Sweet Slag

Sweet Slag was an English jazz-rock/blues band from Luton that released the album Tracking With Close-Ups on President Records Limited in 1971.

Members: Mick Karski Karenski [Mick Wright] (guitar, violin), Paul Jolly (saxophone), Jack O’Neill (bass), Al Chambers (drums), John Catlin, Keith Arnold


Sweet Slag formed in 1969 and settled on the lineup of guitarist Mick Karenski, saxophonist Paul Jolly, bassist Jack “Moth” O’Neill, and drummer Al Chambers. They hit the live circuit and shared double-bills with everyone from Black Cat Bones, Deep Purple, and Stray to Graham Bond, Nucleus, and the Third Ear Band.

President Records, a soul and pop label subsisting on its flagship act The Equals, gave Sweet Slag the chance to make an album. The band signed a publishing deal with Kassner Music (The Animals, The Kinks, Cliff Richard) and recorded seven Karenski originals at Pan Sound Studios under the working title Guerilla Jazz Rock.

Tracking With Close-Ups

Sweet Slag released Tracking With Close-Ups on President in 1971. Side one topples 24 minutes with two five-minute blues rockers (“Specific,” “Milk Train”), a spacey 10-minute jam (“Rain Again“),  and a short boogie (“Patience”). The flipside consists of three numbers in the seven-minute range: two fractious free-jazz rockers (“Twisted Trip Woman,” “Babyi Ar”) and the becalmed “World of Ice.”

Jolly plays oboe, flute, and clarinet, in addition to alto and soprano sax. Moth plays trombone on select passages.

Tracking With Close-Ups was produced by studio rookie Mike Cooper and engineered by Ken Scott, who also worked on 1971 albums by America, Aubrey Small, David Bowie (Hunky Dory), Elton John, Linda Lewis, and Lindisfarne (Fog On the Tyne). The back cover features liner notes by Karenski and supporter Keith Edwards, who later drummed in Sensations’ Fix. Edwards refers to Sweet Slag’s album as “a vitriolic electric piece of continuity.”

The original release of Tracking With Close-Ups (cat# PTLS 1042) appeared just behind label titles by singer/songwriter Alan James Eastwood and Equals-spinoff Zappatta Schmidt, and just ahead of the debut album by American pop singer Paul Davis.


Tracking With Close-Ups eventually became one of the rarest UK artifacts of the post-psych era. It was first reissued on CD in 2004 on Sunrise Records. Further CD issues followed on Air Mail Archive (Japan, 2006) and Aurora (UK, 2013). In 2018, Acme/Lion Productions reissued the album on vinyl.

“Flavor of Decay,” a non-album Sweet Slag rarity, appears on the 2021 Grapefruit Records comp I’m a Freak Baby 3 with cuts by Ashkan, Budgie, Bram Stoker, Chicken Shack, Free, Fuzzy Duck, Hawkwind, Leaf Hound, May Blitz, Nazareth, Pink Fairies, Quatermass, Red Dirt, Steamhammer, Tear Gas, Thin Lizzy, Third World War, Trapeze, Warhorse, and Writing On the Wall.

Jolly resurfaced in the 1980s in Mummy, a little-documented free-jazz ensemble with Lol Coxhill. He also played on ’80s free-jazz albums by Will Menter and Loverly.


  • Tracking With Close-Ups (1971)


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