Band members Related acts
line up 1 (1973-75)
- Ian Byron -- drums, percussion, vocals
- John Elstar -- vocals, harmonica
- Johnny Gordon -- bass, vocals
- James Hall -- keyboards
- Ray Minhinett -- guitar, vocals
supporting musicians (1974)
- Tony Carr - percussion
- B.J. Cole -- pedal steel guitar
- Mick Grabham -- lead guiatr
- John Coghlan's Diesel (Ray Minhinett)
- Heaven (John James Gordon)
- Frankie Miller's Full House (James Hall and Ray Minhinett)
- Ray Minhinett (solo efforts)
- Phoenix (Ray Minhinett)
Rating: 3 stars ***
Country/State: Sunderland, UK
Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+
Catalog ID: --
I'm always amazed at how many English bands recorded albums in the mid-'70s. Even more of a surprise is how many seem to have slipped by with little, or no attention; to say how many of them I've never heard of. Add to that list of unknown is the Sunderland-based quartet Highway. Formed in 1973, the band's line-up featured drummer Ian Byron, singer John Elstar, bassist Johnny Gordon, keyboardist James Hall and lead guitarist Ray Minhinett. Produced by David Sandison, 1974's "Highway" featured a professional, if short of inspiring collection of Americana and country-tinged blues-rock. With all five members contributing to the writing chores the album had a distinct Americana sound and vibe. Imagine a more country styled Robbie Robertson and The Band and you'll get a feel for tracks like 'Silver City' (featuring an assist from guest guitarist Mick Grabham), 'Song for a Friend' and 'Down By The Wishing Well'. As lead singer Elstar had a dry, raspy voice that grew on you after a couple of spins. Minhinett was a good guitarist; not particularly showy, but an economical and tasteful player. The album's standout performance was the single 'Ready!' Buoyed by a catchy chorus, it was easily the most commercial performance and should have garnered the band some radio exposure, It didn't. The other interesting performance was the slinky closer 'Same Old Dream'.
1.) Silver City (Ray Minhinett - Johnny Gordon) - rating: *** stars
Complete with B.J. Cole's pedal steel guitar and powered by Elstar's dry, raspy voice, 'Silver City' was a decent country-tinged number, though I've always been puzzled by why English bands are so fascinated with the genre. I have to admit there's something that makes me smile when I hear an English accent singing a country song.
2.) Song For A Friend (Johnny Gordon - Ian Byron - Ray Minhinett) - rating: *** stars
Second rate wannabes ... 'Song for a Friend' wasn't horrible, but just never showed much energy. Ray Minhinett's lead guitar solo provided the highlight.
3.) Cajun Queen (John Elstar) - rating: *** stars
Upping the tempo, I've seen 'Cajun Queen' tagged as a swamp rock effort. Well, other than the title and a touch of the harmonica I didn't really hear it. It certainly wasn't a Joe South effort, rather It was more of a blues-rocker. I actually quite liked it. YouTube has a clip of the band playing the song on a January 1975 episode of The Geordie Scene television show: Highway perform ‘Cajun Queen’ on The Geordie Scene - YouTube.
4.) Blinds Me rating: ** stars
Opening up with James Hall's electric piano, 'Blinds Me' was a bland ballad that sounded like it had some radio aspirations.
I have to admit the opening section of 'Ready!' wasn't promising and the "lost soul" lyrics weren't particularly original, but when the track hit the joyous chorus things picked up. Kicked along by James Hall's gurgling synthesizers, this was easily the album's best song. The track was released as a single:
- 1973's 'Ready!' b/w 'Steamdrivin' Man' (EMI catalog number EMI 2090)
2.) Down By The Wishing Well (John Elstar - Killeen) - rating: *** stars
A nice platform for Elstar's dry voice, the ballad 'Down By The Wishing Well' was another track that had a Band-styled Americana vibe. With Hall turning in a nice Garth Hudson-styled organ solo, iIt was the album's sleeper performance.
2.) Wee Wee Baby (Willie Dixon - Buddy Guy - Muddy Waters) - rating: ** stars
The album's lone cover, I guess no self-respecting mid-'7s English rock band could get away without at least one blues cover. Why you'd want to listen to this one versus Jimmy Reed's version, or even Taste's cover is a mystery to me.
3.) Same Old Dream (James Hall - Johnny Gordon - Ian Byron) rating: **** stars
Not sure the lyric would be considered politically correct, but 'Same Old Dream' had one of the album's prettiest melodies and Tony Carr's percussion gave it a nice edge.
In Germany the non-LP 'Steamdrivin' Man' was released as a single with the earlier 'Ready' relegated to the "B" side:
- 1973's 'Steamdrivin' Man' b/w 'Ready' (EMI catalog number 1C 006-05 525)
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