The Spencer Davis Group: Taking Out Time: Complete Recordings 1967-1969
What happens to a band when founding members depart? If you're the Spencer Davis Group, you soldier on and make the best of it.
When it comes to the British Invasion, consensus tends to place the Beatles at the top of the canon. The second tier usually consists of the Rolling Stones, the Who, and the Kinks -- and below that the Small Faces, Yardbirds, the Pretty Things, and similar groups. Any type of act that would be at home on a Nuggets box set or fall under the auspices of your more standoffish and persnickety record store clerk. Most people are already familiar with the Spencer Davis Group with hits like “I’m a Man” and “Gimme Some Lovin’”. They are treated as a group that is best served by a greatest hits compilation, not one that warrants further exploration. Fortunately, RPM’s lavish box set, Taking Out Time: Complete Recordings 1967-1969 provides a chance for the curious to delve a little deeper.
Make no mistake; this is a set for the most cultish of British Invasion fans as it focuses on the band’s activities following the departure of the Winwood Brothers. Steve left to play in Traffic and later was a member of Blind Faith. Muff Winwood started working for Island Records as an A&R man. As a result, it’s not the band’s most commercially appealing material.
Phil Sawyer, formerly of Les Fleur de Lys (a group featured on Nuggets II!) and Eddie Hardin replaced the Winwoods in the group. The new guys do an admirable job stepping into the lineup. While listening to “Every Little Thing”, I had to double check that Steve Winwood wasn’t on it.
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Musically, it’s in step with the direction Steve Winwood traveled with Traffic and Blind Faith. It’s well executed and pleasant, and there are some hidden gems that might make ideal fodder for mixes or the perfect bona fide for a heavy musical discussion. While this is a set for the more musically obsessed, there are some great cuts like “Every Little Thing” and “After Tea” that display real craftsmanship in terms of songwriting, performance, and melody.
When a band changes direction due to the departure of members, it’s truly fascinating to see it evolve and what direction the band’s fortunes head. Pink Floyd, for example, reached its commercial peak after Syd Barrett departed due to his struggles with mental health. Usually one suspects that a group will flounder when original members leave. There are plenty examples of that, but in some cases, the group soldiers on and still produces worthwhile material. Where the Spencer Davis Group is concerned, they're akin to the Small Faces becoming the Faces following the departure of Steve Marriott. It’s not a perfect analog; the Faces with Rod Stewart as vocalist have a much higher profile than the post-Winwood Spencer Davis Group.
Also included are a series of live recordings at the BBC, and it’s interesting to hear the songs in a live setting and hear the band chat with broadcaster Brian Matthew. The interview segments touch on the shifting dynamics in the group and give a nice snapshot of a band that hasn’t been documented to death like more popular peers. Taking Out Time: Complete Recordings 1967-1969 is a worthy investment for those with a hankering to examine forgot corners of 1960s music.