These reviews are provided to help maintain a connection with various genres of popular music extending from the 1940’s through to present time.
This is album review number 209 in the series of retro-reviews of both vinyl LP’s and Cd’s, in my collection.
The series is called “Cream of The Crate” and each review represents an album from my collection 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 200+ reviews can be found at the bottom of this review.
Time for another Australian group …. OK, they weren’t actually Australian it was just that every great band that came across the ditch to Australia, immediately became “ours”.
The group is the La De Da’s and this is a re-release of their first album, the self-tiled – La De Das. originally released on vinyl in 1966 this re-release is on CD, on the NosmoKe label – NSD0011 and released in 2011.
This CD has 16 tracks. It appears as though the original vinyl release had 14 tracks, and the Cd version has two bonus tracks (tracks 15 & 16).
However, there has been a stuff up on the listing on the CD Cover and CD and the order on the CD.
Here is the track list as on the rear of the cover.
Here is the listing as printed on the CD
Here is the order of the tracks as burnt onto the CD
- On Top Of The World
- How Is The Air Up There
- Little Red Book
- Jump Back
- Bright Lights Big City
- I Put A Spell On You
- What Ya Gonna Do About It
- Hey Girl [Bonus]
- Ride Your Pony
- Land Of 1000 Dances
- I Take What I Want
- Parchaman Farm
- The Pied Piper
- I Got My Mojo Working
- Don’t Cha Stand In My Way [Bonus]
Confused? You damn well should be. Seriously, its the role of a reviewer to discuss the group and its music, not to have to try and work out what track is in what order.
If that’s not bad enough, there are even spelling errors and mis prints in the track listing on the CD. The Track “Jump back” is listed as “Jump Jack“, and “The Pied Piper” is listed as the “Pied Pipper“.
It’s a right royal mess!
When it comes to accurate info on the group I am in debt to the New Zealand music site – audioculture, for providing much of the background to this band.
The new wave of R&B was already breaking big in charts across the world when four of its best practitioners – The Kinks, Manfred Mann, The Rolling Stones and The Pretty Things – rolled through New Zealand in 1965 for a series of concerts still vividly recalled decades later.
The raw pull of the sound and the style and ethos of the players galvanised local teenagers, throwing up a large and responsive audience to be serviced by the likes of The Unknown Blues in Invercargill, The Third Chapter in Dunedin, Peter Nelson and The Castaways and Chants R&B in Christchurch, Bari and The Breakaways and Tom Thumb in Wellington, The Mods and The Trends in Hamilton, and The Dark Ages and The La De Da’s in Auckland, along with dozens of lesser lights.
While beat music provided a new soundtrack to teenage lives, the group aesthetic and anti-social veneer of R&B offered up an alternative lifestyle to teenage fans – and a good living, local fame and the distant lurking prospect of a hit for groups – by pushing a covert message that being uncompromising not only paid, it gave you the freedom to behave in the way you wanted.
In West Auckland at Te Atatu’s newly opened Rutherford High School, were the mod-ish Mergers with Kevin Borich (lead guitar/vocals), Trevor Wilson (bass), Brett Neilsen (drums) and Phil Key (rhythm guitar/vocals) who attended Mount Albert Grammar. They had heard the word and flirted with an anti-social name, The Criminals, before settling on the provocative ambiguity of The La De Da’s.
Establishing an immediate following through hall and club dates, they stepped into a residency at inner city teen club – The Platterack in April 1965.
That’s where NZBC producer Robert Handlin found them and soon became their manager, releasing Kevin Borich’s folkie ballad ‘Ever Since That Night’ backed with the Borich/Wilson penned R&B of ‘Hey Little Girl’ on his Talent City label in June.
The emerging group soon found space in their ranks for classically trained organist Bruce Howard, who swelled their sound and added another vocalist.
With guitar whiz Kevin Borich picking out the leads, they had a strong rhythm section in Wilson and Neilsen with Phil Key on rhythm guitar. And when Samoan New Zealander Key came out of his shell, he revealed one of New Zealand’s finest R&B and soul voices.
With four hit singles, two classy albums and a national following behind them, The La De Da’s set out for Sydney, Australia.
The independent quintet struggled, finding their R&B and soul based set outdated. They also bristled at micro-management and unsuccessful recording attempts, despite gaining fans at Ivan Dayman’s Op Pop disco.
They flopped even worse on the strong Melbourne club circuit before heading home in September 1967.
In January 1968, Brett Neilsen left the group, replaced by The Action’s Bryan Harris, who gave way on the group’s return to Sydney in June to Australian drummer Keith Barber (The Wild Cherries).
Wielding a wide and eclectic array of instruments and introducing Sydneysiders to The Doors, Vanilla Fudge, Traffic and The Band, this was the psychedelic La De Da’s, and their heady themed sets immediately caught on.
Back on the front foot, they returned to Melbourne in August 1968 with the show they had wowed Sydney with. This time the city fell for their charms, sparking a long and close relationship with the Victorian capital’s music scene. At year’s end they were voted Australia’s Best Disco Group in popular music magazine Go Set.
Better was to come in 1969. ‘Come and Fly With Me’, their first single since mid-1967, was an upbeat burst of good feeling and the standout track on The Happy Prince, the rock opera on based on Oscar Wilde’s short story, which Trevor Wilson and Bruce Howard had long been working on.
With hits and misses and an ever changing fan base, They finally called it a day in May, 1975.
Phil Key (guitar, vocals) 1964 – 1972
Trevor Wilson (bass) 1964 – 1970
Kevin Borich (guitar, vocals) 1964 – 1975
Brett Neilsen (drums, vocals) 1964 – 1968
Bruce Howard (keyboards) 1965 – 1972
Bryan Harris (drums) 1968
Keith Barber (drums) 1968 – 1975
Reno Tehei (bass) 1970
Peter Roberts (bass) 1971 – 1973
Ronnie Peel (bass, vocals) 1973 – 1975
There is a lot of excellent music that came out of the La De Das, and this album takes us back to almost, the very beginning.
I am using the track layout as burnt onto the CD.
Instead of starting with t, which is my usual format, I am moving straight to track 2 [ On the CD] – How is The Air Up There.
This was The La De Das’ second single, although their first, Ever Since That Night/Little Girl on Talent City, had limited distribution. This track reached #4 in NZ but had no airplay to my knowledge in Australia.
Even so, a #4 hit in NZ in 1966 was a great achievement and encouraged the band, its management and their fans. The track certainly is a rocker… although given the period of 1966, a “Mod” track is more appropriate. Even this early in their career the guitar work of Kevin Borich stands out.
How is The Air Up There
Now I move back to track 1 – On Top Of The World. A John Mayal cover it actually rocketed to #2 in NZ and that was enough for them to be cemented into the Mod world of music.
Singer Phil Key is quoted as saying – “The hits just inspired confidence in us. We became totally involved in getting dressed up and going out to gigs, the gigs and rehearsals were everything.
Nothing worried us, we were so busy consuming what was happening around us. We were super aware, on top of every trend in music and clothes and language. We tried to be honest and sincere with our music, only playing and recording what we liked.”
On Top Of The World
Like all bands of the period, whether in NZ or Australia, carefully selecting “hits” from overseas and covering them was a sure way to entertain the audiences as well as develop a good repertoire.
A decent example of this is track 5 [On the CD] – Bright Lights Big City. This is a Jimmy Reed track and was a collaboration between reed and his wife. Reed provided the first, and the best rendition in a recording.
Chances are the La De Das would have heard either Them or the Animals versions initially – as both these UK groups recorded the track, with the Animals in particular producing a wonderful rendition.
The La De Das version lacks a little in feeling and Key’s voice wasn’t quite up to it – but, they did put their own stamp on the track
Bright lights big city, gone to my baby’s head
I’d tried to tell the woman, but she don’t believe a word I said …
It’s all right pretty baby, gonna need my help some day
You’re gonna wish you had a listen, to some of those things I said
Bright Lights Big City
Next is What You Gonna Do About It. This is track 7 on the Cover and the CD.It’s a cover of one of the groups then favourite bands – The Small Faces. I have to say, I prefer the Faces version.
However, this is a great track
But it’s full of energy, again the guitar playing is excellent and I can imagine live on the clubs and venues where it was played, it was crowd favourite.
What You Gonna Do About It
Before I get totally confused as to which track i am actually playing I am going to just play one more.
It IS the last track pressed on the CD.
It is one of the bonus tracks on the CD – Don’t Stand On My Way. Now fuzz guitar has featured heavily through many of the tracks on the album, but with this track its like a scythe cutting a path through the sound.
There is a strong element of “sneer” in the vocals, so much so this track, in fact this rendition, would have stood tall during the Punk era of the 70’s.
It was a Howard-Wilson original and was it a track ahead of its time?
Don’t Stand On My Way
There is no doubt that the La De Das added considerably to the Australian and NZ music scenes, both in their great live performances and in their recordings.
This album is a precursor to far better music to come, but, it is an important part of the musical history that we should both revere and protect.
As far as this particular CD is concerned – the album “The La De Das” is one to have in your collection.
This “pressing” on the Nosmoke label should be avoided if possible. Having said that, finding this particular album on CD as another pressing eluded me.
An original Vinyl copy will cost you between $200 and $700 if you can find them – Discogs had three copies.
There appears to be no know clips of the band from the time this album was made.
I have found two early 70’s clips of the band doing later recorded material.
All Along The Watchtower
I’m Gonna See My Baby Tonight
Previous Cream of The Crate Albums:
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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 –
To view/listen album reviews 151 – 200 just click the image below –
Click to open the following reviews covering #’s 201 onward.