Dubbed “superlungs” for his raw vocal power, Terry Reid will forever be remembered as the man who declined the frontman job in both Led Zeppelin and Deep Purple. Happily, there’s more to his story. Reid went on to chart a less-lucrative, though creatively fruitful, path on his own, and continues to perform today. For those who know him as more than a trivia question, one high point is 1973’s River, Reid’s third album and first after escaping the clutches of producer Mickie Most (Yardbirds, Herman’s Hermits).
Offering an hour of previously unreleased music, The Other Side of the River isn’t the first time the River sessions have been revisited, with a 2006 reissue adding bonus tracks to the original seven songs. This second pass at the leftovers suffers from filler: Some of the 11 cuts are forgettable, rambling band jams that could easily have been excised to make a more coherent album.
The Other Side begins inauspiciously, as Reid embodies white-boy soul shouting at its most mannered on “Let’s Go Down,” echoing the worst excesses of the Black Crowes’ Chris Robinson or Steve Marriott in his Humble Pie phase. Then he calms down and works his considerable magic. Reid’s raspy purr adds an electric edge to the sleepy alternate of “River,” evoking a smoky late-night club, the slinky outtake “Avenue (F# Boogie),” featuring wailing backing vocals from the spine-tingling Ikettes, and the supple ballad “Listen with Eyes.” Like fellow Brits Steve Winwood and Georgie Fame before him, Reid builds on standard R&B tropes to fashion his own identity, which is no easy feat.
Reid’s eclecticism may partly explain his reluctance to join an aggressive high-profile band that probably wouldn’t have allowed him to indulge his muse. The Other Side gracefully spans breezy bossa nova, sunny twang and gentle singer/songwriter pop, and never rocks hard. His deft enablers include underrated Ike and Tina Turner bassist Lee Miles; percussionist Willie Bobo; drummer Alan White, then on the verge of joining Yes; and guitarist David Lindley, soon to shine in Jackson Browne’s band. Lindley’s machine-gun riffs on the delightful “Country Brazilian Funk” would give Nashville’s flashiest players pause.
Experiencing The Other Side of the River without knowing the primary work would be like reading the footnotes in a history book and skipping the main text. But check out this well-intentioned, albeit overstuffed, collection after savoring the easy pleasures of River, and enjoy a flavorful chaser.
For more Terry Reid content, check out audio of him covering “I Put a Spell on You” in 1968 in the player below.