Younger readers may need a heads up about Duster Bennett but a title like The Complete Blue Horizon Sessions should pique anyone’s interest. Duster was a star of then late sixties British blues revival, eschewing the electric directions taken by contemporaries such as Fleetwood Mac and Savoy Brown by performing solo and, initially at least, acoustic. This 2-CD set contains his three original albums, Smiling Like I’m Happy, Bright Lights… and 12 db’s plus a clutch of singles – all forty-four tracks remastered by Duncan Cowell and Blue Horizon boss and Duster’s original producer Mike Vernon. Tragically, Bennett was killed in a traffic accident in 1976 aged just twenty-nine.
Although Tony “Duster” Bennett was born in Wales his family moved to west London when he was young and that is the accent he grew up with. There was no fakery about him and if he sounds like Adam Faith sometimes, so what? As a soloist he performed with guitar, harmonica, kick-drum and hi-hat in the style of Juke Boy Bonner from whom he borrowed a couple of songs. The majority of his material was original but he went back to the source with covers of Jimmy Reed and Jimmy McCracklin among others.
Solo is how we hear him for the first half dozen tracks before Ham Richmond joins him on keyboards for the lovely ‘Trying To Paint It In The Sky’. Although he was a hard-rocking bluesman at heart there are some odd selections – you might be surprised to find ‘Raining In My Heart’ in the track list but it isn’t the Bryants’ song. ‘Rock Of Ages Cleft For Me’ delivered as a slide instrumental indicates a gradual change of style with 12 db’s.. Four tracks from the first album feature a trio of mates – Peter Green, John McVie and Mick Fleetwood – with Green also appearing playing bass on the second. It was Green who introduced Bennett to Mike Vernon and gave him a vintage Les Paul.
Duster’s second album was recorded live at The Angel in Godalming with the loudest audience you’ve ever heard who opened the proceedings with a raucous rendition of ‘God Save The Queen’ for no adequately explained reason. The Angel isn’t there any more and, quite frankly, I’m surprised it survived the evening. Bright Lights…is mostly covers with a few more mates dropping in and Duster’s future wife Stella Sutton joining him on lead vocals for ‘Bright Lights Big City’.
As a lyricist Duster exhibited a dry wit and occasionally you’ll notice a line that makes you think – sometimes a whole song like ‘That Mean Old Look’. The single, ‘I’m Gonna Wind Up Ending Up or I’m Gonna End Up Winding Up With You’ has a title that sticks in the mind and isn’t quite what you’d expect from a standard blues. That wit also coloured some of his choices of artists to cover – Ray Charles and Ray Davies both appear. 12 db’s was rather more refined than its predecessors but a track like ‘I Love My Baby’ still rocks like stink.
As the blues boom gave way to glam and prog, Blue Horizon lost its raison d’être. Bennett went on to record three more albums for other labels moving away from the blues but it’s fair to say that this set represents the pure Duster Bennett. He still delights and may offer you a few surprises.
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‘Act Nice And Gentle’ – live: