The ‘Zelig’ of British contemporary music, Duffy Power was in at the birth of skiffle, British rock’n’roll and blues, underground folk, jazz rock fusion, among the mayflies in the baroque-pop of the Summer of Love, at the birth of progressive-rock, and in the heyday of Northern Soul.
And then he went quiet, plagued with ill health. Some said he was deceased … yet of course, he wasn’t.
While the years passed, the very private Power lay low in his London home. It took gentle and steady persuasion/attention to prise him out and back into the studio and Bet Jansch biographer Colin Harper played a major role in this regard, interviewing Duffy for the writer’s acclaimed biography of Bert Jansch – “Dazzling Stranger” – and sourcing contributions for Jansch covers project ‘People On The Highway – A Bert Jansch Encomium’ as well charity fund-raising compilations ‘The Wildlife Album’ and its successor ‘Live in Hope – the Wildlife Album Vol 2’; all were to be released on the Market Square label between 2000 and 2006.
Somewhere in between, Harper and fellow session musicians joined Duffy in the studio to lay down some of the tracks for ‘Tigers’ (an exception being, ‘Spaces’ recorded in 1996 with the late Dick Heckstall-Smith).
Harper recalls the time as creatively very fruitful period: “Duffy was finding a whole new avenue of sound to explore between himself and his guitar and, thank God, he has had the sense of purpose to keep working on that material and to allow it to be issued in album format as a cohesive body of work,” he reflects.
Fourteen tracks of sanguine yet uplifting blues folk flecked with soulful jazz moments cross Power’s own rich compositions with covers, most notably his take on 1950’s hit ‘Secret Love’. The performances are considered and beautifully-paced but it’s the voice that’s most striking, a husky swoop of aching melancholia that never quite tires.
But poor health was to catch up; Duffy died in February 2014 at the age of 72.
Colin Harper sums him up perfectly as having had at various points on his journey, ‘a hellhound on his trail’.
“Tigers” reveals a man no longer, perhaps, wrestling with the darkness and frustration but hopefully more at peace with the world: a talent to this day every bit as compelling and brilliant as that of the restless firebrand of the past.