Taking a (Slim) Chance Review
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Slim Chance, once the backing band of Ronnie Lane, is back, much to the delight of fans, both old and new. With a tour of the UK and Europe in the pipeline, as well as a new single and album, Slim Chance is once again gracing the stages of live venues, and a gig proves an enjoyable event whatever your age.

Ronnie Lane, of course, was best known as a member of The Small Faces from 1965-1969 and The Faces from 1970-1975. With Rod Stewart on lead vocals, The Faces achieved chart success. However, when Rod developed a solo career, Ronnie left, disillusioned with the world of ‘pop’ music. He formed his own band and released the album Anymore For Anymore in 1973. Their second album was titled Ronnie Lane’s Slim Chance, and Ronnie, perhaps somewhat ironically, decided to call the band Slim Chance. This album allowed an insight into the eclectic and diverse musical style of Ronnie and the band.

Luckily for Ronnie, he teamed up with musicians who shared his passion for pushing musical boundaries, and Slim Chance embraced an array of musical talents, including bassists Chrissy White and Steve Bingham, sax players Jimmy Jewel, Benny Gallagher, and Graham Lyle (who went on to form Gallagher and Lyle), violinists Ken Slaven and Steve Simpson, Ruan O’Lochlainn, Charlie Hart, Brian Belshaw, and Glen le Fleur. The band released a single, “How Come,” which reached number 11 in the charts, followed by “The Poacher.” While these have become serious collectors’ items, Slim Chance in its original format went their separate ways for a while before being reincarnated in a line-up which included the originals of Simpson, O’Lochlainn, Bingham, Hart, and Belshaw, with Alun Davies on guitar and Colin Davey on drums.

Slim Chance

With Ronnie Lane, Slim Chance played live gigs and released several albums. On Ronnie Lane’s Slim Chance, most of the songs were written by Ronnie with band members Ruan O’Lochlainn, Steve Simpson, and Ronnie’s wife, Kate Lambert. There is an eclectic mix of rock, bluesy folk, and rhythm and blues. In the music, Ronnie showed a varied repertoire, drawing from many different musical origins, putting together a range of styles and creating strong original music, as well as including cover versions of songs like “Blue Monday” (Fats Domino) and “You Never Can Tell” (Chuck Berry). Ronnie and Slim Chance had a stalwart and diverse following.

When Ronnie died of MS in 1997, that could have been the end. Fond memories would endure, but, for all intents and purposes, the music was over. Ronnie, far from becoming another failed solo artist emerging from the bands of the ‘70s, had given the world a taste of his huge musical talents.

Though now gone, he left behind a musical legacy, which was hard to follow. There was a strong sense of things still undone, music left to play. The band decided to ensure that his music lived on. All of them were accomplished musicians in their own right and had been involved in other projects, but they still had their musical spiritual base in Slim Chance. Now, happily and to great acclaim, Slim Chance have come back together again.

“Reformed but Unrepentant” is their motto and they have made a triumphant return to the live stage and the studio.

The current lineup includes original musicians Steve Simpson, a singer and multi-talented musician who has worked with Ry Cooder, Joe Brown, and (ahem) Billy Jo Spears; Charlie Hart, a violinist, bassist, and multi- instrumentalist, who has worked with The People Band, legendary musician Terry Day, and The Kilburns, who composed for film and TV; Steve Bingham, who has worked with Geno Washington; Alun Davies, who worked with Spencer Davis, Marianne Faithful, and Yusaf Isalam (Cat Stevens) for many years (and still does); and, finally, Collin Davey, the rhythm and blues drummer, last seen playing at a London blues fest with the likes of PP Arnold.

Currently “guesting” long term is Geraint Watkins, who has played with Van Morrison, Paul Mc Cartney, Mark Knopfler, George Harrison, Dr. Feelgood, and John Martyn. He is also known, somewhat infamously, for his pub rock band, The Balham Alligators.

Between them, the Slim Chance line up of 2011 has an enviable musical history and influence, which spans decades and genres.

The band believes the songs of Ronnie Lane (with the Slim Chance twists) deserve to be brought to more people, and, judging by the success so far, they are right. At the 100 Club last year, they went through a prodigious set, including “Ooh La La,” “Annie,” and “The Poacher,” which went down a storm. “Anniversary” has a strong bass rhythm that carries the song, giving it a strength belying the lightness of the chords above, whilst “Flags and Banners” has a definite country feel, with twin vocals and harmonious background chords. “Flags and Banners” has a pithy feel and is without full chords, which adds up to a very different feel for each song, yet somehow they link together because the band has their own identity, albeit playing Ronnie’s music. Slim Chance like what they play and intend to share it with a wider audience.

Charlie Hart says, “We’re really into celebrating Ronnie’s life and music, particularly the songs which he wrote after he left The Faces, songs which were brilliant but little known. Though we do play some of The Faces stuff, too, and enjoy it. We did a big memorial for Ronnie in 2004 in the Albert Hall, with the likes of Paul Weller, Pete Townsend, Ronnie Wood, and others, and we are picking up the thread from there.”

The band released a two track single “One For The Road” / “Flags and Banners” on September 19th and are embarking on a UK tour. They plan to release an album length CD in early 2012.

If you go and see Slim Chance, keep an open mind and don’t think you have wandered into some nether world! Sometimes Charlie is playing bass with Steve on guitar and singing. Then, look away and back, and Steve has a fiddle, whilst Charlie has an accordion or piano or violin (the same electric blue one passed between the two). These are not mere players; they are musicians, and, like all the best bands, when they play together, a vibe is in the air. Music is not played; it is teased, tweaked, and loved, making no two gigs ever the same.

Take a (slim) chance on this band—you won’t regret it. Ronnie (alias Plonk) would love it.

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