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.
Cream Of The Crate Reviews 1 to 50 were vinyl album reviews. The following fifty reviews (51 - 100) were originally marked as CD Reviews 1 - 50 and this numbering has been kept to keep consistency with the published CD reviews.
This is number twenty in the series of albums I’m featuring as part of an on-going retrospective of CD’s in my personal collection.
The series is called, “Cream of The Crate (CD’s)”, and they represent CD albums that I believe are of significant musical value, either because of their rarity, because they represent the best of a style or styles of music or because their is something unique about the group or the music.
In this retro-review I examine the fourth CD is the set of four CD’s titled Sixties Down Under. If you have been following my reviews you would know that I have waxed pretty lyrically of Volumes 1 -3, well Volume 4 is no different.
It was released by Raven Records (RVCD-82) in 2000.
This 4-CD set compliments a number of retro-compilations Raven have produced, and in doing so have provided us with a set of music which is pretty damn impressive and over the four CD’s.
The set in fact provides us with many memorable, some utterly fantastic, tracks of Australian and New Zealand music from throughout this period.
Unlike the previous three CD’s, each having a theme, CD #4 in some ways summarises CD’s 1 – 3, in as much as there are tracks covering music recorded from 1964 to 1969, the period the first three CD’s represented.
It focuses on the beat and pop ends of the musical spectrum.
It has choice cuts ranging from Johnny Young and Kompany’s ‘Step Back’, Billy Thorpe and the Aztecs’ ‘Over The Rainbow’ and The Cherokees’ ‘Minnie The Moocher’ to The Iguana’s ‘California, My Way’, Pastoral Symphony’s ‘Love Machine’ and The Flying Circus’ ‘Hayride’.
Once again, this fine collection ends with several of the finest pop productions of the era in The Easybeats’ ‘St Louis’, Axiom’s ‘Arkansas Grass’ and King Fox’s ethereal ‘Unforgotten Dreams’.
There are 28 tracks, and while there are a couple of tracks by Australian female singers, there is only one track representing the (under recognised) contribution by New Zealand artists.
So with twenty eight tracks what I will try and do, is look at and discuss one track on CD #4 from each year.
1. DINAH LEE – Don’t you know Yokomo : 1964
2. MERV BENTON & THE TAMLAS – Yield not to temptation: 1965
3. M.P.D. LIMITED – Lonely boy: 1965
4. GRANTLEY DEE – Let the little girl dance: 1966
5. BILLY THORPE & THE AZTECS – Over the rainbow: 1964
6. BEV HARRELL – What am I doing here with you?: 1967
7. JOHNNY YOUNG & KOMPANY – Step back: 1966
8. THE EASYBEATS – Come & see her: 1966
9. BOBBY & LAURIE – Hitchhiker: 1966
10. NORMIE ROWE – Ooh la la: 1966
11. THE EXECUTIVES – My aim is to please you: 1967
12. THE CHEROKEES – Minnie the moocher: 1967
13. LOVED ONES – Sad dark eyes: 1966
14. The TWILIGHTS – Young Girl: 1967
15. THE GROOVE – Simon says: 1967
16. THE IGUANA – California, my way: 1968
17. THE VIRGIL BROTHERS – Temptation’s ‘bout to get me: 1968
18. PASTORAL SYMPHONY – Love machine: 1968
19. THE STRANGERS – Happy without you: 1968
20. RONNIE BURNS – Age of consent: 1968
21. ZOOT – 1x2x3x4: 1969
22. NEW DREAM – Groupie: 1969
23. THE FLYING CIRCUS – Hayride: 1969
24. RUSSELL MORRIS – The girl that I love: 1969
25. RONNIE CHARLES – Katy Jane: 1969
26. THE EASYBEATS – St. Louis: 1969
27. AXIOM – Arkansas Grass: 1969
28. KING FOX – Unforgotten dreams: 1969
The first track – from 1964, self selects.
Although there is a great track from Billy Thorpe from 1964, the other track from that year is in fact track #1 – Don’t You Know Yokomo by Dinah Lee.
Dinah is only one of two female artists on the CD, and one of very few New Zealand artists.
Born in 1943 her birth name was Diane Marie Jacobs. Not only was this track a #1 hit in Australia and New Zealand, her followup track, Reet Petite (A Jackie Wilson classic) was also a #1.
She was dynamic and her voice and presence on stage made her an instant favourite with the crowds.
It has to be said that in the main, female artists in Australia around this period were, what could best be described as, demure!
Dressed in her white boots, her op-art clothes and her page boy haircut – she cut a fine figure on stage and was in many ways she epitomised the image of the female mod, she was a complete package.
Mind you, as time went by her image changed and she took on a more ‘sultry’ look, and continued recording through into the latest decade and in fact, had a new release come out in 2014.
Dinah Lee – Don’t You Know Yokomo
There are only two tracks from 1965 on this CD. The first is by M.P.D Limited and the other by Merv Benton.
I have chosen Merv Benton and the track Yield Not To Temptation. Born and bought up in Melbourne, it is wrong to think of Merv as a ‘hang over’ from the early (and short) Australian R&R period.
This is wrong! Merv in fact signed his first contract with W&G, in 1964 and while his influences came from the likes of Little Richard, Chuck Berry, Elvis and Gene Vincent – the fact is that Merv decided to become a singer when he attended the 1957 Lee Gordon “Big Show”.
That show featured Bill Haley & The Comets, The Platters and Freddie Bell.
Despite this he entered the music scene in the beginnings of the ‘Mod period’ with his first recording made in 1964.
That track, “Baby Let’s Play House“, was most certainly a R&R track and Merv was indeed caught up in the period of change.
He worked hard to adapt to that change and was partially successful, although as the years went on he continued to flirt with R&R compositions.
Merv was blessed with both a good voice and good looks and was a favourite with the crowds, although as the 1960’s progressed audiences did go searching for the artists whose images, if not music, better reflected the times.
Yet Merv was prolific with his releases, with 17 singles between 1964 and 1967, 5 EP’s released between 1964 and 1966 (Merv did release an EP in 1986) and, 5 LP’s between 1964 and 1984 – of which two were “best of” albums.
I really like this track!
It is full of energy and has some very highly regarded musicians supporting him including Les Stacpool on guitar, Dennis Tucker on bass and backing vocals by Pat Carroll, Anne Hawker, Julie McKenna.
The release went to #6 in Melbourne, and why not, this was where those with real music taste resided in those days.
Merv Benton – Yield Not To Temptation
1966 proved a tad difficult for me when it came to choosing a track. It was a fantastic year and this CD celebrates it with tracks by the Easybeats, Bobby & Laurie, The Loved One’s, Johnny Young, Grantley Dee and Normie Rowe.
I came within a whisker if choosing Grantley Dee, who was a blind DJ (with 3AW), and although his stage music career only over a 2 year period, his contribution is recognised.
However I could not finish this review without acknowledging the magnificent career of Normie Rowe.
Backed by the Playboys, who at various stages consisted of Bill Billings (lead guitar), John Cartwright (rhythm guitar), Phil Blackmore (organ, piano, guitar), Neil McArthur (bass), Graham Trottman (drums), Rod Stone (guitar, vocals), Brian Peacock (bass, vocals), Mick Rogers (guitar, vocals) & Trevor Griffin (organ, vocals), as members.
Normie had a remarkable 17 singles releases between 1965 and 1969, and a further 11 singles between 1970 and 1984.
Add his 4 EP’s and 5 ‘non-best of’ albums in the 1960’s and we have someone who was prolific in his releases. This side of his career was easily matched by his live performances, where he often caused chaos due to the reaction of the young females in the audience.
If we draw to close the curtains of “fan reactions’ and leave ourselves with his music, we can still stand or sit gob-smacked!
Normie had that certain ‘thing’, his voice was seriously good, and his stage presence was equal to it. Track #10, Ooh La La was in fact his first #1 hit and in fact was a double A-side, with the reverse track “Shaking All Over” being as popular as Ooh La La.
Normie Rowe – Ooh La la
Track #11 – My Aim Is to Please You was a track by The Executives (1967).
It was chosen by me for a few reasons – one is to be able to apologise for the things I said about the Executives as a young man in 1967.
Firstly the Executives probably would not be mentioned if you asked most people to name 10 groups that influenced Australian music in the 1960’s. Indeed it is entirely possible that if I asked most people to nominate 10 Australian groups who recorded in 1967, they would fail to mention the Executives.
In fact the group was very polished, very professional and had a number of top 10 hits.
1967 and musical changes were happening and happening in some radical ways, with the Beatles, Hendrix and the like leading the way. For many of us who were bought up on a diet of R&R and Blues, and who were embracing the changes around us, groups such as the Executives seemed to be remote from where we were, in some ways far too polished.
Now I can look back and appreciate not only the class of their music, but the musicianship. Often time provides the necessary road for us to look back along.
There were two distinct periods for the group, those being 1966-69 and 1974-78.
We are focusing on the former of course given we are examining the 60’s. Even within that three year period this sextet from Sydney had a total of 10 musicians in it, with husband & wife team, Carole & Gary King, being along with Gino Cunnico, key members.
Dennis Allgood (bass, vocals)
Ray Burton (guitar, vocals) 1967-69
Rhys Clark (drums)
Gino Cunnico (vocals) 1967-69
Dudley Hood (guitar) 1966-67
Brian King (keyboards)
Carole King (vocals)
Gary King (bass)
Keith Leslie (sax, vocals) 1966-67
Brian Patterson (guitar) 1967-69
This track, My Aim Is To Please You, was one of 8 tracks released by the group in the 1960’s.
The track really is a class piece of arranging and is a great demonstration of harmonic layering of the voices of Carole King and Gino Cunnico and Carole’s hubby Brian, demonstrates his excellent piano playing style.
The Executives – My Aim Is To Please You
Reproduction of the “Great happening” Poster – in the CD Booklet – [CLICK to enlarge]
1968 saw the release of a track by the best group that never existed!
Track #18 is Love Machine by Pastoral Symphony.
Now let me do things in reverse and say, this is actually a brilliantly produced piece of music, and not withstanding the brilliance of the musicians, it’s the work of the producer, Jimmy Stewart, that really adds ‘psychedelic novelty’ into a great track.
The muso’s on the single were known as Pastoral Symphony but seem to have never identified individually.
I believe in fact one of Australia’s top “groups” consisted of some classy Australian artists. So it seems we had – Peter Brideoak and Terry Britten on guitars, John Bywaters on bass, Laurie Pryor on drums, and Paddy McCartney and Glenn Shorrock on backing vocals; augmenting them were vocalists Terry Walker (The Hi Five, Ray Hoff & The Offbeats) and Ronnie Charles (The Groop), with orchestral backing arranged and performed by The Johnny Hawker Orchestra.
It’s actually quite a nice piece of production and the music can’t be faulted!
Pastoral Symphony – Love machine
At last we come to 1969 and the last track being featured in the review is, King Fox with Unforgotten Dream.
When you realise other possibilities for the 1969 track were Zoot, The New Dream, Flying Circus, Russell Morris, Ronnie Charles, Axiom and the Easybeats, then that’s a pretty damn good lineup of groups/artists.
However I have gone for King Fox because they are so unlike the other groups of the time.
By 1969 almost all the groups and artists across all four CD’s in the set, were certainly well established. Not King Fox.
This group of schoolboys formed in 1969, won a talent contest hosted by Sydney radio station 2UW, which resulted in a recording contract. T
he five ‘boys’ were Paul Radcliffe – guitar, vocals, flute, David King – guitar, vocals, Billy Field – bass, vocals, Peter Muller – organ, vocals, Andy Evans – drums.
The guys went into the competition with entry that was an original song called “Unforgotten Dreams“.
It is an atmospheric psych-pop original written by Radcliffe and King, featuring flute by Radcliffe. It was produced by Martin Erdman and recorded at his studio in just one hour.
So here we have a group of ‘kids’ for all intents and purposes, who had just come together, written a song, won a competition, and, end up with a Top 5 hit in Sydney.
So these guys seem to be on their way up.
However, by 1970, the ‘Dream’ was quickly forgotten when their parents ‘confiscated’ their instruments because of the intrusion by the media into their lives at their (private) school, and comments that mocked their privileged background.
Throw in the fact that their studies were suffering and, it was all over red rover!
King Fox – Unforgotten Dreams
So, time for an overall assessment of this four Volume Set.
There is little doubt, that the halcyon days for Australian & New Zealand Rock & Pop music commenced in the 1960’s. So, this is an essential part of any collection.
I am only aware other set that is as comprehensive as this set by Raven. This set has 122 tracks of fantastic Aussie and Kiwi music between 1964 and 1969.
The tracks are not always the ‘hits’ of the day, in fact there are some ripper ‘misses’ in the collection.
The packaging and accompanying booklet are ‘delightfully’ DIY!
This is such an important set it and it deserved better. I have reviewed a number of sets of music and in terms of packaging, including the production of ‘booklets’, they have all been far superior to this set.
It does deserve better and one of the critical reasons is that there is little doubt that the halcyon days for Australian & New Zealand Rock and Pop music was the 1960’s.
I believe Raven needed to take that extra step in its presentation of this fine collection.
I found one second hand copy on Discogs for the sum of Au$65.00 plus postage.
Ebay had one copy for . . . wait for it . . . Au$200!
Previous Cream of The Crate Albums:
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