Saturday, December 2, 2023

Steel - Steel (1971 us, solid bluesy hard rock)

Steel was a US  rock group with members (keyboardist/vocalist Duane Hitchings, guitarist Steve Busfield, bassist Roland Robinson, drummer Jerry Norris and singer/backing vocalist Carl Sims). . Some of them are well known on the rock and blues circuit. Duane Hitchings was a member of the Buddy Miles Express and Roland Robinson, in addition to working for the Stax label, had the opportunity to jam with Jimi Hendrix (he is credited on the title "Jimi/Jimmy Jam" in the posthumous album, “Nine To The Universe” published in 1980). In 1971 the quintet released their self-titled LP on behalf of Epic with Hendrix's sound engineer, Eddie Kramer, at the helm.

10 tracks for an LP totaling 33 minutes, this album offers excellent hard rock rich in melodies which flirts with prog but especially with soul music. Vocals are shared between Duane Hitchings and Carl Sims, the latter providing backing vocals on all of the songs. The leaden biker riffs of many of the tracks (“Eye To Eye” in the opening, “Road Runner”, “Rosie Lee”) recall those of Leslie West from Mountain. The quintet offers celestial heavy ballads (“Never On A Monday”, “Merry Go Round”). The musicians focus on boogie (“Maybe” and the instrumental “Loving You”) but also rhythm ‘n’ blues (“Can’t Watch One Hand”). The vinyl ends in a hard blues register with “Driving Wheel” and “To You Who Are Watching” more funky for the latter.

A promising, endearing, well-made record, very pleasant to listen to but which unfortunately did not meet with success, leading to the separation of Steel. Carl Sims will attempt a solo career in the funk style. Steve Busfield joined the Buddy Miles Express in 1973. Duane Hitchings, Roland Robinson and Jerry Norris will join guitarist Mike Pinera in The New Cactus for the short-lived album, Son Of Cactus released in 1973. Subsequently Roland Robinson and Duane Hitchings will write the hit “Infatuation” for Rod Stewart.
1. Eye To Eye (Duane Hitchings) - 2:22
2. Never On A Monday (Duane Hitchings) - 3:09
3. Roadrunner (Brian Holland, Edward Holland, Jr., Lamont Dozier) - 2:58 
4. Merry Go Round (Roland Robinson) - 3:16
5. Maybe (Duane Hitchings) - 2:45
6. Can't Watch One Hand  (Roland Robinson) - 3:39
7. Rosie Lee (Roland Robinson) - 2:30
8. Loving You (Duane Hitchings) - 3:03
9. Driving Wheel (Riley B. King, Jules Taub) - 5:06
10.To You Who Are Watching (Roland Robinson) - 5:04

*Carl Sims - Vocals
*Duane Hitchings - Organ, Piano, Keyboard, Bass
*Roland Robinson - Bass, Vocals
*Steve Busfield - Guitar, Vocals
*Jerry Norris - Drums, Vocals