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Monday, July 1, 2013

Buffalo - Only Want You For Your Body (1974 aussie, pure energy tough 'n' roll, Aztec digi pack remaster edition)

Aztec Music once again have done a brilliant job with great remastering, a massive booklet with liner notes, band interviews and tons of photos. Plus 2 rare bonus tracks (a 7” edit/mix of "What’s Going On" and a live GTK recording of "United Nations"). Aztec have done such a good job that the bootleggers have actually had the nerve and audacity to cry unfair...Ha! Maybe the bootleggers should pay the band some royalties first, before complaining too much.

This the band's third album and is a big leap forward in terms of songwriting and production. Where, on Buffalo's previous albums, the vibe on songwriting seemed to be "smoke a bunch of pot, turn the amps up full blast and see what happens", there's a different approach on "Only Want You for Your Body". The tunes are still riff-heavy, loud and dynamic, but the song arrangements are more traditional i.e. they actually have verses and choruses (shock!) Production-wise, it’s also a progression with double tracked guitars and vocals, backing vocals (more shock horror!), percussive and sound effects, which add up to make this probabl0y Buffalo's best album.

The band's endless touring prior to this albums recording sessions had tightened the musicianship considerably.Pete Wells (who sadly passed away on 27 March 2006, was slide guitarist with Rose Tattoo, Lucy De Soto + the Handsome Devils and The Pete Wells Band) can take a bow: His bass playing was incredible! All budding bassists should check out his playing on this album. Guitarist John Baxter proves to be the heaviest and wildest guitarist in the country at the time, drummer Jimmy Economou is aggressive and hard-hitting but never self-indulgent. Frontman Dave Tice‘s vocals alone are more powerful then most bands at the time.

Ok, you ask: Why wasn’t this album a multi-million selling album it deserved to be? Well, at the time Australian radio was extremely conservativeand it was almost impossible to sell a lot of records without airplay. Buffalo probably weren’t doing themselves any favours by having a front cover featuring a semi-naked young girl tied up on a torture rack. Songs like "I'm a Skirt Lifter, Not a Shirt Raiser" and "Kings Cross Ladies" were unlikely to be played on Catholic church-owned radio station 2SM. However, the band probably took a perverse delight in all this.So folks - have a listen to this and see what all of the fuss is about.

It should be noted that since the band split back in the mid '70s, Buffalo have picked up a fairly impressive world wide following. Members of Soundgarden were fans , a European stoner rock band Colour Scheme covered a Buffalo song on one of their albums and the Hoodoo Gurus use to play Buffalo over the P.A before going on stage. Sheek The Shayk (ED: Who?) paid tribute to the band on their debut CD. Murray Shepherd (Monarchs , Ride Ons , Funthings etc) is a huge fan, and Cosmic Psychos released a version of "Sunrise". Hey...maybe we should petition the Homebake organisers and try and get a reunion show happening (although realistically this is unlikely to happen).
by Steve Danno-Lorkin

1. I'm A Skirt Lifter, Not A Shirt Raiser - 4:53
2. I'm Coming On (Alvin Lee) - 3:39
3. Dune Messiah - 4:32
4. Stay With Me - 3:37
5. What's Going On - 3:58
6. Kings Cross Ladies - 7:27
7. United Nations - 6:18
8. What's Going On (Single Version) - 3:25
9. United Nations (Live At Hordern Pavilion, Sydney, April 1974) - 7:51
All tracks written by Dave Tice and John Baxter except track #2
Bonus tracks 8-9

*Dave Tice - Lead Vocals
*Peter Wells - Bass
*John Baxter - Guitar
*Jimmy Economou - Drums

1972  Dead Forever
1973  Volcanic Rock

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Steppenwolf - Monster (1969 us, great classic protest rock, 2013 japan SHM issue)

Steppenwolf may be best remembered for its pair of ubiquitous hits, but the band had far more to say than that. John Kay and his bandmates too often gave in to their polemics, trapping some of their lyrics in the late '60s and early '70s; while nuance was never their strong point, they still knew how to make an artful point. On 1970's Monster, an overlooked masterpiece, they managed to create a thematically cohesive album that managed to remain concise even while containing the group's most epic moment.

That epic piece, "Monster/Suicide/America" opens the album with a nine-minute history of the American debacle. Steppenwolf eviscerates the US, criticizing easy targets like slavery, invasive policing, and unjust war, but the group complicates the matter. Kay reifies America and the ideals of the country, establishing her (yes, it's a "she") as an entity pre-existing and continuing outside of the thoughts and actions of the populous, capable of rescuing her "sons and daughters." At the same time, they create a monster that's risen up from the actions of the citizenry, but not only from government atrocities, but also from ordinary people who "got fat and grew lazy." Alternating between second and third person point-of-view, Kay targets everyone, in the process discovering that between the evils of the monster and the good of the mythic America lies the suicide—the very drive for freedom is a death drive based on narcissism and corruption.

The real genius of the song lies in its musical structure. Steppenwolf slowly develops increasing tension through tempo changes and heavy riffs that periodically gives way to false releases. After more than five minutes, the song finally breaks into what could have been a serviceable chorus. The music lightens and a set of backing vocals come in to suggest hope and openness, but the lyrics are unrelenting and the music's pulled between darkness and light (a second attempt at the apostrophe to America) before dying out. The performance needs a magnificent sense of pacing, atmosphere, and restraint, and Steppenwolf delivers (the edited versions that show up, as on Move Over are more digestible but wreck the structure).

Of course, we don't come to Steppenwolf for artistic masterpieces, and they wisely follow "Monster" with "Draft Resister," a murky groove driven by a double hit on the tom. The lyrics are straightforward, but they're useful in making explicit the themes of the album: the inherent failure of hierarchy to maintain reliable leaders. Anyone who attains a seat of power (or finds himself in it) can't behave. In this track, the target's obvious, as we're asked to "heed the threat and awesome power of the mighty Pentagon," but as the album develops, the targets become blurrier, and it's hard not to feel implicated.

"Power Play" has one of rock's greatest forgotten openings, as one simple guitar part grows into three, each toying with the hook preceding it until the band establishes a fantastic groove. Ostensibly, Kay snipes at vague Authority, but in doing so he reveals humanity's tendency to forego patience in favor of opportunism. Starting with the "hey, you!" at the end of the first line, Kay turns his questioning into a threat, once opening enough to say we "just might all gang up on you." Even so, he can't resist the optimism in democracy; the power play here is dependent upon the people—the masses—actually holding the power, to be able to find their leaders "obsolete" and get rid of them. It's the same hope that barely survives "Monster," but here it's close to turning into bitter revenge; Kay acknowledges not a class or political struggle, but a "never ending power play / 'Tween jealous greed and vicious hate."

After "Fag," an instrumental more combative in name than in performance, and the direct questioning of "What Would You Do (If I Did That to You)," we get one of the band's finest recorded moments. On a big bass drum, "From Here to There Eventually" savages institutionalized Christianity (echoing "Monster"'s "Like good Christians some would burn the witches") from the perspective of a flinching apostate. Nearly every line—or at least slant-rhymed AAAB stanza—makes for an epigram, yet Kay still manages to convey the hurt that narrator feels at his religious betrayal. For all the anger of opening lines "You filled this house with things of gold / While handing crumbs to the old and poor," the singer needs help in saving the world ("Don't ya know we need somebody to / Do some work down in the street").

When authority—in this case the clergy—fails and the followers recognize the perils of leadership, a void opens. Kay's objective in the song is as much to resolve this dilemma as it is to excoriate Christianity. He knows "we got to go from here to there eventually," but he can pin down where either of those points are. Those in power have faltered in such a way that reconciliation feels impossible. The final verse deals with religion's invasion of privacy: "It's got nothing to do with heaven or hell / What I do in bed, I'm not gonna tell." By this point open conversation is impossible and Kay can only snidely suggest, "You really ought to try it."

After the breaches over treatment of the poor and sexual proclivities become too great, the backup singers (returning from "Monster") turn into virtual gospel choir. It's impossible to know how satirically to take this coda. The lyrical content suggests the lines can only be parody. How else could we see a rejection of the church lead into "Hallelujah! Jesus will save you ... He's coming back, and you better believe it"? But the pain and empathy in the song (along with a zealot's lead guitar plea) point to a real need for healing. In the near chaos of imitation gospel, there's the light of a real spiritual yearning, but the power figures and followers of "Monster/Suicide/America" have revealed the impossibility of effective authority, and there's no way out. As the singers wail about salvation and a whip cracks on moaning bodies, looking upwards becomes both necessary and futile, and we have no idea what to believe. 

1. Monster (Kay, Edmonton)
....Suicide (Kay, St. Nicholas, Byrom, Edmonton)
....America (Kay, Edmonton) - 9:15
2. Draft Resister (Kay, Mcjohn, Byrom) - 3:22
3. Power Play (Kay) - 5:27
4. Move Over (Kay, Mekler) - 2:53
5. Fag (Byrom, Edmonton, St. Nicholas) - 3:13
6. What Would You Do (If I Did That To You) (Francen, Porter) - 3:23
7. From Here To There Eventually (Kay, McJohn, Edmonton) - 5:34
8. Move Over (Kay, Mekler) - 2:59
9. Power Play (Kay) - 4:50
10. America (Kay, Edmonton) - 3:55

*John Kay – Lead Vocals, Rhythm Guitar, Harmonica
*Larry Byrom – Lead Guitar, Backing Vocals
*Nick St. Nicholas – Bass, Backing Vocals
*Goldy McJohn – Keyboards, Backing Vocals
*Jerry Edmonton – Drums, Backing Vocals

1968  Steppenwolf (2013 japan SHM bonus tracks and 2014 SACD)
1969  Early Steppenwolf (1967 Live, Japan SHM mini lp)
1969  At Your Birthday Party (Japan SHM 2013 remaster)
Related Act
1968  John Kay and the Sparrow
1972  John Kay – Forgotten Songs and Unsung Heroes

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