This review was originally posted on the first Toorak Times web site where publications ceased on that site in March 2017. The old site will be permanently closed in 2020 and these reviews are being re-published in order to preserve them on the current Toorak Times/Tagg site.
This is album retro-review number 170 in the series of retro-reviews of both vinyl and Cd albums in my collection.
The series is called “Cream of The Crate” and each review represents an album that I believe is of significant musical value, either because of it’s rarity, because it represents the best of a style or styles of music or because there is something unique about the group or the music.
Links to the previous 150 reviews can be found at the bottom of this review.
Time to dip back into my crate and draw out an album that is among the rare and valuable vinyl albums in my collection, and the fact that it is one of the greatest Aussie Blues Groups of the 1970’s makes it an exciting album to retro-review.
I am talking about Chain and the vinyl album I’m featuring is titled – Two Of A Kind.
Originally released by Mushroom on their own label in 1973, it has the identifying code of L35017. The album has six tracks, four on side 1 and only one track on side 2. The album was re-released in 1997 on the CD format.
The story of Chain is in fact two stories. One is of the personnel who can lay claim to being in this highly respected group, and the second is the music it produced.
The group was formed in Melbourne in the latter part of 1968 which in itself was quite noteworthy.
Whilst all the capital cities and regionals, bred their own groups which would take on varying degrees of popularity, Melbourne was the real breeding ground of both some of the best, most innovative and popular bands.
Many started in the early part of the 1960’s like their overseas contemporaries, playing blues based material, before evolving into the varying styles being popularised in England, and eventually mutating into their own ‘home-grown” styles.
But Chain were truely blues based, and while they put out some very popular tracks, only one made it into the top 20.
It was their blues playing that was the original raison d’etre and that at a time when psychedelia and far more contemporary styles of music were being pumped out – that made them pretty unique.
They also became an iconic symbol for the working class. They performed songs that represented the feelings of the anti-Vietnam War movement, and were more suited to the alternative lifestyle people of the late sixties / early seventies than the mainstream pop world.
Formed by guitarist extraordinaire Phil Manning, who also had an excellent voice, it had Ace Follington on drums, Warren “Pig” Morgan on keyboards and Murray Wilkins on bass.
The lineup considered to be the “classic” Chain lineup eventuated in 1970, when Manning, who at that time had “Big Goose” and “Little Goose” (Barry Harvey – drums) and Barry Sullivan – bass) invited the remarkable Matt Taylor to become their front man.
The group had no less than THIRTY ONE musicians play in it in its 47 years of existence and tracking the various combinations and dating all the changes, including the break ups and reformations, is beyond the scope of this album review.
According to Wikipedia the different members of Chain and Matt Taylor’s Chain included:
- Ace Follington — drums (1968–1969)
- Phil Manning — guitar, vocals (1968–1974, 1982, 1983–1986, 1991, 1995–current)
- Warren Morgan — keyboards, vocals (1968–1972)
- Wendy Saddington — vocals (1968–1969)
- Murray Wilkins — bass guitar (1968–1969)
- Glyn Mason — vocals (1970–1972)
- Tim Piper — bass guitar (1969)
- Claude Papesch — organ (1969)
- Barry Harvey — drums (1969–74, 1982, 1983–1986, 1988, 1995–current)
- Barry Sullivan — bass guitar (1969–74, 1982, 1983–1986)
- Matt Taylor — vocals, harmonica (1970–1971, 1982, 1983–1986, 1991–1992, 1995–current)
- Kevin Murphy — drums (1971)
- Charlie Tumahai — bass guitar (1971)
- Lindsay Wells — lead guitar (1971)
- Laurie Pryor — drums (1971–1972)
- Graham Morgan — drums (1972)
- Mal Capewell — saxophone, flute (1973–1974)
- Ian Clyne — organ (1973–1974)
- George Beauford — vocals, harmonica (1973, session musician)
- James Madison — guitar (1973, session musician)
- Mal Logan — keyboards (1974)
- Tony Lunt — drums (1974)
- John Meyer — guitar (1986, 1988, 1991)
- Roy Daniel — bass guitar (1988)
- Bob Fortesque — bass guitar (1991)
- Michael Burn — drums (1991)
- Dirk Du Bois — bass guitar (1991–1992, 1995–current)
- Jeff Lang — guitar (1991–1992)
- Bob Patient — piano (1991–1992)
- Gus Warburton — drums (1991–1992)
- Malcolm Eastick — guitar (1992)
As you browse through this list you can’t help but be amazed and impressed at the talent in addition to those identified in the “classic” lineup.
These include Wendy Saddington, Glyn Mason, Ian Clyne, Mal Eastic, and, some members of Muddy Waters touring band who feature in this album.
There were 14 albums released between 1970 and 2005 and ten singles released from 1969 onward. The 1971 single Black and Blue being the only top ten charting single, reaching number 12 nationally.
This album I am retro-reviewing, was the group’s fourth album and it is a “gatefold” production.
Chain’s band manager, Michael Gudinski had signed the band to his newly formed label, Mushroom Records which resulted in the release of two non-charting singles and then an album, Two of a Kind in December 1973.
However, during May of that year, Chain toured the country as support to the Muddy Waters Band and soon after teamed with that band’s James “Peewee” Madison (guitar, vocals) and George”Mojo” Beauford (vocals, harmonica) to record the album under review – Two Of A Kind.
1. Two Of A Kind
2. Reconsider Baby
3. Everybody Has To Lose Sometime
4. Blues With A Feeling
1. How To Set Fire To An Elephant
Track 1 kicks off with a track that carries the same title as the album, or is it vice-versa?
Two Of A Kind was written by James “PeeWee” Madison. Madison plays guitar and provides the vocals with Phil Manning also on guitar, “Little Goose” on bass, “Big Goose” on drums, Mal Capewell on flute and sax and, Ian Clyne on piano.
An original composition that fairly rocks along with some great playing by all involved, with the flute Playing of Capewell almost duelling with Madison’s guitar playing at times.
I find Madison’s voice to be good, but lacking the power of some of the other vocalists Chain featured, particularly Matt Taylor who was the outstanding Chain vocalist.
Yet the piece as uptempo blues, is quite a delight with Madison playing some very tasteful guitar licks.
Two Of A Kind
Track 2 is a rework of Lowell Fulsom’s composition – Reconsider Baby.
On this track Madison is joined by George “Mojo” Beaufort on harp and vocals. Phil Manning is once again on guitar along with Sullivan, Harvey and Clyne.
This version features both the harp and guitar whereas the Fulson original was definitely guitar based, and despite the great playing by Chain, I have to say the Fulson version is superior.
However, the “guys” do fall into a nice groove and they are really tight in all aspects. The addition of the piano and the harmonica do set up a really nice piece of blues. I do sometimes forget how good Clyne was on piano – and listening to his playing on this track brings back many fond memories of him playing live with the Loved Ones.
I also believe that Beaufort has a better “blues voice” than Madison and I like his work.
Chain with Reconsider Baby is a really, really nice piece of playing and at times the guitar playing of Phil Manning breaks through showing skill and eminent taste.
Side 2 only contains one track – an Ian Clyne original it has the unlikely title of How To Set Fire To An Elephant.
It runs for 18:32.
This time we are regaled by just Chain, that is to say no US imports just Phil Manning on guitar, Greg “Sleepy” Lawrie on guitar, Barry Sullivan on bass, Greg Harvey on percussion, Mal Capewell on sax and flute and Ian Clyne on electric keyboards.
It wouldn’t be unfair to describe the track as being a fusion of blues and a more experimental electro form.
It is the kind of track that would have gone down brilliantly in venues such as the T.F. Much Ballroom and Garrison – in fact it was recorded live at the then Garrison disco in the Melbourne suburb of Prahran/Windsor.
Upon its release many called it “self-indulgent” and in some ways it did represent the trend in that period of the 70’s toward what some called endless guitar “noodling”.
However, others saw it as breaking out of the 3 – 4 minute “pop” format a-la Frank Zappa, Captain Beefheart and the like.
This allowed each musician to have a moment (or moments) where they could demonstrate their abilities. Generally there was a loose overall structure but within it there was endless freedom to ad-lib and to develop a “groove.
The muso’s follow the ‘theme”, then allow it to be picked up by one or more of their fellow and members and mutate into another form and, so it constantly redevelops.
In many ways, this is music ant its finest with a loose framework but the structure ever evolving with each musician having one or more “moments” where they can shine.
I won’t upload and play the whole 18+ minutes, but here some edited highlights.
Incidentally, there was a track called Elephants that was on the other side of the single I thought You Weren’t My Friend – and this track is the full extended version of that single.
How To Set Fire To An Elephant [edited]
In many ways the album could be considered as “low key” compared to the other Chain albums, but at the end of the day all the music of this amazing group needs to be revered as part of a brilliant and rich Australian blues history.
While it is fair to say, many of the recordings left to us by Chain are memorable and at times outstanding, at the end of the day they were at their best when they were heard live.
They were in fact, a premier live entertainment experience.
All lineups of Chain are still, today, continued to be spoken of both reverently and with passion by Australian blues fans.
This album may not go down as the best Chain album, in fact it might be seen as simply making use of the tracks the group recorded with those members of Muddy’s band, plus an extended live recorded track of Chain.
However, now some forty five plus years have gone by we can be thankful it was produced as it represents part of a great legacy by this band.
It does have some great tracks and it has the extra “bonus” of having two members of Muddy Waters touring band playing on it.
What it is, is rare – a hard to find album, but then again that is the story of ALL Chain albums.
Find a copy of any Chain album, anywhere, and you should buy it immediately.
Incidentally, if you look back at the rear cover of this album you will see that the playing card picture has deliberately been position upside down. This is what it looks like with the album turned upside down.
Last time I looked there were three vinyl copies on Discogs for around $85Au upward with no vinyl copies on Ebay from Australia and one copy from Germany for around $175Au inc postage.
There are no live performances of tracks on this album, and in fact far too few videos of Chain live – here is what I could find, supplemented by a Phil Manning video.
Chain: Black & Blue – 1971 (With what I consider is the best Chain line-up)
Chain: Judgement (1971)
I Remember When I was Young – 1981
Phil Manning: Terraplane Blues – 2011
Previous Cream of The Crate Albums:
To view/listen the first 50 vinyl album reviews just click the image below –
To view/listen the first 50 Cd album reviews just click the image below –
To view/listen album reviews 101 – 150 just click the image below –
Click to open the following reviews covering #’s 151 onward.
#155. Billy Thorpe – Tangier
#159. The Band – Stage Fright
#162. Jimi Hendrix – Radio One