In 1968, Aretha Franklin reportedly said: “There are only three things happening in England: The Rolling Stones, The Beatles and Terry Reid. ” And the deeper you delve into Reid's music, the more astonishing it becomes that he has lived out the past half-century in relative obscurity, while so many of his contemporaries have been enshrined as rock music royalty for decades. Due to his uncanny ability to channel raw emotion through his bombastic voice, Reid picked up the nickname Superlungs at the beginning of his career, turned down the opportunity to front Led Zeppelin and Deep Purple, and set out for a uncompromising solo career.
By the time Terry Reid recorded his masterpiece River in 1973, the British vocalist nicknamed "super lungs" had turned down frontman duties for Led Zeppelin (Robert Plant joined the group upon Reid's recommendation) and had earned praise from the likes of Aretha Franklin, among others. Yet none of that momentum translated to wax, thanks to two underwhelming Mickie Most productions. The ragged and right eclecticism of the Tom Dowd-produced River was Reid's turning point, artistically.
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).
The unreleased groover "Let's Go Down" offers a funky backbeat punched up by Miles' bassline and a greasy guitar shuffle, before Reid's vocal literally slips into the middle. Horns add a vintage R&B feel while Lindley's steel whines and bites, creating a massive choogler. "F# Boogie" is a grimier, earlier alternate of "Avenue" -- it's from the London sessions but Dowd later overdubbed the Ikettes on backing vocals.
As buried treasures go, it must be said Terry Reid’s River lies only a spade’s depth or so under the topsoil. Much like Dennis Wilson’s Pacific Ocean Blue, the 1973 country-soul-goes-bossa River has been excavated frequently, reissued four times since 1999. And every time River gets dug up, so do the backstories. Terry Reid: the protégé from the Fens whose superlungs breathed Atlantic soul into Peter Jay’s disintegrating Jaywalkers.
Underappreciated soul singer’s alternate efforts. Along with Steve Marriott, Robert Plant and Rod Stewart, Terry Reid is a member of that genuinely rarified group of vocalists – the truly convincing British blue-eyed soul singer. But while the others broke through to reach wider and appreciative audiences, Reid’s appeal remains selective at best.