Spencer Davis - vocals, acoustic guitar, harmonica; Peter Jameson - vocals, acoustic guitar; Steve Simone - bass
Welsh singer, songwriter, and guitarist Spencer Davis was certainly one of the guiding lights of the 1960s British Invasion. Best remembered for his band's iconic hits "Keep On Running," "I'm A Man," and "Gimme Some Lovin'," and for first recognizing the talented Winwood Brothers (Steve and Muff) who he recruited into the band, Davis has always followed his own path. Although the initial Spencer Davis Group lasted but a few short years, Davis' approach to American blues and R&B had a lasting effect, directly influencing a diverse range of bands in the decade to follow, from Chicago Transit Authority and Traffic to the Allman Brothers Band, all of whom covered Spencer Davis Group material.
Following personnel changes and the eventual demise of his band toward the end of the 1960s, Davis went back to basics, first forming a brief partnership with guitarist and songwriter Alun Davies (a major component to Cat Stevens success) before leaving the UK and relocating in sunny California in 1969, where he would team up with guitarist Peter Jameson at the dawn of the new decade. Now an in-demand collector's item, the duo's 1970 album, It's Been So Long was a drummerless acoustic-oriented affair that featured a mix of soft ballads and traditional blues.
Despite neither being a particularly strong singer, Davis and Jameson displayed a remarkable knack for vocal harmony and their acoustic guitars blended together beautifully and tastefully, whether they were covering Leadbelly songs or exploring their own material, which combined the introspective nature of the early singer/songwriter movement with the musical esthetics of groups like the Incredible String Band.
Although Spencer Davis and Peter Jameson partnership would result in only the one album, they did briefly tour in 1971, before Davis would pursue his first solo album the following year. Due to the softer nature of their music and opening for higher profile rock bands, their sets were often performed before empty seats or were often met with indifference from the audience. Not the case on May 30, 1971, when Davis and Jameson charmed one of the most discriminating audiences in America at Bill Graham's Fillmore East as the opening act for Laura Nyro. Bassist, Steve Simone is the only addition to the duo's acoustic guitars adding depth and a tasteful bottom to this otherwise acoustic performance.
Noticeably nervous at first, but soon embraced by the Fillmore East audience, this recording may be the best testament to the duo's unique chemistry. Fans of the duo's album will be delighted, as much of the set focuses on that material. The set begins in a disarmingly unpretentious manner with three songs from that album, the Davis penned "Crystal River," and "One Hundred Years Ago," followed by the delicate title track, "It's Been So Long," one of Davis' songwriting collaborations with Alun Davies.
Next up things take a country-western turn with a cover of Marty Robbin's "I Wash My Hands In Muddy Water." Also recorded by one of the later incarnations of the Spencer Davis Group, here it is stripped down to its most basic elements sounding more like the folk song arrangement that would surface the following year on Davis' solo album, Mousetrap. Another Spencer Davis/Alun Davies collaboration from the album follows with "Thinking Of Her," with Jameson taking lead vocals and Davis providing the harmonies.
A preview of what would surface on Davis' first solo album is next with a delightful cover of Leadbelly's "Easy Rider." This is a perfect example of Davis exploring his roots and features his fine harmonica playing on a tasteful arrangement that succeeds by avoiding any flashiness.
A Davis/Jameson joint composition is next with "Jay's Tune (Mountain Girl)" followed by "Brother, Can You Make Up Your Mind," two more songs from the album. The former is a rather delicate number, which most clearly recalls the likes of the Incredible String Band while the latter features some of the duo's prettiest acoustic guitar interplay. The end of the set returns to Davis' root sound with the duo exploring another pure blue number, Leroy Carr's "How Long Blues," which was intended to close the set. The Fillmore East stage manager encourages them to continue so they follow with another Leadbelly cover on "Ella Speed," which would also be revisited on Davis' solo album debut. Although essentially a death ballad, their arrangement is bright and bouncy and features tasteful slide guitar work from Jameson.