max merritt:  i can dream – a review

A review of the Max Merritt posthumous album – i can dream

 

"It is a testament to Max's ability and beautiful voice, and a wonderful effort by all those involved in its production" - [This review]

max merritt: i can dream – a reviewThe story of the Life and Times story of Max Merritt deserves proper attention, especially now that amazing man and performer has taken his final curtain call.

However that is a job for someone else, but here is a synopsis of key details.

Born in Christchurch on 30th April 1941, by his early teenage years he was engrossed in music.

Buying himself an electric guitar, he formed his first group, the Meteors, in 1956. The group was made up of friends Ross Clancy on saxophone, Ian Glass on bass, Peter Patene on piano and Pete Sowden on drums.

In April 1959, Harry M Miller organised a New Zealand tour for Australian rocker Johnny O’Keefe, and added Max Merritt and the Meteors as the support act for the Christchurch concerts. They proved very popular, even upstaging O’Keefe at most of the shows.

In mid 1959 the first of some major line-up changes in the Meteors occurred. Will Schneider and Peter Patene left to try their luck in Auckland. Not long after that Pete Sowden also went, so Max ended up putting a new group together, Ian Glass being the only original member.

By the end of 1962 and with other lineup changes in the Meteors, Max came to the conclusion that if he was to be more successful, he would have to venture further afield.

In December 1964 their Manager, Graham Dent took the group back to Australia. It was a more professional approach this time and Dent organised a month long season at the Rex Hotel. While they were there, they also made their first Australian television appearance on Johnny O’Keefe’s ‘Sing Sing Sing’ series.

In April 1965, the second Meteor’s album was finally released. Called ‘Max Merritt’s Meteors’, it contained a wide range of styles, in keeping with the versatility of the band. From it came the single ‘So Long Babe’/’You’re Treatin’ Me Bad’ which was also released in Australia.

Over the next two years, there were many cabaret appearances and a return tour of NZ and more lineup changes before the lineup, many believe was the best, eventuated.

max merritt: i can dream – a review
Max as many will remember him – [CLICK to enlarge]
Bob Bertles was on saxophone, on bass was John ‘Yuk’ Harrison – who was fresh from Levi Smith’s Clefs and, the final piece of the jigsaw was adding Stewie Speer on drums. Stewie came with an amazing reputation as an apex jazz drummer but with the meteors showed he was much more.

By 1969 they were fully ensconced in Melbourne and the legend that was Max Merritt and the Meteors was forming.

However, times and styles were changing and the band quickly lost their crown as the “best”, but continued playing both in Australia and the UK. By the end of 1976, Max Merritt and the Meteors broke up as a working band.

Merritt relocated to Nashville, Tennessee, in 1977 and signed as a solo artist with Polydor Records.

He toured Australia on a short club circuit in April 2001 along with Doug Parkinson and this marked a resurgence of interest for Merritt, and April and May were spent touring Australia under the banner “The Heart & Soul of Rock & Roll” with Parkinson.

In August and September 2002 they joined the Long Way To The Top concert tour.

In mid-April 2007, Merritt was admitted to a Los Angeles hospital with symptoms of kidney failure.

This really leads us into this album – i can dream.

The CD album is a collection of 10 songs some of which can be traced back to 2002. This is when Max recorded three tracks at Metropolis in Melbourne in that year for what was to be a new album. However, he fell ill and the recordings were discontinued.

max merritt: i can dream – a review
Max with James “Jimbo” Barton – [CLICK to enlarge]
Producer James ‘Jimbo’ Barton worked with Max in the last years of his life on new music between 2014 and 2020.

 

Two songs were recorded at Colin Hay’s California Studio in 2018. Hay in fact co-wrote the track, Sunbury, for this album.

 

Max Merritt died in Los Angeles, California, on 24 September 2020, at age 79, 13-years after being diagnosed with Goodpasture syndrome.

He leaves behind so many memories for his fans and so much music, of which Slipping Away, almost became the thematic song for him.

max merritt: i can dream – a review
Photograph by Bob Gardiner – [CLICK to enlarge]

 

Now let’s have a look at this wonderful posthumous album, that he so wanted to have finished before he died.

i can dream consists of the ten previously mention tracks and has a basic 2 double sided booklet.

I have to say, I think a little more care could have been taken with this booklet the quality of the white on black print is not good. It’s a struggle to read at times simply because the actual print quality is poor.

The booklet consists of a basic bio of Max’s career and then the names of the ten tracks with the musicians that are on them. Like that basic bio, it is so hard to read both because of the print size and the print quality.

This is most disappointing!

However, the quality of the music far exceeds the quality of the booklet!

max merritt: i can dream – a review
CD Cover – [Click to enlarge]
max merritt: i can dream – a review
CD Label – [Click to enlarge]

Track Listing:

  1. I Can Dream Can’t I
  2. Heart have Mercy
  3. Stay With Me *
  4. Medicine Man
  5. Failing Light
  6. The Closer I Get To You *
  7. Sunbury ^
  8. Tempted *
  9. I Don’t Wanna Lose You
  10. Candy Row #

All tracks written by Max Merritt except –

* Co-written with Larry Murray

^ Co-written with Colin Hay

# Co-written with the late Todd Cerney

max merritt: i can dream – a review
CD Rear Cover – [Click to enlarge]

 

Over the many years I have been writing reviews, I have always maintained that Track #1 is very important – it is the “calling-card” of the album. It should be the track that sets the scene for the album.

On I can Dream Can’t I, we are not let down.

It starts with a beautiful guitar piece before that legendary powerful voice of Max just cuts through, and immediately the hairs on the nape of my neck stood up.

We must not underestimate how much precious energy this track, and the rest of the album, must have taken out of his rapidly breaking-down body.

Listening to this track, it really isn’t hard to imagine that this is a piece that reflects himself.

“… telling himself someday                                                                                                       everything gonna be alright…”

This is a magnificent piece of music, and it sets the bar so very high for the rest of the album. At 5:08 it is the longest track on the album.

Check out the video clip at the end of the review.

Track 3 – Stay With Me is a most beautiful ballad.  It has a wonderful string arrangement and the subtle Hammond that breaks through is a brilliant piece of production – but then again so is the whole track.

When Max sings a ballad he sings with all his heart, and that is how he has approached this track.

I have provided a sample of the track, rather than the whole track. I could have just provided a very low quality mp3 – but that would do the music a disservice.

I believe that if you like the music you need to go buy the album and not just download what is provided in this review.

Stay With Me [Sample]

Track 4 – Medicine Man.

What a funky piece of music. It features Rex Goh on lead guitar and a cool piece of synth bass sliding through what is a wonderful wall of music.

When it comes to providing a piece that you want to sing along with and dance to, this track has it all.

Medicine Man [Sample]

Moving onto Track 7 – Sunbury.

This is a song that has Max recalling the legendary Sunbury Festival that was first held on 29 – 31 January 1972, in Sunbury Victoria.

It’s not just a song about Sunbury, but it’s also about social changes that gave rise to Sunbury. He reminds us of the topless women, the great bands that played and while not necessary being specific, he plays some homage to the drugs and alcohol that were consumed to the fantastic music being played.

As Max sings – “…If you remember Sunbury, you weren’t there!”

max merritt: i can dream – a review

Compared to most of the tracks that literally have a cast of thousands plus extras playing, this is really cut back.  Yet, it lacks for nothing.

It really is powerful, emotive and again, featuring that classic powerful gravelly voice of Max.

Sunbury – [Sample]

So to the final track on this album – Candy Row.

This album kicked off with a powerful track. Now Max finishes with an equally powerful track, albeit so different from I can Dream Can’t I.

Sharing the electric guitar work with Max is the brilliant John Dallimore. What a fantastic dance/club track. Punctuating horns, a stunning lead guitar and a rock-solid drums-bass locking the bottom in.

What a track to finish with!

Candy Row – [Sample]

I’ll say it again – despite his failing health Max put every drop of energy he had into this album.

Knowing this would be his last, it is filled with the richness of his soul and everyone who worked in playing and engineering and producing, knew this was it!

There would be no tomorrow, and this album is rich for the love that it is steeped in.

It really is a very, very nice way to have a wonderful, fulfilling and eminent career come to an end. It is a testament to Max’s ability and beautiful voice, and a wonderful effort by all those involved in its production – to support his departure in this way.

This album features Max’s warmth as well as his talent. it is well written and IS skilfully produced.

This album is an absolute must!

Rock In Peace Max – even after you have passed, you have left us with warm hearts and amazed ears.

max merritt: i can dream – a review


VIDEOS:

Check out this powerful rendition of “I Can Dream Can’t I”