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Friday, October 28, 2016

Holy Mackerel - Holy Mackerel (1972 uk, spectacular guitar rock with some prog traces, 2015 reissue)

Singer Terry Clarke, guitarist Derek Smallcombe and drummer Roger 'Spodge' Siggery had all played in UK psych legends Jason Crest. Following their collapse in 1969, Clark joined short-lived UK rockers Hunter, whose sole LP was released in America only under the band name Orang Utan, while his former bandmates played with High Broom, best-known for releasing a version of Dancing In The Moonlight on Island in 1970.  Smallcombe then played a stint with progressive rockers Samuel Prody, whose sole LP was released in Germany only, before rejoining Clark and Siggery in 1972 to form the quintet Holy Mackerel, along with new recruits Chris Ware (guitar) and Tony Wood (bass). 

Having relocated from their native Kent to rural Lancashire, they devised a set that drew on progressive, pop and country influences before starting to gig. According to their LP's sleevenotes, they 'took the Northern college circuit by storm, experimenting and refining their music until they were ready for their album'. Having come to the attention of producers Roger Easterby and Des Champ (best-known for making hits with pop artists including Vanity Fare, Deep Feeling, Dr Marigold's Prescription and Chicory Tip), they were signed to CBS and entered the studio. A single coupling Rock-A-Bye and New Black Shoes was issued in late October 1972, preceding the appearance of their self-titled LP in November. 

Unfortunately, as 1973 came around the market for such records was fast shrinking, and it sold poorly despite an enthusiastic endorsement from John Peel ('A group to watch and, of course, a good one to listen to as well') and 45 releases in Germany, Turkey and elsewhere. They appeared on Peel's show in November, performing Waterfall, Spanish Attraction, Oh! and Trie Boy & The Mekon, but it made little difference to their success. They did go on to record a follow-up album, entitled Closer To Heaven, but CBS didn't release it and it languished until finally appearing in 1993. 

Having departed CBS, the band remained with Easterby and Champ for three further singles that appeared on the producers' own Santa Ponsa label (a subsidiary of Pye), but none of those charted, so they finally called it quits in mid-1974.
CD Liner-Notes

1. Going To The Country (Steve Miller, Ben Sidran) - 3:05
2. Virginia Water (Derek Smallcombe) - 3:49
3. Spanish Attraction (Terry Clark) - 7:38
4. Rock-A-Bye (Barry Ian Green, Ron Roker) - 2:36
5. Oh! (Derek Smallcombe) - 5:19
6. Were You At All (Chris Ware) - 2:59
7. New Black Shoes (Terry Clark, Roger "Spodge" Siggery, Chris Ware, Derek Smallcombe, A. Wood) - 3:49
8. The Boy And The Mekon (Terry Clark) - 5:50

The Holy Mackerel
*Terry 'Nobby' Clark - Vocals
*Derek 'Mort' Smallcombe - Lead Guitar, Acoustic Guitar, Harmonica, Vocals
*Chris Ware - Lead Guitar, Acoustic Guitar
*Tony Wood - Bass
*Roger 'Spodge' Siggery - Drums

Related Acts
1965-71  The Herd - The Complete Herd (2005 remaster, digi pack two disc set)  
1967-68  Jason Crest - The Collected Works 
1971  Samuel Prody - Samuel Prody (2011 Edition)  

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Sunday, October 23, 2016

The Pandamonium - The Unreleased Album (1969 uk, outstanding psych folk rock, 2004 release)

Singers/guitarists Martin Curtis and Bob Poton started their professional musical careers in 1963 as members of the beat band The Pandas.  By 1966 they'd expanded their line up to include Kent Mick Glass and drummer Steve Chapman.  They'd also opted for a name change, dropping The Pandas for the hipper Pandamonium.

Produced by Shel Talmy and Hugh Murphy, the collection found the duo supported by members of Fairport Convention/Fotheringay (Jerry Donahue, Gerry Conway and Tim Donaldson) and Heads, Hands and Feet (Albert Lee and Chas Hodges).  Musically the album was quite different from the earlier "Thoughts & Words" release.  Whereas the former sported a distinctive reflective folk feel, material like 'I Know You', the Badfinger-ish 'Sunrise' and 'Sit and Watch the Sunshine' showcased a far more commercial and up-tempo pop feel.  

Showcasing all original material, the pair had a clear knack for crafting the kind of melodies that crawled into your head and wouldn't let go - I dare you to shake 'I Believe In You' out of your memory.  Curiously, as lead singers neither Curtis nor Ponton had great voices, but when they were paired together they somehow managed to turn in some truly stunning harmony work (the country-tinged 'If I Could Be With You').   

Even more interesting were a couple of psych-influenced numbers.  'I Am What I Am' sported another mesmerizing melody, couple with one of the best fuzz and backward guitar solo sections I've ever heard.  Yeah, there were a couple of duds - 'Baby I'll Be Yours' was a forgettable country-influenced number, 'Who Knows What We May Find' was a fey ballad, and 'Waiting for Summer' was a strange Latin-flavored piece that wouldn't have sounded out of place on an Everything But the Girl album.  Still, one of my favorite recent discoveries the big mystery being why Liberty would have shelved an album with so much commercial potential ...

1. I Know You - 3:18
2. It´s A Long Time - 3:14
3. I Am What I Am - 3:54
4. Sunrise - 4:10
5. If I Could Be With You - 2:15
6. Sit And Watch The Sunshine - 3:11
7. Baby I´ll Be Yours - 3:52
8. Send Out A Smile - 3:04
9. Who Knows What We May Find - 3:15
10.Waiting For The Summer - 2:30
11.I Believe In You - 3:57
All songs by Bob Ponton, Martin Curtis

*Bob Ponton - Lead, Acoustic Guitars, Vocals (Tracks 1-11)
*Martin Curtis - Rhythm Guitar (Tracks 1-11)
*Albert Lee - Lead, Rhythm Guitars (Tracks 3-5, 8, 10, 11)
*Pete Gavin - Drums (Tracks 3, 8)
*Chas Hodges - Bass (Tracks 3, 8)
*Clem Cattini - Drums (Tracks 4, 5, 10, 11)
*Gerry Conway - Drums (Tracks 1, 2, 7, 9)
*Jerry Donahue - Lead, Rhythm Guitars, Vocals (Tracks 1, 2, 7, 9)
*Pat Donaldson - Bass (Tracks 1, 2, 7, 9)
*Tom Parker - Piano (Tracks 1, 2, 4. 5, 7, 9-11)
*Val Cope - Baking Vocals (Tracks 1, 2, 4. 5, 7, 9, 11)

1969  Thoughts And Words - Thoughts And Words (2005 reissue)  

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Monday, October 17, 2016

Solution - Divergence (1972 hollamd, astonishing prog rock, 2012 remaster)

For the band's second album, Divergence, Peter van der Sande was replaced by Guus Willemse. The new line-up seemed to gel better, and this line-up would stay the same (although with various guests such as Jan Akkerman joining in) until the band's demise in 1983. Divergence was less energetic and more ruggedly powerful than its predecessor, containing more structured pieces than before.

Ironically, the band reveal in the second line of Second Line that English is not their native tongue: 'Well here I am/Look me into my face.' In fact, the first half of Second Line consists of an astonishingly beautiful piano ballad, in the style of Elton John perhaps. Barlage's sax solo is incredibly moving. The production makes everything sound like a dream. This is the sort of song that needs lyrics you can shout at the top of your lungs, and yet whenever Willemse is not mumbling his lines, they don't make any sense, a shame indeed. The second half of the song consists of a Soft Machine-y jazz fusion instrumental, which has nothing to do with the first half, and seems a little out of place.

This album is most famous for its title track that was covered by Focus in their epic suite Eruption from the Moving Waves album. Oddly enough, Moving Waves had come out the previous year, which lead to many people believing Solution had just stolen a track from Focus. This track is really a chance for Barlage to show just how he can hold a saxophone. He gets to repeat the same monumental sax solo a total of three times throughout the track's six minute length. On the other hand, the rest of the instrumental is very straightforward, and I found that I pretty much worked out how it pieced together after three listens. Interestingly, a drum pattern from Koan reappears, and is very similar to another pattern heard on the title track from Supersister's Pudding en Gisteren.

One throwaway piece later, and we get to Concentration, probably the finest track of the lot. Once again, we can split this song into two halves, the first a smooth laid-back blues piece with lyrics, the second a speedy 7/8 instrumental in the style of Soft Machine's Esther's Nose Job. The instrumental in the first half of the song contains a subtle hint of the proggy goodness that's in store. The lyrical section is a perfect blend of jazz and blues. Willemse's lyrics aren't always audible, but he delivers them with gusto. Afterwards, the brisk 7/8 instrumental section leads us on a roller-coaster of themes and riffs, keeping the listener hooked throughout. A masterpiece track if I ever heard one.

Yet another throwaway track later and we finish on New Dimension. The use of organ on this track is simply mesmerising, and the riff and chord sequences used are subtle but also darkly powerful, playing with the mind on a subconscious level. Before I knew it, I was coming back for repeated listens of this bizarre piece.

Esoteric have done a wonderful job with these albums. Both booklets contain similar well-written essays by Wouter Bessels. I did spot a minor mistake however, because it appears that the track Theme from Divergence was sampled in Erykah Badu's track Soldier, not in Victory as the notes suggested. Nevertheless, these notes tell you all you need to know about the band. The artwork reproduction (back and front) is spot on, no less than what the paying customer deserves. The remastering is also brilliant, with everything sounding crystal clear, and the bass coming through especially nicely. Sadly, there are no bonus tracks appended to the albums, but this is not necessarily Esoteric's fault.

Solution may not have all the skill and songwriting ability as some of their contemporaries *cough* Supersister *cough*, but they certainly have enough to keep this prog fan satisfied. With only a few minor weaknesses, the band's first two albums are gems of the jazz-prog genre, and have yet again convinced me of the quality of Dutch progressive rock. Even if you aren't so keen on jazz, you may be pleasantly surprised by what you hear. 
by Basil Francis

1. Second Line - 8:48
2. Divergence - 6:00
3. Fever - 4:27
4. Concentrantion - 12:31
5. Theme - 0:42
6. New Dimension - 6:26
All compositions by Hans Waterman, Tom Barlage, Guus Willemse, Willem Ennes

*Tom Barlage - Saxophone, Flute
*Willem Ennes - Keyboards
*Guus Willemse - Bass Guitar, Vocals
*Hans Waterman - Drums

1971  Solution - Solution (2012 Esoteric remaster)
1975  Solution - Cordon Bleu

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Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Climax Blues Band - Stamp Album (1975 uk, fantastic funky blues rock, 2013 remaster with extra tracks)

England's Climax Blues Band saw their first taste of mainstream acceptance with 1975's Stamp Album, a solid mix of blues rock, funk, and jazzy pop that paved the way for their eventual platinum success with Gold Plated a year later. Led by the stellar guitar work & vocals of Pete Haycock, the band was completed by Colin Cooper (sax, clarinet, flute, keyboards), Derek Holt (bass, vocals), Richard Jones (keyboards, bass, guitar, vocals), and John Cuffley (drums, vocals), in what is considered one of the strongest line-ups the band had.

Haycock's stinging guitar licks & Cooper's melodic sax drive the catchy, upbeat blues rocker "Using the Power", a great opener to Stamp Album that sets the stage for the rest of the record. "Mr. Goodtime" is a smoldering slice of bluesy, jazzy funk, littered with Jones' clavinet and Haycock's biting lead guitar, and the hook laden, rootsy "I Am Constant" was the albums hit single, a catchy rock number that will appeal to any fan of Little Feat or the Doobie Brothers. "Running Out of Time" is a pulsating funk rocker with a great vocal from Cooper and more delicious clavinet & guitar. 

The band dives into melodic pop on the engaging "Sky High", a song I'm surprised the band didn't release as a hit single, and burst through with scorching Lynyrd Skynyrd styled southern rock on the nasty slide guitar attack of "Rusty Nail/The Devil Knows". Haycock really nails it with some searing slide on this gritty bluesy hard rock song, and the tune also features some wild Jethro Tull inspired flute from Cooper and Jones' great piano lines. Jones and his honky tonk piano & Cooper's soaring sax are all over "Loosen Up", and the closing instrumental "Cobra" sees the band combining rock, blues, and jazz-fusion styles for an exciting, yet brief ride.

As with most of Esoteric's CBB reissues, there are a wealth of bonus tracks here on Stamp Album. The BBC Radio One John Peel session tracks are especially enjoyable, and include songs from this album as well as the previous Sense of Direction release. "Before You Reach the Grave" is especially funky, and "Reaching Out" is given smoldering treatment, with Haycock & Cooper reaching deep with some ripping guitar & sax. The remaster treatment on the original album is crisp and clear, and the booklet contains a wealth of information about the sessions and plenty of photos. A splendid reissue of a great band from the always dependable folks at Cherry Red. 
by Pete Pardo

1. Using The Power - 4:29
2. Mr. Goodtime - 5:16
3. I Am Constant - 3:10
4. Running Out Of Time - 5:23
5. Sky High - 5:07
6. Rusty Nail  The Devil Knows - 4:15
7. Loosen Up - 4:56
8. Spirit Returning - 2:54
9. Cobra - 2:18
10.Before You Reach The Grave (BBC Radio One John Peel Session) - 4:36
11.Reaching Out (BBC Radio One John Peel Session) - 4:53
12.Spirit Returning (First Version) - 4:20
13.Rusty Nail  The Devil Knows (First Mix) - 4:28
14.I Am Constant (BBC Radio One John Peel Session) - 3:11
15.Running Out Of Time (BBC Radio One John Peel Session) - 4:51
All songs by Climax Blues Band
Bonus Tracks 10-15

The Climax Blues Band
*Colin Cooper – Vocals, Soprano, Alto, Tenor Saxes, Clarinet, Flute
*Peter Haycock – Vocals, Lead, Slide, Acoustic Guitars
*Derek Holt – Vocals, Bass, Vibes
*Richard Jones – Vocals, Keyboards, Bass, Acoustic Guitars
*John Cuffley – Drums, Percussion

The Climax Long Hard Road
1969  The Climax Chicago Blues Band (2013 remaster and expanded)
1969  The Climax Blues Band - Plays On (2013 remaster and expanded) 
1970  A Lot Of Bottle (2013 remaster and expanded)
1971  Tightly Knit (2013 remastered with bonus tracks)
1972  Climax Chicago - Rich Man (2013 bonus track remaster) 
1973  Climax Blues Band - FM Live (2013 remaster)
1973-79  Climax Blues Band - Live Rare And Raw (2014 Release)
1974  Climax Blues Band - Sense Of Direction (2013 remaster and expanded)
1976  Gold Plated (2013 bonus tracks remaster) 

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Friday, October 7, 2016

Solution - Solution (1971 holland, remarkable prog jazz rock, 2012 remaster)

The Dutch band Solution was formed back in 1966, and in a career that lasted until 1983 they explored quite a few different types of music prior to calling it a day. Their most interesting productions from a progressive rock point of view have generally been subscribed to their self-titled debut from 1971 and the following year’s production "Divergence". Both albums have been unavailable for a number of years now, until the UK label Esoteric Recordings decided to reissue them on CD in the fall of 2012 – as usual from this fine label, complete with a nice and good quality digital remastering. 

The 70's in general and the start of that decade in particular is by many regarded as a golden age of progressive rock music. This fascination for days gone by isn't totally without reason, and the debut album by Solution documents quite nicely some of the reasons for it. It is a fairly eclectic production, of the kind that you can't really pinpoint into a narrowly defined specific style, and fairly innovative to boot. Fine musicians given more or less free reigns, creating their music without bothering too much about a target audience as such, I suspect. Kicking off in a fine manner with jubilant brass fanfares in a song that from then on flirts with majestic symphonic art rock, traditional 70's jazz rock, a careful and fragile version of the same sporting a nervously resonating piano motif as well as a gentler variety of symphonic art rock again with flute and careful keyboards as main features. 

While piano and flute are used fairly often on this production, it is the organ that dominates these proceedings. Employed alongside the saxophone for the aforementioned jubilant opening piece Koan, these two instruments also take the lead when Solution hits the traditional jazz rock territories. The organ returns for the brief interlude Preview, alongside the piano, and the following construction Phases also features the organ in the initial part, now combined with flute and backing vocals to explore a fragile cosmic inspired theme. 

With bombastic organ driven passages explored later on, in a manner similar to early Van Der Graaf Generator, a revisit of the careful, Pink Floyd-evoking territories and in the only sequences sporting lead vocals on this disc we're treated to themes that sound like a direct continuation of Jethro Tull's classic tune ‘My God’, albeit featuring organ instead of the traditional flute that could have been employed. Trane Steps and Circus Circumstances aren't quite as eclectic and broad in scope, but again we're treated to a band that effortlessly and gleefully wanders back and forth in stylistic expressions also on these two compositions, now mostly staying put within a dual jazz rock and symphonic art rock universe.

Both of the pieces are a treat to experience, and on these efforts, as well as on the album as a whole, the bass and drums of Van Der Sande and Waterman respectively add striking and intricate details to the proceedings. It's easy to loose oneself in the keyboard displays of Ennes and the flute and sax of Barlage when describing this production, but the rhythm section is just as much of an essential feature as the more striking parts of the instrumentation here. Impeccable and skilled performances are needed to pull off such an adventurous mix of music, and this foursome is all equally capable in that department. 

As far as debut albums go, "Solution" is a very interesting one. Innovative, adventurous and broad in musical scope, I'm slightly mystified as to why this album isn't high on the list of classic albums progressive rock fans should sample. The very eclectic nature of this disc will not be to everybody's taste admittedly, but for those with a broad range in musical tastes and a keen interest in early 70's progressive rock Solution's debut warrants a keen inspection. 
by Olav M Bjornsen

1. Koan (Tom Barlage, Willem Ennes, Hans Waterman) - 7:52    
2. Preview (Tom Barlage) - 0:59      
3. Phases (Tom Barlage, Willem Ennes, Hans Waterman, Peter V. D. Sande) - 12:19      
4. Trane Steps (Tom Barlage, Willem Ennes, Hans Waterman) - 10:21      
5. Circus Circumstances (Jacques Ibert, Emmerson, Tom Barlage, Willem Ennes, Hans Waterman) - 7:05
The Solution
*Tom Barlage - Flute, Alto, Soprano Sax
*Willem Ennes - Piano, Electric Piano, Organ
*Peter V. D. Sande - Bass, Vocals
*Hans Waterman - Drums
*Steve Boston - Congas, Cowbell On "Phases"

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Sunday, October 2, 2016

Ayers Rock - Big Red Rock (1974 australia, superb prog psych jazz rock, 2016 digipak remaster and expanded)

Ayers Rock was the leading Australian 'jazz-rock' group of the 70s, fusing rock with influences from soul, R&B, jazz and Latin music. The band was built on world-class standards of playing and complex arrangements, and inspired by overseas groups such as Traffic, Santana and Weather Report. The original members were all seasoned players, widely regarded as among the best musos in the country, and their musical connections were woven through a series of major bands of the 60s and early 70s.
Mark Kennedy was and is still widely regarded as one of Australia's best drummers. He rose to prominence as the original drummer in Spectrum. He left that band in late 1970, just after recording their first LP, and he became an in-demand session player, as well as working in a series of loosely connected groups including King Harvest (where he first teamed up with McGuire and Doyle) and Friends with Leo De Castro.

Duncan McGuire was a true rock veteran (and one of the unsung heroes of Aussie music). His first band was The Phantoms way back in 1959. He was a member of The Epics (1962-64), who backed Little Pattie live and on her early Singles and first album, as well as playing with Reg Lindsay, Johnny Ashcroft, Brian Davies, Jay Justin and Johnny O'Keefe. From 1966-68 he was a member of The Questions (Doug Parkinson's first major band) which also included Ray Burton and Doug Lavery (who later joined The Valentines and Axiom). McGuire stayed with Parkinson through In Focus and Fanny Adams before shifting to Melbourne and playing with King Harvest and Friends.

Jimmy Doyle had been a member of the backing bands for The Delltones and Dig Richards, and during the early Sixties he also worked as the musical director for renowned honky-tonk pianist Winifred Atwell.

Ray Burton had been the rhythm guitarist in the Dave Bridge Quartet in the early Sixties, and then a member of the Delltones' backing band, after which he joined the first lineup of successful Sydney harmony-pop group The Executives. He worked variously with Doyle, McGuire and Kennedy in King Harvest, Doug Parkinson In Focus and Friends. He relocated to the USA in the early 70s, where he worked Helen Reddy and co-wrote her 1972 international mega-hit "I Am Woman".

In 1973 the above-named four took the logical step and formed their own band, McGuire Kennedy Burton. Later in the year, they added another player, multi-intrumentalist Col Loughnan. Col had actually started his career as lead singer with Sydney vocal group The Crescents. In 1962 Col was recruited to replace Noel Widerberg, lead singer with The Delltones, who had been tragically killed in a car accident earlier in the year. Col performed with The Delltones for five years (1962-67). In the late Sixties Col returned to his first love, jazz, and his prowess on a wide range of instruments (alto, tenor and baritione saxophones, flute, keyboards and percussion) gave the Ayers Rock sound a distinctive edge.

With Loughnan on board, the new band changed their name to the more marketable (and patriotic) Ayers Rock. They were one of the first groups signed to Michael Gudinski's newly established Mushroom label, and their debut single, "Rock'n'Roll Fight", was issued at the end of 1973.

They performed at Sunbury '74 and one track from their set, Ray Burton's "Morning Magic", was included on the Highlights of Sunbury 1974 LP, which has recently been re-released in the 2-CD set Highlights of Sunbury 1973 and 1974 on Michael Gudinski's Liberation Blue label. These tracks are the only extant Ayers Rock recordings to feature Burton, who left the band during 1974. Col Loughnan's official website features a superb colour clip of the group performing live at Sunbury, with excellent sound.

He was replaced by singer-guitarist Chris Brown, whose previous credits included a stint in Little Sammy & The In People, the noted '60s Sydney club outfit led by singer Sam "Little Sammy" Gaha (father of TV's Eden and Danielle Gaha); although not commercially successful, this notable band variously included Brown, Harry Brus, Michael Carlos, Barrie McAskill, Col Nolan and Janice Slater.

Ayers Rock's debut album Big Red Rock was taped live before an invited audience at Armstrong's Studios in Melbourne over two nights in September 1974. The live-in-the-studio approach worked extremely well for Ayers Rock, and the album clearly demonstrated why their awesome live 'chops' had made them such a popular concert attraction. But it also was something of a necessity for the cash-strapped label -- they took the same approach with andnother early signing, Mackenzie Theory. The Ayers Rock LP reportedly cost Mushroom a mere $5000 to record.

Big Red Rock was an early critical and commerical success for Mushroom, showcasing the band's considerable prowess and the material was a good balance between the more commercial song-based material of McGuire and Brown and the more adventurous instrumentals. The LP features three songs by McGuire, including their memorable second single, the Latin-flavoured "Lady Montego", a song that dated back to McGuire's stint in Friends; an earlier, slower version appears (in a live recording) on the Garrison: The Final Blow LP.

Big Red Rock also features two excellent pieces by Loughnan, two songs by Chris Brown, and a dazzling cover of Joe Zawinul's "Boogie Woogie Waltz", originally recorded by Weather Report (who were at that time virtually unknown in Australia). Loughnan's power-jam "Crazy Boys" is also worth hearing for its hilarious intro; dedicated to an unnamed Sydney hamburger joint, it includes a sly reference to a "Gudinski burger" and very funny joke about "Dr Hopontopovus, the Greek gynaecologist".

As Vernon Joyson has noted, Ayers Rock's recordings suggest that there was some dilemma about whether they should pursue a more expansive instrumental-based approach or opt for a more song-based commercial sound. From the evidence of Big Red Rock, its arguable that its the instrumental tracks -- "Crazy Boys", "Big Red Rock" and the brilliant cover of "Boogie Woogie Waltz -- that stand up best today, but the demands of radio airplay and gigging meant that this dilemma was never satifactorily resolved, and the group's relatively short lifespan and small catalogue meant that they never really got the chance to reach their full potential.

In the late 1975 Ayers Rock performed at the final gigs at Melbourne's fabled Reefer Cabaret. Live versions of the Stones' "Gimme Shelter" and "Boogie Woogie Waltz" were included on the double-album A-Reefer-Derci, culled from performances from the last two nights on 30 and 31 December 1975, and released by Mushroom in 1976. Like Mushroom's earlier Garrison: The Final Blow set, it commemorated the closure of the venue and was a means of thanking the Reefer Cabaret for supporting Mushroom's artists during 1974-75.

During '75-76, Kennedy began working with Marcia Hines and they later became engaged, which led to him leaving Ayers Rock in 1976. He was replaced for a time by Russell Dunlop, who, like Kennedy, was a seasoned veteran, and a respected session player and producer, but his permanent replacement was hotshot young drummer Hamish Stuart, who has since become a mainstay of the Sydney music scene and one of the most respected drummers in the country. At this point the group also added a permanent keyboard player, Andy Cowan (ex Madder Lake).

Ayers Rock's second LP Beyond was not quite as successful sales-wise, but no less impressiv musically. By this time the emphasis had shifted to longer works that allowed the band to showcase its considerable improvisational skills, and the LP consists of just six tracks, three each by Col Loughnan and Chris Brown. One of Brown's songs, "Little Kings", was lifted to become their third single.

Recorded in Los Angeles, the album was vastly more expensive to record than its predecessor, reportedly costing Mushroom a whacking $60,000, but by this time Mushroom's coffers had been swelled by the massive success of Skyhooks. The LP was also released in the USA, with different cover art. Their fourth and final single for Mushroom, "Song For Darwin" (May 1976) was inspired by the Cyclone Tracy disaster that had devastated the city on Christmas Day 1975.

After parting with Mushroom, the band broke up for about three years, but it was reformed by Brown, Doyle, Stuart and Cowan in 1979 and they established their own label, Red Rock. A new single, "On The Avenue" was released at the end of 1979, followed by "Lies" in early 1980, both issued through Polydor. The singles were both included on their third and final LP Hotspell, distributed by RCA. Unfortunately, the album was not successful and the band broke up in 1981.

Founding members Jimmy Doyle and Duncan McGuire have, sadly, both since passed away; Duncan died in 1986 from a brain tumour and Jimmy died in May 2006 from liver cancer. 

Recorded in one, live-in-the-studio session in September 1974, Big Red Rock was one of the first albums issued on the mighty Mushroom label. Despite the brief nature of the recording, the band was well prepared and the album stands as a fine example of musical skill and technique combined with song writing brilliance. This is where jazzy pop and blues rock textures meet jazz rock explorations and trippy soundscapes, where the band’s sound coalesced into a cogent whole.

Ayers Rock could move from one style to the next with consummate ease. From the silky, jazzy pop of ‘Lady Montego’ (issued as a single), into the tough blues rock of ‘Nostalgic Blues’ which glides into the Frank Zappa Hot Rats styled jazz rock of ‘Crazy Boys’ and onto the jazz fusion magnificence of their version of Weather Report’s ‘Boogie Woogie Waltz’. The band also explored trippy soundscapes in the evocative title track where treated sax solos and wah-wah guitar emulated the didgeridoo, calling to mind the vast, forbidding landscape of the Red Centre.

The group went on to make a mark on the vast USA touring circuit, playing to massive crowds and paving the way for Little River Band, AC/DC, Air Supply, Men at Work and INXS.

Presented in a Deluxe Digi-Pak, Aztec’s expanded CD edition of Big Red Rock adds the rare 1973 single ‘Rock ’n’ Roll Fight (Going On)’ – featuring the band’s original guitarist Ray Burton – plus other live material from Sunbury 1974 (‘Morning Magic’) and Reefer Cabaret (‘Gimme Shelter’). Remastered sound by Gil Matthews, colour booklet with rare photos by Philip Morris and liner notes by Ian McFarlane.

1. Lady Montego (Duncan McGuire) - 2:51
2. Talkin' 'Bout You (Duncan McGuire) - 3:58
3. Goin' Home (Duncan McGuire) - 3:04
4. Crazy Boys - The Hamburger Song (Col Loughnan, Stephen Ian) - 9:11
5. Nostalgic Blues (Chris Brown) - 4:37
6. Big Red Rock (Col Loughnan) - 8:29
7. Boogie Woogie Waltz (Joe Zawinul) - 10:11
8. Get Out To The Country (Chris Brown) - 4:39
9. Rock 'n' Roll Fight (Going On) (Raymond Doughty) - 3:11
10.Sorrowful Eyes (Raymond Doughty) - 4:54
11.Morning Magic (Raymond Doughty) - 5:47
12.Boogie Woogie Waltz (Joe Zawinul) - 11:04
13.Gimme Shelter (Mick Jagger, Keith Richards) - 7:29
Tracks 9-10 Single release 1973
Track 11 Live at Sunbury January 1974
Tracks 12-13 Live at Reefer Cabaret December 1975

The Ayers Rock
*James Doyle - Electric, Acoustic Guitars
*Col Loughnan - Tenor, bariton Saxophone, Flute, Percussion, Vocals
*Duncan McGuire - Bass, Percussion
*Mark Kennedy - Drums, Percussion
*Ray Burton - Guitar, Lead Vocals (Tracks 9-11)
*Chris Brown - Lead Vocals, Electric, Acoustic, 12 String Guitars, Parcussion (Tracks 1-8, 12.13)

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