THE ALI MAC BAND features vocalist Ali MacKenzie, who was the original singer with the legendary R&B group The Birds.
The Birds were a popular Brit band during the mid-1960s and were famous for having guitarist Ronnie Wood in their line-up. Another famous member of The Birds was Ronnie’s old comrade, the bassist Kim Gardner — who went on to have a success in 1971 with ‘Ashton, Gardner & Dyke‘ and the “Resurrection Shuffle.”
The fall of The Birds came in 1965, when the Los Angeles band — The Byrds — began to dominate the UK Chart. The Birds manager, Leo de Clerck, tried to take legal action to prevent the Americans from using the name. But his action failed. In 1967 the British group disbanded… Ronnie Wood went off to join The Creation with Gardner (1968.)
Now Ali MacKenzie (who reminds us, by the way, of a cross between Leo Sayer and David Essex) has formed his own ‘super-group’ consisting of rock’s most resilient survivors.
We saw the super-group performing at the Staines Riverside Club this week. The line-up includes Strawbs drummer Richard Hudson, Glitter Band bassist Bill Phillips, and Renaissance guitarist Simon Bishop. The band plays a selection of good-time rhythm and blues, with generous handfuls of soul and rock ‘n’ roll.
‘Just a Little Bit‘ the Rosco Gordon R&B classic (1959) — but probably better known as an Animals (and, later, Slade ) hit — was the first song in the Ali Mac repertoire that really showed-off the true nature of the band… it revealed their emotional commitment. This song was filled with soul and eloquence right from the start — with some fine guitar-play by the extraordinarily creative Simon, plus a stirring reverberation in Ali’s voice that sent chill-waves through our hearts.
Another cover that made us sit-up-and-take-notice was the famous Little Feat number ‘Willin‘ (Lowell George) which had the perfect chemistry — sentimentality mixed with power. This song had some excellent guitar, wonderful percussion and a dramatic and intelligent voice.
The band’s renditions tended to be inventive and creative, not sticking to established formats — so even old & familiar songs became fresh and unpredictable.
The second half of their show was not as strong as the first (in our opinion). Maybe it was concern about an imminent fire that caused a lack of concentration. “I smell smoke …” Announced Ali. And we waited, temporarily (and sensibly) while all the amplifiers were checked.
“The band’s on fire…” Yelled out one helpful punter!
The second half of the show had some curious choices (for a four-piece band that do not have resources such as rhythm guitar or keyboards) so covers of Little Richard and Lynyrd Skynyrd songs seemed thin and scattered.
We preferred the easy-smooth soul numbers that the band performed so eloquently in the first half. Those numbers seemed more consistent. Far more suitable.
No matter, this was another tip-top evening of high quality music, lovingly crafted by consummate professionals — and held at this precious Staines music venue.
Words & Images: @neilmach 2015 ©
Come and Check Out Steve Morrison & Alan Glen with BLUES ABUSE on Thursday 17th December. Not to be missed!