Sunday, February 1, 2015

Tamam Shud - 1969 - Evolution

Tamam Shud

01. Music Train (3:52)
02. Evolution (2:45)
03. I'm No One (2:08)
04. Mr. Strange (2:34)
05. Lady Sunshine (4:39)
06. Falling Up (2:48)
07. Feel Free (3:12)
08. It's a Beautiful Day (2:53)
09. Jesus Guide Me (3:53)
10. Rock on Top (2:49)
11. Slow One and the Fast One (6:58)
12. Too Many Life (3:04)

- Dannie Davidson / drums
- Zac Zytnic / guitars
- Lindsay Bjerre / guitars, vocals
- Peter Barron / bass

Australian outfit TAMAM SHUD was formed back in 1967. The band had originally started out as The Four Strangers in 1964, but soon changed their moniker to The Sunsets. A change in stylistic expression and a subsequent line-up alteration called for a third alteration in band name, and from 1967 Dannie Davidson (drums), Zac Zytnic (guitar), Lindsay Bjerre (vocals, guitars) and Peter Barron (bass) took the name Tamam Shud when they started exploring the recently popular psychedelic progressive rock genre.

They were an active live unit throughout their career, and built themselves a good reputation from their base in Sydney.

They made their debut in early 1969 with Evolution. It was a rough and raw creation, recorded in a mere 2,5 hours in the studio. Four of the tracks were featured in the score for the surf movie 'Evolution', and the entire recording session was in fact financed from the budget of this film.

Zytnic left the band towards the end of 1969, and was replaced by the young, promising guitarist Tim Gaze in 1970. This slightly revamped version of the band recorded and released the sophomore effort Goolutionites and the Real People later the same year. This concept effort was met with critical acclaim, and have later been described as one of the truly great Aussie progressive rock albums.

Gaze and Davidson had left prior to the album release, to partake in another band project. Kevin Sinnott (drums) and Kevin Stephenson (reeds) were brought in for live duties, and Tamam Shud started exploring a more jazz-oriented direction at this time. Gaza returned to the band just after the album was issued in October 1970 though, and Sinnott and Stephenson left the band again at this point. Davidson did not return however, and he was replaced by Nigel Macara. Larry Duryea, Bobby Gebert and Richard Lockwood would join the ranks of Tamam Shud towards the end of 1970 as occasional members of the live band.

Tamam Shud continued as a prolific live act throughput 1971, and in 1972 they were asked to contribute the soundtrack to a new surf movie, 'Morning of the Earth'. While initially asked to cater for the entire soundtrack, a change of plans soon saw their contribution reduced to three compositions only. This and various other setbacks eventually saw the band break up towards the end of 1972.

Fans of the band were delighted when it was announced that they were to reunite in 1993, 21 years after breaking up. Bjerre, Gaze, Barron and Macara hit the studio and recorded the album Permanent Culture, got a record deal with Polydor Records who issued the CD in 1994 and hit the road soon after the album release. But the album as well as the two singles released from it didn't fare as well as their label wanted, and they decided to drop Tamam Shud later the same year. Tamam Shud decided to call it a day as well, and disbanded when the support tour of their reunion album finished in April 1995.

"Evolution" is a very psychedelic album from the Australian surf acids rockers Tamam Shud. There are moments of pure psych prog and other moments are simple rock structures reminiscent of early 60s rock. The vocals of Lindsay Bjerre are raw and unpolished, the songs are short and to the point for the most part, and there were strong rhythms; they were a no frills Aussie product of the psychedelic 60s. A lot of the songs are throwaway 60s fodder but there are a few shining moments.

'It's a beautiful day' has a staccato riff that pulsates along with a simple guitar motif, and then the time signature becomes odd. The guitars have a spacey quality, with very pronounced arpeggios. The lyrics are strange and non sensical; "it's a beautiful day the sound of the a house of no ending, the minds are bending..." The time sig completely changes toward the end to an almost whimsical tune.

'Mr Strange' is a rocker with a driving beat and heavy guitars, the drumming is relentless and overblown with crashing cymbals that are constant. The psychedelic lyrics are notable; "it's been a while since we saw you I thought it was very strange, how does it feel Mr Strange, how is the weather today, you've been walking round in the rain... the bird has flown now your seed is sown..." Another blazing rock number with raucous guitars.

'Falling Up' has a quirky riff that sounds a bit like the Crazy World of Arthur Brown in structure and feel. The lead break is a cool surfie refrain typical of the underground 60s, similar to The Sonics or acid rockers The 13th Floor Elevators.

'Jesus Guide Me' is another rocking song and the lead singer Lindsay Bjerre is almost screaming the words 'Jesus Guide Me' as if he is crying out in desperation for help. Perhaps this is like the cry of the Jesus freaks, the long haired hippies that were searching for meaning during the late 60s.

'Lady Sunshine' has a metronome swinging beat that drives it and some unusual guitar noises. The vocals are melodic with typical 60s flower power themes, "lady sunshine let that sunshine in". The stoner rock of the album is evident on these types of throwaway tracks, that seemed designed to get high to rather than to admire any type of musical virtuosity.

The final song is 'Too Many Life' with a very strange structure, a driving beat that moves in metrical shapes slow to fast, and lead guitar breaks that flow along simply but effectively. The lyrics are rebellious anecdotes and the cry of wanting to be free from the system, the cry of the 60s youth; "Too many people using my time, blowing my mind, too many juries, judging my time, jailing my mind..." After the freakout ending, there is a male scream of pain and then a female screaming like she is being murdered and then we hear footsteps down a hallway. It really freaked me out as I wasn't prepared for that disturbing ending. In a way it is like a scream of agony from the youth wanting to be set free from the expectations of conforming to the rules and regulations of the late 60s.

The band are not virtuoso musicians on this album but they make their intentions known in their no-nonsense style in a bunch of songs less than three minutes, with some almost clocking 4 minutes and one clocking in at 7 minutes. They were not designed for prosperity or longevity, Lindsay Bjerre even admitted in a GTK interview that they were not good enough for an American tour and pretty much kept to the surf and sun of Australian shores to bring their music to the masses. Certainly the band were a product of their time and this album was a solid debut; a taste of the underground 60s sound of Aussie prog and is quite a curiosity worth hearing.

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