“Get Off My Cloud”
By John Platt
Some six and a half years after his untimely death in January 1984, the ledged of Alexis Korner still looms large in the annals of British rock history. Thanks to a couple of excellent retrospective albums on the Castle label covering his recorded work from 1961 until the early eighties, it has been possible to re-evaluate his undoubted stature as a musician. If nothing else a mere glace at the names that grace those records – including Jack Bruce, Eric Clapton, Dick Heckstall-Smith, Chris Farlowe and Robert Plant, to name but a few – gives some indication of his ability to spot new talent and of the continued respect in which he was held by established artists, many of whom had had their first exposure via Alexis.
In some ways those names have overshadowed the role of the man himself. He was 'the father of the British Blues' and the great nurturer of talent, but he was also a fine musician in his own right – a more than competent guitarist, an accomplished songwriter and of course, the owner of one of the most amazing voices – a deep growl that was as much his signature as Robert Plant's falsetto shriek is his. Moreover he was a great interpreter of other peoples material – and not just the Blues. Alexis had incredibly catholic taste; as far back as the early sixties he was performing material by avant-grade jazzmen like Charlie Mingus and throughout his career he covered a huge range of material, from Curtis Mayfield and the Staple Singers to contemporary singer songwriters like Nick Drake and James Taylor.
In the two decades plus of his recording career Alexis cut well over twenty albums, each definitively a Korner record, but each different in its own way, Some reflected the music of his current band, whatever it was (the Blues Inc albums, SNAPE etc), some were essentially solo albums and some were full blown band albums with the musicians assembled purely to play on that album. Such was the case, more or less, with this album, 'Get Off My Cloud' originally released in 1975. Some of the musicians, like bassist Colin Hodgkinson had played with Alexis, on and off, for some time and continued to play with him for many years. The majority, particularly the 'stars' like Keith Richard, Peter Frampton and Steve Marriott, came in just for these sessions, only too pleased to play with their long time friend and mentor. The results by any standards were tremendous, most notably the title track. It's a radically different version from the Stones' original, but the arrangement so impressed Keith Richard that he told Alexis that he wished the Stones had done it in a similar fashion. As it happens, the sessions coincided with the search for Mick Taylor's replacement in the Stones. It is believed that at least one musician on the session fancied himself in the role, but what amused Alexis was that he himself had been tipped as a likely choice!
The rest of the album reflects the breadth of material mentioned earlier – from the Doors' The WASP (Texas Radio) – a piece ideally suited to Korner's vocal delivery – to a really soulful version of Marvin Gaye's 'Ain't That Peculiar'. Also included are a couple of tributes – one overt, in honour of Alexis's hero Robert Johnson, the other less explicit, 'dedicated' to Alexis's late friend Jimi Hendrix.
The two Castle double-albums mentioned earlier, although essential, merely scratched the surface, with this album, although a snapshot of one particular time, gives us just that little more depth and an indication of how much there was to Alexis and his music.