Ten Wheel Drive – Construction #1 (1969)

TenWheelDrive_Construction4 out of 5 Stars!

Construction #1 is the debut album from yet another female-led Brass-Rock/Jazz-Rock band, similar in style to both Cold Blood and Janis Joplin’s I Got Dem Ol’ Kozmic Blues Again Mama! album, all popping up in 1969.

Ten Wheel Drive is fronted by a terrific vocalist named Genya Ravan, whose voice and delivery is similar to both Janis Joplin and Lydia Pense (from Cold Blood). To be more precise, imagine Janis Joplin fronting Blood, Sweat & Tears or Chicago, and that’s what you’ll get with Ten Wheel Drive.

Several tracks (such as “Tightrope,” “I Am A Want Ad,” or “Polar Bear Rug”) feature slamming rock riffs that rival the best Blues-Rock bands of the era, while a few tracks (such as “Lapidary,” “House In Central Park,” and, especially, “Candy Man Blues”), or some sections of tracks such as the lengthy, wildly diverse, and ever-shifting “Eye Of The Needle,” are a bit lighter and offer a jazzy feel. The guitars generally sizzle, and the occasional piano offers beautiful accompaniment, while the rhythm section pounds and drives where necessary. And of course, what sets this band apart from most, is the solid brass section, playing exciting arrangements that match the jaw-dropping complexity and surprising maturity of early Blood, Sweat & Tears and Chicago. Indeed, the brass sounds clean and crisp throughout, creating a perfect backdrop for a vocalist with Ravan’s powerful style.

Overall, for both brass enthusiasts like myself as well as fellow devotees of female singers, Construction #1 offers up fascinating material, and is probably the most innovative of the band’s four studio releases. Too bad Ten Wheel Drive (and Ravan herself, who went on to have a lengthy solo career) never achieved the enduring fame it so greatly deserved.

 

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