The 2009 Julien Temple cinema documentary ‘Oil City Confidential’ did much to resurrect the career of Canvey Island 70’s R and B act and punk pioneers Dr Feelgood, and in particular that of their eccentric guitarist Wilko Johnson who became the undoubted star of the film.
What is sometimes forgotten is that after Johnson, the then songwriter of the group, was fired from Dr Feelgood in 1977 after recording three studio albums – ‘Down by the Jetty’ (1975), ‘Malpractice’ (1975) and ‘Sneakin’ Suspicion’ (1977) – and a live record ‘Stupidity’ (1976), Lee Brilleaux, their fireball vocalist and harmonica, decided to carry on the group, initially with Gypie Mayo taking over on guitar.
Lee Brilleaux died of cancer a month before his 43rd birthday in April 1994, having recorded another eleven studio albums with Dr Feelgood, including the Nick Lowe-produced ‘Be Seeing You’ (1977) and ‘A Case of the Shakes’ (1980); ‘Private Practice’ (1978), which featured their only Top 10 hit ‘Milk and Alcohol’, and Brilleaux’s underrated final album with the band, ‘The Feelgood Factor’ (1993).
by John Clarkson
Having fallen apart just as punk rock and the new wave were taking the world by storm, the Feelgoods turned to Nick Lowe to produce the record and he keeps everything admirably bare: Brilleaux's voice remains pleasingly grubby, the back line solid as a brick shithouse, and Mayo dipping in an out with no little style, technique and sensitivity. If that was impressive given the short amount of time the band had to regroup and prepare for the record, October 1978's Private Practice was even more of an eye-opener.
With Mayo contributing to six tracks and Brilleaux three, this was more of a band effort than its predecessor and spawned two terrific singles, 'Down At The Doctors' reaching No.48 and the marvellous 'Milk And Alcohol', written by Mayo and Lowe, becoming the band's first top ten hit. Throughout there is an intoxicating edge to Brilleaux's vocals which sound even more sinister than usual, the songs are full of blockbuster riffs and everywhere Mayo displays his virtuosity - just listen to 'Every Kind Of Vice' or 'Night Time': it is as if Johnson had never been away.
1. Down At The Doctors (Mickey Jupp) - 3:19
2. Every Kind Of Vice (Lee Brilleaux, John Mayo) - 3:27
3. Things Get Better (A. Jackson jr, E. Floyd, S. Cropper) - 2:51
4. Milk And Alcohol (Nick Lowe, John Mayo) - 2:55
5. Night Time (B. Feldman, G. Goldstein, R. Gottehrer) - 5:26
6. Let's Have A Party (Baxter, Clifford, Haymes) - 2:42
7. Take A Trip (Lee Brilleaux, John Mayo) - 4:25
8. It Wasn't Me (Nick Lowe, John Mayo) - 3:06
9. Greaseball (John Mayo) - 3:55
10.Sugar Shaker (Lee Brilleaux, John Mayo, John Sparks) - 4:45
11.Down At The (Other) Doctors (Mickey Jupp) - 3:53
12.Cheque Book (Mickey Jupp) - 3:51
13.Back In The Night (Wilko Johnson) - 3:12
14.Lucky Seven (Lew Lewis) - 2:34
15.Lights Out (David, Robbenack) - 3:32
16.Sneackin’ Suspicion (Wilko Johnson) - 3:12
17.Great Ball Of Fire (Hammer, Blackwell) - 2:14
18.It Don’t Take But A Few Minutes (Berry) - 3:28
19.Blues Jam (Brilleaux, Mayo, Sparks, Figure, Holland, Squirrel, Lewis) - 5:51
20.Milk And Alcohol (New Recipe) (Nick Lowe, John Mayo) - 3:07
21.She’s Got Her Eyes On You (Brilleaux, Russell, Mitchell, Morris) - 3:11
Tracks 18-19 performed by The Oil City Sheiks
*Lee Brilleaux - Vocals, Guitar, Harmonica
*John B. Sparks - Bass Guitar, Backing Vocals
*Gypie Mayo - Guitar
*The Big Figure (John Martin) - Drums
1974 Down By The Jetty (2014 Japan SHM edition)
1976 Dr Feelgood - Stupidity (2014 Japan SHM edition)
1975 Malpractice (2014 Japan SHM edition)
1977 Be Seeing You (2014 Japan SHM remaster)