Released in 1973, Ball Power was the debut LP for Lobby Loyde’s new band The Coloured Balls, a group whose idea of moderate drinking would have put most men under the table. His previous album, Plays with George Guitar, was an experimental affair, overflowing with inventive, hard hitting acid-fuelled riffs, all played out with enough attitude to sink the Bismarck. And Ball Power continues in that uncompromising tradition.
The album blasts off with “Flash”, a fast paced rocker concerned with the theme of teenage love. It’s the sort of song I can easily imagine many a young punk in England going wild over at the time. The only problem was, when this track was recorded, punk, at least as we now know it, was virtually non-existent. “Mama Don’t You Get Me Wrong” is ‘50s rock and roll given a seriously ‘70s update. Now if “Won’t You Make Up Your Mind” had of found its way on the jukebox of every working class pub in London, it might have caused a revolution. Well, maybe not a revolution as such, but Loyde’s playing on this one makes Steve Jones look and sound like nothing less than some kind of punk impersonator.
The instrumental “Something New” is an almost Hendrix/Clapton hybrid of psychedelic blues-rock, and highlights Loyde’s creative approach to his instrument. Likewise the deliciously bluesy “B.P.R.”, which has Lobby playing some of the most stinging guitar lines ever known this side of Peter Green. The manic “Human Being” is all heat and muscle, and what the Sex Pistols might have resembled had they have been a progressive rock band. The Coloured Balls blow out the local pub’s stain glass windows with their cover of Jerry Lee Lewis’s “Whole Lotta Shakin’”, before launching into the Stonesy “Hey! What’s Your Name”, which to be honest is pretty nondescript, except for Lobby’s guitar of course, and the one thing that always shines through.
The final track of the original album, “That’s What Mama Said” is a cosmically suburban instrumental (well almost) with some superb playing by Lobby and the rhythm section, who are locked in tight throughout what can only be described as a fantastic journey of superior imagination.
The Aztec edition of the LP has a plethora of bonus tracks, beginning with the boogie rock of “Liberate Rock”, and it’s b-side, the ironically titled “Slowest Guitar On Earth”, a high energy instrumental on which Lobby manages to fire up and unleash his not too inconsiderable chops. Single “Mr. Mean Mouth” and b-side “Love Me Girl” are enjoyable but at the same time forgettable numbers, along with the rock and roll nostalgia of “Mess of the Blues” and “Devil’s Disciple”, even if Lobby’s guitar is impeccable throughout.
The last track on this compilation is the epic “GOD” (Guitar Overdrive), and is taken from the 1973 Sunbury Music Festival. What unfolds is sixteen minutes of pure, unadulterated improvisation the likes of which Hendrix himself would have been impressed with. As Loyde recalled: “It was based on a piece of Beethoven classical music using minor chords against one note, using the rising fifths against the E note”. In other words, the man knew how to construct his notes and feedback when necessary. On “GOD”, Lobby clearly displays all his powers and abilities, which were subtle, though considerable, I can tell you.
With their distinctive ‘sharpie’ haircuts and working class clobber, you’d be forgiven for thinking that the Coloured Balls were little more than a gang of suburban thugs, who would punch you in the face as soon as look at you. However nothing could be further from the truth. Just because they had a Sharpie following, didn’t mean that they themselves were advocates of the sort of violence that sometimes ensured at their gigs. As Lobby himself explained: “The Coloured Balls were the greatest bunch of hippies that ever crawled. They were really gentle guys… When we walked offstage we were stuffed, just laid back wimps.” And while Lobby himself may have looked as though he’d just walked out of a hostel for the homeless, he was one of the best in the business. For him it wasn’t about looks, or fashion. The music always came first, while appearance second. Remastered from the original master tapes by Gil Matthews, the LP has never sounded better. An unassuming classic, Ball Power is Bogan Rock with intellect, and a wonderful snapshot into a world that no longer exists.