If John Mayall is the godfather of British blues, Savoy Brown's founder and lead guitarist Kim Simmonds surely qualifies as a bona-fide capo. Like Mayall's Bluesbreakers, Savoy Brown has survived over the decades with a succession of lineups; Simmonds, like Mayall, was the one constant in his band's history. And, as a parade of rising guitar stars passed through the Bluesbreakers, the musical turf laid out by Savoy Brown nurtured at least one high-profile spin-off, the '70s blues-rock outfit Foghat.
Savoy Brown's own popularity peaked in the late '60s and early '70s, on the strength of such heralded albums as A Step Further and Hellbound Train. The band beat the odds, maintaining its success through changeovers of lead vocalists and, post-Foghat, complete revisions. Its early melding of blues and rock preceded the game plans of countless bands.
The 2004 Savoys are three-fourths New Yorkers -- David Malachowski (guitar), Gerry Sorrentino (bass), and Dennis Cotton (drums) -- with Simmonds now the frontman. In addition to a recently released "live" CD, You Should Have Been There, this edition appears on last year's Strange Dreams, on which the band favors a simmering, minor-key moodiness reminiscent of the music of Robert Cray. Simmonds's blues chops, like his survival skills, remain solid.