“The value of these discs is greatly enhanced by the fact that the acts are in most cases represented by their best work, rather than their biggest hit” [Milesago]
This was number ten in the series of albums I featuring in the Toorak Times as part of an on-going retrospective of CD’s in my personal collection. The series was called,“Cream of The Crate (CD’s)”, and they represented CD albums that I believe were of significant musical value, either because of their rarity, because they represent the best of a style or styles of music or because their wass something unique about the group or the music.
This CD is part of a set of four CD’s put out by the Raven Label consisting of Volumes #1 to #4 and they consist of singles released between 1964 and 1970. The music is by predominantly Australian groups, with New Zealand groups/artists, to a much lesser extent.
I have reviewed CD#1 in this series [click here for CD #1] and now it is time to examine the second CD – Sixties Down Under: Volume 2 consisting of what the cover describes as, “29 Oz Rock Classics“. It is released on the Raven Label (RVCD 07) in 1990. Raven are well known for reviving tracks of Australian groups that long lost if not for their compilations, although seems they also include tracks released on other albums where these are perennial favorites of listeners and collectors alike.
One of the bonuses associated with this series of four CD’s, is that they are annotated by well known and respected “Music Head” and “Rock Guru”, Glenn A Baker. As I wrote in the review of CD#1, the booklet is a bit of a budget job and this is reinforced when it uses exactly the same introduction by Baker as was used in CD#1.
As a way of introducing this amazing period in Australian music history, Baker writes, “No sooner had the Beatles’ jet soared northward from Mascot than a Melbourne Band called the Flies (fronted by vocalist Ronnie Burns) was stomping about stages in chisel toed leather boots sporting authentic mop tops.”
And so the beginning of what was truly a halcyon period for Australian pop music had commenced.
The track selection on the CD is good, as it covers the popular lightweight through to the early mod, the genuinely gifted artists and bands and the enormously successful groups and individual artists. There is even one track from the token Aussie female singer (you can read this with sarcasm if you like).
Here is the track listing as it appears on the rear cover of the CD.
Now I have exactly the same issue choosing what tracks to focus upon as I did when I reviewed the 1st CD in this set, five weeks ago. There is a lot of great material, but unlike the review of CD#1 where I decided to base the choice of groups on various connections I had with them from that period, this time I think I will base the decision upon choosing two Australian “mod” groups, two groups from New Zealand and the lone female singer.
First of all some general observations. The twenty one groups and artists, with the exception of Ray Columbus and the Invadersand Max Merritt, all came from Australia and that is indicative of the strength of Australian music in this period.
This CD is a “whose who” of the best Australian groups, with maybe the Allusions being lucky to have sneaked onto it on the basis of the track The Dancer, which reached #8, and really apart from that track they were most well known as a cover band, albeit a good one.
As Baker wrote in his liner notes when talking about this period, “….it was all a blur. New pop sensations emerged each month.” Then he goes on to list all the groups, most of whom are on this CD.
He is also correct when he says, “Ray Columbus & The Invaders had been first off the mark in 1964, when they stormed to number one with a pounding “She’s A Mod“.
Really it’s not an exaggeration to say they opened up the flood gates to opportunity in Australia for groups from across the pond in NZ, with the likes of Max Merritt, the La De Das, Librettos, Larry’s Rebels, Bill and Boyd, Leo De Castro and Dinah Lee, to name a few, making the trek across.
Not only did we embrace them, most of them we then declared to be Aussie groups!
So where better to start than Ray Columbus and The Invaders and She’s A Mod!
I remember thinking back in 1964, how cool and ‘modish’ he looked. Now when I look back at pictures and in particular video clips, it is obvious that Ray was a rocker who simply combed his hair forward instead of backward, at least until the older cut grew out.
But seriously, the track as simple and basic as it is, captured the imagination of us all. It went ballistic around Australia charting everywhere and ending up #1 in Sydney, #1 in Melbourne, #2 in Brisbane, #2 in Adelaide and #2 in Perth.
I distinctly recall his use of the hands behind his back, bent over and shaking his head as the group sang the refrain. Let’s refresh our memories.
She’s A Mod
It’s probably a good time to look at the track from the one female artist on the Cd and that’s Lynne Randell. Ray Columbuswasn’t, but could have been singing about Lynne as she quickly became known as “Little Miss Mod“.
She was discovered by Carol West, who herself was an enigma at the time being one of the very few, I could say rare, female band managers. With a number of bands under her wing including the then fabulous Spinning Wheels, she was very influential on the scene as it was developing and when Lynne, through a series of lucky conjunctions, met Molly Meldrum and then Stan Rolfe, things really began to happen.
Before she knew it she cut a demo, and then pushed by Stan Rolfe, Lynne’s debut single, a breezy cover of Lulu’s “I’ll Come Running Over” came out in February 1965 and grabbed enough attention to get into the top ten chart in Melbourne and she was well on her way as a pop star.
Lynne’s career was quite mixed and I think I’ll leave an in-depth discussion for when my Cream of The Crate (Vinyl) reviews recommence, and I can look at the album of her music that I have.
In the meantime choosing her first released track for this CD was a good choice. Lulu’s version is very good, and while I don’t think Lynne’s is quite as good, it shows the potential that she was about to realise.
I’ll Come Running Over
Keeping in the ‘Mod” theme I have chosen as the third track to examine, Fool, Fool, Fool by Ray Brown & the Whispers.
The first thing to acknowledge was the two line-ups of this group.
Previous lineup of 1964
- Ray Brown [Vocals]
- Lawrie Barclay [Rhythm guitar]
- Bobbie Richardson [Lead guitar]
- John Manners [Bass]
- Pat Jeffery [Drums]
Classic lineup of 1965-1966
- Ray Brown [Vocals]
- Lawrie Barclay [Rhythm guitar]
- Al Jackson [Lead guitar]
- John Manners [Bass]
- Pat Jeffery [Drums]
During the period 1964 – 1966, Ray Brown & the Whispers were ranked as one of the most popular groups in the country and certainly put out some great tracks including nine singles, eight EP’s and four albums and a compilation album.
For a group that for all intents and purposes only survived as Ray Brown & the Whispers for just under three years, this is a prolific output which accurately reflects the groups popularity and talent.
The track on this CD, Fool, Fool, Fool went to #1 in Sydney and #7 in Melbourne and was their 3rd hit in a row. One of the notable features on Fool Fool Fool is the thumping ostinato bass, which producer Bill Shepherd achieved by having John Manners duplicate the electric bass line on a piano, which was then double-tracked.
There is no doubt about the fact that Ray has an impassioned delivery in this song and along with the high pitched chorus, it all lead to a “hit”.
Yet hit or not, it is an excellent piece of music and very representative of the Australian Mod sound that had developed in this period.
Fool, Fool, Fool
I move onto a group that has more rock historians confused than maybe any other Australian group. It was because they had constant line-up changes. One line-up (with a number of changes) was known in Australia, but then were revived with a different line-up in the UK and, their one really big hit featured a mega-star singer who never actually worked with the band.
The group is Python Lee Jackson, and it was a group that at various stages had some of the best Australian musicians in it.
Python Lee Jackson
The group was formed in December 1965, in Sydney, by two English ex-pats – Mick Liber (who would go on to play with many excellent groups) and Frank Kennington, who was actuallydeported back to the UK early in 1966 just as things were really about to ‘kick-off!
The line-up for the bands two years of existence (nominally January 1966 – January 1968) included:
• Frank Kennington – vocals
• Mick Liber – guitar
• David Montgomery – drums
• Roy James – bass
• Bob Brady – vocals
• Lloyd Hardy aka Lloyd Hudson – bass
• David Bentley – songwriter, keyboards, vocals
• Malcolm McGee – vocals
• Bob Welsh – piano
• Duncan McGuire – bass
• Dave MacTaggart – bass
• Bernie McGann – sax
• Laurie Arthur – guitar
Then Mick Liber wanted to go back to England early 1968, so he revived the name, re-forming Python Lee Jackson with a number of muso’s including Dave Bentleigh, as a way of paying for boat passage. However by the time they arrived and started playing in the UK the line-up changed again.
Then Bentleigh wrote the track In A Broken Dream, but decided he wasn’t the correct singer for it and in an amazing twist of fate, the group hired Rod Stewart to sing it. Stewart, who had already sung lead with the Jeff Beck Group, was yet to taste real success in a group or as a solo artist. He was recruited as a session vocalist for the song as well as a couple of other tracks. For some reason, despite the undisputed quality of In a Broken Dream, it wasn’t immediately released.
Then two years later it became a modest hit (#56) in the USA and was reintroduced into the UK where it reached #3, but by then the horse had bolted for Stewart was now a Superstar!
The group finally dropped its bundle in 1973!
But it is the period in Australia that we turn to for the track Um Um Um Um, a cover of Major Lance’s “Um, Um, Um, Um, Um, Um”
The line up for this track, as far as I can determine was Bentleigh (keyboards), Liber (Guitar) and Montgomery (drums) alongside former Unit 4 +2 bass player Lloyd Hardy and, Mal McGee (ex Wild Cherries) on vocals.
The track was a minor hit, and the group experienced a short but successful career and they collected quite a following at the Melbourne venue, the Catcher!
Um Um Um Um
The final track is by Max Merritt and the Meteors, one of the classiest groups to come out of New Zealand and a group that Australian, and principally Melbourne, folk took as their own.
I have yet to meet anyone who was involved in music either as an artist or as an audient, who did recognise the group and their music as being amongst the very best. They had charisma, especially when Max was supported by the line-up that included Stewie Spears (drums), Bob Birtles (Sax) and Yuk Harrison (Bass).
They had a way of providing brilliant renditions of covers. They made playing music look so easy, yet they were very hard workers and it showed!
There were a total of 36 musicians that played in one of the variations of Max with the Meteors between the period 1956 – 1980. They played in Christchurch, New Zealand from 1956- 1962, Auckland from 1963 – 1964. They arrived in Sydney and were based there from 1965 – 1967 and in Melbourne from 1967 – 1971.
From 1971 – 1976 they were based in England and in 1977 Max made the USA his home, and he lives around LA today, making rare live music performances as he struggles with his health.
I have read of Max being referred to as a ‘venerable’ pioneer of Australian music (not withstanding his New Zealand connection), and venerable is indeed a title that is correctly bestowed.
The track Shake was a track written by the great Sam Cook who had a hit with it. In fact many big artists, such as Otis Redding, have recorded it and made it their own.
Well, if there was one group in Australia who really made Shake theirs, it was Max and the group. It’s hard not to recall hot steamy evenings in the Thumping Tum with Max Merritt & The Meteors absolutely bringing the house down playing this track. And oh god, did the women on the dance floor ‘shake’ their ‘money makers’!
So this is a fantastic track to finish this retro-review down with!
Raven really have made a fantastic effort with this series of CD’s. they have captured the best of our top artists, those who made a mark on this period of music, 1964 – 1969. If you are hardened old music fan who was lucky enough to have participated in this music as it was happening, it’s a great way of reviving those wonderful memories. If you are a person who was born post 1960, then this is an amazing way to experience the brilliant period through the music.
In many ways every group on this CD should have been individually discussed, but that’s not the nature of these retro-reviews, but with unbelievably good groups such as The Easybeats, Masters Apprentices, The Groop, Billy Thorpe and The Aztecs and solo artists such as Normie Rowe on it (and in fact I have included video clips of these artists, below, doing the songs featured on this CD) it really is essential listening.
So, the CD, in fact all the CD’s in this series, will provide you with a broad musical snapshot of the most wonderful musical period in our short music history.
With a tad over 1 hour and 13 minutes of play time there is no doubt that this CD is value for money. It is available from Raven Records for about $25.00, which is actually cheaper than it is on Ebay.
VIDEOS – One of the great thing about the sixties was that TV had established itself sufficiently that many of the groups period were recorded and are now available on Youtube.
Normie Rowe – Shaking All Over
Billy Thorpe and the Aztecs – Sick and Tired
Easybeats – Friday On My Mind
The Masters Apprentices – Elevator Driver
The Groop – Sorry