the album’s September 1969 release were favourable, the latter reckoning it ‘should win Dunbar new customers,’ while Disc rated it their best work yet. But a mere two months after their third album had hit the record racks, the Aynsley Dunbar Retaliation were no more.
It seems to have been a case of who could quit first, Dunbar and Eyre decamping to form the brass-reinforced jazz-rock outfit Blue Whale. ‘The band’s ego got too much for me and I had to dump them,’ he commented years later. Alex Dmochowski and John Morshead briefly stayed together as the nucleus of Heavy Jelly, with singer Jackie Lomax and ex-Animal Barry Jenkins.
Dmochowski had clearly impressed producer John Mayall, as February 1970 found him a Bluesbreaker. Victor Brox fulfilled existing live dates with a band called Ring of Truth, but was also involved with a ‘posthumous’ Retaliation release that appeared later in 1970. This was ‘Remains To Be Heard’, which has now been made available again as BADCD004. Meet you there?
Also available on Vinyl