Monday, September 21, 2015

Hawk - 1973 - Live & Well

Live & Well


01. Kea Tseba Mokeago (I Know Where)
02. Slowly Towards the North (Suite)
- Bring Out The Wagons
- Limpopo
- Thaba Bosigo
- Deepest Darkest Africa
- Jungle Slumbers
03. Mumbo Jumbo
04. Hunter
05. Bona Bakweta
06. Mbalele
07. In My Youth

Bonus Tracks
08. Predictions*
09. My Spear*
10. The Return*
11. White Bird of Peace*
12. Tula Waname**

* From the South African version of "Africa, She Too Can Cry"
** Recorded live on JUne 10, 1971 at Selbourne Hall, Johannesburg

Dave Ornellas: Vocals, guitar, percussion
Mark Spook Kahn: Guitar
Brahm Malherbe: Drums
Les Jet Goode: Bass
Julian Ipi Laxton: Guitar

Julian Bahula: African drums, vocals
Billy Knight Mashigo: Percussion, vocals
Audrey Motaung: Vocals
Pete Kubheka: Vocals, percussion

Following the triumphant release of "Africa, She Too Can Cry," Hawk traveled to England and began work on their follow-up, a concept album about the Great Trek entitled "Slowly Towards the North."  But despite stirring a considerable about of interest in Europe, their record company lost faith in the project and pulled the plug before the album was completed.  Seeking a way to recoup his losses, the band's manager then released the unfinished tapes, without the band's input, as an apparent "live" album.  The release was mixed rather poorly and has muffled sound, though it does possess considerable charm. Had "Slowly Towards the North" been completed, I personally doubt if it would have been equal to Hawk's first two albums, but it would have been a fitting end to South Africa's greatest band.

Hawk - 1972 - Africa She Too Can Cry

Africa She Too Can Cry

01. Uvuyo
02. Elegy For Eden
03. The Rolling of the Bones
04. Dark Side of the Moon
05. War Talk
06. Africa
07. African Day Suite
- Africaan Suite
- This Elephant Must Die
- Beaters
- Hunt
- The Elephant is Dead
- Nglovu Ephili
- Yebo Mama
- Sunset

Bonus Tracks
08. Orang Outang
09. Kalahari Dry
10. Mumbo Jumbo
11. Hunter
12. In My Youth

Dave Ornellas / Vocals
Mark Spook Kahn / Guitar
Braam Malherbe / Drums
Les Jet Goode / Bass
Julian Ipi Laxton / Guitar
Ivor Back / Drums

Alfred Ali Lerfelo / African drums, vocals
Billy Knight Mashigo / Percussion, vocals
Audrey Motaung / Vocals, percussion
Pete Kubheka / Vocals, percussion

An astounding album.  "Africa, She Too Can Cry" is to "South Africa" what "Smile" was to "America" - a perfect synthesis of the histories, cultures, and arts of a diverse nation in pop form.  The individual songs blend together in a perfect, seamless whole.  "Africa, She Too Can Cry" is one of those albums you can listen to on repeat for days and days and still discover something new.  Absolute highest recommendation!!

Unfortunately, experiencing this singular, exceptional work of art has been made needlessly difficult.  Aside from the first issue, all re-releases have featured different tracks!  The first version had 11 tracks.  The British version, credited to Jo-Burg Hawk, had 7 of those tracks, plus a rerecording of the African Day suite off the debut.  The official CD version is a reissue of the British version, with two non-album singles, plus three tracks off Live and Well.  Where are the four remaining tracks that were on the original version?  They are frustratingly tacked onto the CD of Live and Well!  Which means that in order to hear this classic release the way it was intended, you have to either track down an original South African lp, or burn the relevant tracks off the CD reissues of "Africa, She Too Can Cry" and "Live and Well" and arrange them in the proper order.  Way to screw up a great album, guys!

This classic album has now been released 4 times with 3 different track listings. It was first released in 1972 in South Africa by Hawk. It was then released in 1973 in Europe with a slightly different track list and credited to JoBurg Hawk. In 1998 (or thereabouts) an unofficial CD was released by the Never Never Land label in Japan with a different cover and track list. And in January 2004 Retrofresh released a CD of the European version with bonus tracks.

Original 1972 South African release:


01. Africa
02. Dark Side Of The Moon
03. Predictions
04. The Rolling Of The Bones
05. Elegy For Eden
06. War Talk
07. My Spear
08. This Elephant Must Die
09. The Return
10. White Bird Of Peace
11. Uvuyo (listed as Jabula on inside sleeve)

1972, EMI Parlophone, PCSJ (D) 12087

1973 European release

01. Uvuyo (Happiness)
02. Elegy for Eden
03. Rolling of the bones
04. Dark side of the moon
05. War talk
06. Africa
07. African sun
08. This elephant must die
09. Beaters
10. Hunt
11. The elephant is dead
12. Nglovu ephili
13. Yebo mama
14. Sunset

Tracks 7, 9-12 are a re-recording of the 'African Day' suite from African Day.

LP 1973, Charisma, 6369 928 released in UK, Netherlands, Sweden and many other countries
LP 1984, Charisma, CHC 20 re-issue in UK
CD 2004, RetroFresh, freshcd137 South African CD re-issue with bonus tracks

Unofficial Japanese CD

01. African Day (from African Day)
02. Predictions
03. Rolling of the bones Listen
04. This elephant must die
05. War talk
06. My Spear
07. The Return
08. Jabula aka Uvuyo
09. In My Youth from Live And Well

Release information:

1998 (?), Never Never Land, 758036 011

2004 Official CD release (South Africa)

01. Uvuyo
02. Elegy for Eden
03. The rolling of the bones
04. Dark side of the moon
05. War talk
06. Africa
07. African Day Suite

    Bonus tracks:
08. Orang Outang
09. Kalahari Dry
10. Mumbo Jumbo
11. Hunter
12. In my youth

Track 7 is a re-recording of the 'African Day' suite from African Day with some extra sections.

LP 1973, Charisma, 6369 928 released in UK, Netherlands, Sweden and many other countries
LP 1984, Charisma, CHC 20 re-issue in UK
CD 2004, RetroFresh, freshcd137 South African CD re-issue

Astral Daze 'Predictions' (from the original SA version, but left off the European release) is available on a Retrofresh compilation titled 'Astral Daze - Psychedelic South African Rock 1968-1972'. This CD features 18 classic, rare and obscure tracks (16 of which have never previously been released on official CDs before). This CD was compiled by Benjy Mudie and Brian Currin with major input from SA rock collector Tertius Louw.

 Here is a quote from an email received in 1999 from Krister in Sweden: "I am 24 years old and a university student. When I was about 6 or 7 or so I got hold of this fantastic album, Jo'burg Hawk's 'Africa she too can cry' from 1973. This has haunted me thru the years and I find it an all time great. I suppose that the chance that their album ever got out on CD are minimal. That's unfortunate since my only vinyl is really torn down and scratchy."

OK, Krister, your wish (and that of many others) has been granted. At last this classic album from the 70's has been re-released on CD. This album has actually been released in 3 different versions; the first was in 1972 a year or so after the phenomenal 'African Day' album. In 1973 'Africa She Too Was Cry' was released in the UK (and Europe) by the Charisma label (home of Genesis at the time) with a revised track listing and credited to JoBurg Hawk. In the late 90's an unofficial CD with the same title was released by the Japanese Never Land label. Despite the fact that this was a pirate CD, it was also more of a compilation than a re-issue, as it featured tracks from all 3 Hawk albums.

After much deliberation and discussion (and lack of master recordings) Benjy Mudie of Fresh Music decided to release the UK version of 'Africa She Too Can Cry' with bonus tracks culled from some singles-only releases and the elusive 'Live And Well' album, which was not actually a "live" recording, despite its title.

The 'African Day Suite' is a re-recorded and extended version of the side-long epic which originally appeared on 'African Day'. It tells the story, in spoken words, lyrics and music, of a rampaging elephant that threatens to destroy a tribal village and has to be killed. The fact that the censors missed the analogy to the oppressive apartheid regime at the time is amazing.

Freedom's Children's Ramsay Mackay wrote a major portion of the material for this album, and though he did not play on it, his influence is strongly felt. Mackay's compatriot in Freedom's, Julian Laxton, was a Hawk member by this time and his guitar work here is subdued but legendary. The catchy 'Dark Side Of The Moon' song has nothing to do with the Pink Floyd classic album, and in fact was released almost a year before that album's debut.

Bonus tracks include the original version of the much-covered 'Orang Outang' (Kenny Henson's Harambee, Margaret Singana, Brian Finch and more have all recorded it) which was also penned by Ramsay Mackay and released as a single in the UK in 1973. The obscure 'Kalahari Dry' song was used as part of an ad campaign for Groovy cooldrink (remember Groovy?) and released as a single in South Africa in November 1972. The original vinyl single was found lurking in Tertius Louw's extensive collection and digitally transferred by him for this CD re-issue.

The Chicago-meets-Osibisa styled 'Mumbo Jumbo' is another Ramsay Mackay composition which deserves wider exposure. The closing track of this CD re-issue is the beautiful ballad 'In My Youth' (from 'Live And Well') which sounds like it could have been written for the stageshow 'Hair'. Audrey Moutaung's voice soars on this one and is then balanced by the earthy tones of Ornellas.

Excellent and detailed sleeve notes are provided by Raymond Joseph including recent interviews with vocalist Dave Ornellas and guitarist Julian Laxton.

This is truly an album of Africa and a must-have for every music fans collection. (Brian Currin, February 2004)

Sleeve Notes:

The Rise And Demise of Jo'Burg Hawk

The year is 1973 and in South Africa, the stranglehold of apartheid and the oppression of its opponents is increasing all the time, the noose growing ever tighter. These are dark and dangerous times and the watershed 1976 Soweto student uprising - which began a chain of events that would ultimately lead to the collapse of apartheid and the birth of democracy in South Africa – is still three years away.

These were strange and scary times, when the law forbade marriages across the colour bar, legislation enforced the separation of the different races – and having friends of different races could land you in trouble with the authorities. It was also a time of a huge surge in original local music, an era when South Africa produced some of its finest bands. And leading the charge was Hawk, who going against the trend, turned their backs on the music coming out of Europe and America and turned to their African musical roots.

Buoyed by the success of their first album, African Day – a thinly disguised commentary of South Africa and its insane politics - in 1971, followed by the seminal Africa She Too Can Cry, in 1972, Hawk had already established itself as one of the country's premier rock outfits. Explains Braam Malherbe, a member of the original Hawk line-up: "It (African Day) was political, you know. I mean there's the elephant destroying things left, right and centre – driving people from their land. We were making a huge comparison – if anyone had analysed the words then, they would have realised what we were all about." Like its predecessor, Africa She Too Can Cry, was a concept album, a social commentary on the madness that was South Africa in the 1970s.

"Hawk was a concept band and the album "Africa She Too Can Cry", came at the right time, it was meant to be," say Dave Ornellas, former lead vocalist and front man for Hawk, the owner one of the definitive rock voices of his era. It tells the story of a young African man, Kakawa and his village and the people who lived in it. "It is a sad story of how the tribe was torn apart," explains Ornellas, remembering the lyrics that captured the mood of the album.

"They took me from my people,
Drove me from my home."

The album, not counting this latest reincarnation, has been released three times before, with three different track listings, first in 1972, then again in 1973 – with a slightly different track listing and credited to Joburg Hawk (redone in South Africa for European release). The final release, until now, was around 1998 as an cheap bootleg CD on Japan's Never Land Label.

The European release, which was a compilation of the band's first two album, saw the band progress from its original flute/sax/percussion and then, later, keyboard driven sound, to a new, more powerful twin guitar attack. Hawk, far from being social commentators who viewed the madness from the safety of a stage and then went home to the safety and isolation of a divided South Africa, were caught up in centre of the insane politics of the country. One of the few multi-racial bands on the scene at that time, Hawk were finding that, while there was much to write and sing about, it was becoming increasingly difficult for the band and its members to operate. Looking back today, Ornellas – now a preacher living in Muizenberg, near Cape Town - remembers those bizarre times, with the band finding it increasingly difficult to perform and grow creatively with the noose of apartheid tightening around their necks.

"I remember playing at the Klerksdorp Civic Centre. It was surreal: the black members of Hawk were not allowed to appear on stage with their white brothers. But a special concession was made and the black members were allowed to play as long as they were hidden behind a curtain on the stage." At the same time Paddock Farm, in Morningside, in Sandton, where the band had lived since 1969 had increasingly become the focus of police raids because black and white members of Hawk awHwere living there together. "We wanted to develop the African side of our music but it was becoming increasingly clear that we could not do it in South Africa. We needed to spread our wings, break the shackles of apartheid and left the music come though." Overnight the band was thrown a lifeline when their manager, Geoff Lonstein, signed a deal for them with the London-based Charisma records.

With the world, and particularly the UK, focused on the injustices of apartheid South Africa, the people and the media in that country welcomed the band with open arms. With Charisma driving the band, they soon found themselves working hard in London, including three gigs at the legendary Marquee club, star billing at the Reading Festival and opening for hard rock group Budgie. And with Charisma, they found themselves part of an impressive stable of some of the biggest bands around, including Genesis, Lindisfarne and Van der Graaf Generator. From a struggling outfit from the southern tip of Africa, they were suddenly receiving star treatment, with the deal negotiated by Lonstein including tickets to the UK and accommodation in a magnificent three-storey house in the plush north London suburb of Highgate.

"We were treated like real stars, with a fleet of Bentleys at the airport to collect our 16 member party when we landed in London," says Ornellas. "We thought we had arrived." But the reality was somewhat different: despite their fancy house in one of London's best suburbs, the band was permanently broke. Their manager kept them on a shoestring budget. Both Ornellas and new guitarist Julian Laxton, who produced the album for European release, remember how they had to survive on a meagre handout of one pound a day from their management.

They had sold all their equipment before leaving South Africa and Lonstein supplied them with brand new equipment when they arrived. In hindsight, Ornellas says, the big mistake came when Lonstein signed them up to Charisma for the UK and Europe only, but kept control of South Africa and the United States for himself. Another big mistake, they say, was when they spurned a management offer from Clive Calder, then working out of a tiny office in Johannesburg. Calder went on to form Zomba Records, one of the world's biggest and most successful independent labels, which he finally sold in a multi-million pound deal in 2002.

"We backed the wrong horse and we paid the price," says Ornellas with the benefit of hindsight three decades later. "But at the time the Charisma deal Lonstein signed was our ticket to freedom and we grabbed it with both hands." Unlike other South African bands that had tried – and failed – before them to crack it in the UK because of work permit problems, Hawk had no problem getting the right paper work because they were a multi-racial band. Their history of police harassment back home no doubt also helped smooth their entry in the UK. "We arrived in London to great hype, the press all wanted to interview us and we believed we were on our way to the big time. All the journalists wanted to make our arrival political, but we just told them we were there for the music and it would speak for us," Laxton says.

"I remember the first big press interview we did in London. It was bitterly cold and we did a photo shoot for one of the papers wearing only the skimpy tribal regalia we wore during our stage act. The story appeared under the headline: The tribe who fled to freedom, neatly summing up the exhilaration and new found freedom Hawk found in London." It was a time of concept bands and big, powerful live acts, with outfits like Pink Floyd, Genesis and King Crimson leading the charge. Into this arena Hawk arrived with their fresh African sound and a stage act and presence that blew their British audiences away. For the boys from South Africa it was a whole new world and, under the expert guidance of Charisma, the band was launched into a whirlwind of gigs, playing the club circuit, concerts and festivals. It was an exciting time for the band as they began building a solid fan base and sales of their album took off, says Ornellas.

"We were playing gigs every day of the week. Our appearance fees were getting bigger and bigger and, as a band, we were growing all the time." The deal with Charisma had also included the release of an album as JoBurg Hawk, a compilation of songs from their first album, "African Dawn" and "Africa She too Can Cry". It also included some new songs by Ramsay McKay, the former bassist for Freedoms, which they had laid down in a studio in South Africa before setting off for London. The album, engineered by former Freedom's Children member, Julian Laxton, also saw Hawk take a new musical direction.

With the UK deal in the bag Julian agreed to join Hawk, with the band moving from its original keyboard, sax and flute sound, to the power of the two guitars of Laxton and founder member Mark "Spook" Kahn. Laxton, one of the finest rock guitarists and rock music innovators South Africa has ever produced, explains: "I was resident engineer at RPM and Geoff Lonstein, asked me to help record and produce the album for Hawk for overseas release.

Of Africa She Too Can Cry, Laxton says: "It is a very different production. It changes all the time and then reverts back. It was a good album." The challenge in producing the album for Hawk's assault on Europe, says Laxton, was to "capture the real sound of Hawk live in a recording. I also had to capture the visual side of the band without people seeing them, with the musical side - and bring it all to life on vinyl. For Laxton and McKay it was also a fresh chance to make it big in the UK after an attempt a few years earlier by Freedoms had failed because of work permit and visa hassles. "Hawk was different. They were multi-racial and had been harassed by the police in South Africa for daring to have black and white in the same band. They got permits on that basis Along the way Hawk was "discovered" by Belgium, leading to a tour to Brussels. Bizarrely, the band was entered as the Belgian entry for the Eurovision song festival, earning a credible ninth place and winning them an army of faithful new fans in that country.

Another highlight was touring Scandinavia at the end of 1973, where they had the audience eating out of their hands. "Here we were in the frozen north, playing full blown African rock and the audience loved it. We were on such a high." The highly successful sell-out tour took them to Norway, Sweden and Denmark with their final appearance at Arhus in Denmark, where they were a highlight of a three-day festival held in an old airplane hangar. "We were billed as "Joburg Hawk, out of Africa, direct from London." Dressed in "war paint" and full Zulu regalia, complete with shields and spears, Hawk were one of the hits of the festival.

Remembers Ornellas: "It was one of the most incredible concerts we had ever done. It was also the last real concert we did before things went horribly wrong." Until then things were starting to happen for the band and they were building a loyal audience in Scandinavia, Europe and the UK and the world, it seemed, was their oyster. They returned to London expecting to move on to the United States but Charisma – excluded from representing them in America because of the deal their manager had structured – by that time were starting to lose interest. "Our gigs started drying up, we were having problems with visas and this caused hassles in the band. Things just ground to a halt," says Ornellas.

First the black members of the band, homesick and disillusioned because of the ending with Charisma deal and the lack of gigs, chucked in the towel and returned home. "We were in serious trouble, we had no work and no money. We were literally starving, there was hardly any money to buy food and we were living on leftovers and handouts. "We even had to sell our African drums just to get money to buy food. It was one of the most terrible times of my life, things were just disintegrating around us."

Says Laxton: "In the beginning we were really struggling and often had very little to eat, but at least we were getting places and the band was together and sounding great. There were nine of us living in this huge house in Highgate, it was a bit like big Brother, but then things started falling apart." Adds Ornellas: "I was so depressed that I cut off half my beard and half my Afro. I was down in the dump, it was a cry for help, an expression of just how low I felt." The end for Ornellas finally came when Scotland Yard arrived one morning and told him their (by then) former manager had laid a charge of theft against the band and was demanding they hand over their instruments, which he said was his property.

"He wanted the PA and all our other equipment back. I thought that after we had sold everything when we left South Africa the new equipment our manager bought was our's. "Eventually I agreed to hand over the equipment to Scotland Yard until it was sorted out. I later learned that they had handed the equipment back to our ex manager and the subsequent case was thrown out of court. "Looking back now I wonder what they thought of me, this manic musician with half an Afro and half a beard." Soon afterwards Julian Laxton and Les Goode left for home and they soon followed by Spook and Ramsay McKay, who had also had enough.

Says Laxton:"I call it my great escape, but it was also sad because the band was getting more and more polished and we were being recognised in London. I mean, to play the Marquee three times and be invited to Reading would be a highlight for any band." Finally Ornellas, who was involved in legal disputes and becoming increasingly depressed, was the last member of Hawk left in London.

"I was stuck there for three more months until I could get out and go back home," he remembers. "It was the end of a dream for all of us, a terrible way to end. But we gave it our best shot and I know now that we did not fail, it just didn't work out because of circumstances beyond the band's control."

And even know, in the 21st Century and 30 years later, Hawk's music has stood the test of time - and with this officially sanctioned re-release of Africa She Too Can Cry, a new chapter has been written in the short but influential life of the band, one of the most original and influential rock bands ever to come out of South Africa…

Raymond Joseph, Cape Town 2003

Review of the original album

What is it that makes this album so special? To this reviewer Africa She Too Can Cry is a peerless South African rock album that still sounds as powerful today as it did when it was released back in 1972. It is the ultimate Afro-Rock album and I believe nothing else comes close.

Although this album has an extremely short total playing time, clocking it at just over 33 and a half minutes, the experience of listening to it all in one go, leaves the listener with a feeling of totally satisfied exhaustion. Only silence will do after hearing this record. The Doors' L.A. Woman is 15 minutes longer and Pink Floyd's Atom Heart Mother is a whopping 20 minutes longer than this, yet the record is absolutely full of superb music.

This album has everything going for it. Supplied in an arresting sleeve, with a full lyric sheet enclosed, it has 11 stunning songs, without a single weak spot in sight anywhere. The recorded sound is unmatched in any contemporary release and still stands proud as a model for a great sounding album to any generation.

Even when you become familiar with the record, you still feel at the end of every song "OK what's next? Oh yes the best track on the album". That's the only problem with Africa She Too Can Cry; every song is the standout masterpiece and the energy keeps you high during the entire listening time. Every song has a huge walloping goosebump moment when something awesome happens. Every track is the best track on the record! The songwriting and the arrangements are supreme.

The instrumentation is based around a telepathic rhythm trio consisting of drums, bass guitar and acoustic guitar. Sound familiar? That's why the Who's Pinball Wizard sounds so great. Nearly everywhere it sounds as if these three instruments are being played by a single brain. The accuracy and swing of this musical basis is a potent driving force that underpins the entire album magnificently. Surely this is one of the best rehearsed rock albums ever. And for a bass-player like myself, the album is a special treat. This is one of the few albums in my entire collection of which I could truly say that I can identify clearly every note that the bass played. The bass sounds phenomenal. But the other instruments also sound stunningly clear. The cymbals are recorded with all their brilliant ultra-high treble tones fully intact. And the voices are so clear you can hear the singers breathe.

The steam locomotive of a rhythm trio that powers Hawk, is further embellished by the unmistakable voice of Dave Ornellas, who sings as if he is possessed. He absolutely believes every word, and rants and raves about themes as diverse as poaching and pollution.

But that is not all. An incredible wash of colour is added by no less than four superb voices and an array of exciting percussion instruments. In fact the voices kick the album off with the enigmatic opening line "Once upon a time....there was a garden......". They are followed by a quiet folk-like intro of acoustic guitar and voice. But when the whole band kicks in, you just know nothing can go wrong in the next half hour.

So is that a recipe for a winning record? Surely yes? But Hawk went one step further still and added one of the most distinctive guitarists on the planet, Julian Laxton. With his patented Gibson/Spitfire/Hurricane sound he adds the weight to this ultimate afro-rock album. His guitar sound is given plenty of room in the mix and while the acoustic guitar is fairly dry and close up, sounding like it's right there in the room with you, the electric guitar sounds like it's somewhere in the stratosphere about to dive bomb the proceedings. Apart from devastating solo guitar work Julian Laxton also did the engineering for this milestone record. Lastly we shouldn't forget the contributions by several uncredited keyboard players. Big wide piano chords and morse-code organ add colour here and there.

So is there anything wrong with the album? Nope. Or perhaps we should say that there isn't a gentle ballad anywhere. But somehow you know when you start off, that you aren't going to be allowed to relax. This album is 33 and a half minutes of pure artistic energy. As the last notes die away you just sit there thinking "J.... what hit me?"

Hawk - 1971 - African Day

African Day

01. African Day
02. Happy Man
03. Look Up Brother
04. Love Song
05. Kissed By The Sun
06. Here Comes The Sun

Bonus tracks on CD re-issue (previously unreleased live recordings from June 1971):
07. African Rondo
08. The Hunt
09. Look Up Brother
10. Kissed By The Sun

Bonus tracks are listed in the wrong order on the CD back cover.

Dave Ornellas / Vocals, guitar, percussion
Mark Spook Kahn / Guitar
Braam Malherbe / Drums
Richard Johnson / Bass
Keith Hutchinson / Sax, flute, piano
Dave (session musician): Percussion

Relatively unaware from the rest of the planet, South Africa apparently had their own rock scene in which a few groups evolved. The first being Freedom Children and here, Hawk. Indeed the apartheid was an important factor running the country and the generally well-respected boycott made that a few artistes left the country (ie: Manfred Mann), but others remained and fought the Apartheid in their own manner. Whether Hawk really did so is anyone's guess, but the strong black African music sprinkled all over their music does give a hint they did. Hawk was a group that was apparently managed from afar by Lonstain, but the problems were numerous between artistes and producers.

The Johannesburg quintet was formed Dave Ornelias (ac guitar, vocals) and Keith Hutchinson (winds & Kb) and comprised also guitarist mark Khan, bassist Richard Johnson and drummer Braam Malherbe (most likely a descendant of Huguenot, but no relation to the great Didier). The five musicians studied African music throughout a few trips and guest in their rented farm in the outskirts of the city. Apparently the group managed quite a live success based on their song Africa Day, then went on to record it along with more songs to make up their first album called after their success piece, that survived the apartheid Regime's censorship rules.

Playing more concerts, the management were often not forwarding the money and by the time the group was readying its second album Africa, She Can Cry Too, the management enforced a line-up change where keyboardist/saxFflurteman Hutchinson and bassist Johnson were given their walking papers. The second album was a very different thing altogether, and the band was apparently able to tour Europe to good acclaim, but to little rewards financially or musically. The group disbanded a while after returning to the country, then reformed a few years later

 When it comes to South African music its kind of hard to define what is progressive and what isn’t, particularly for people who aren’t familiar with the culture. Of course it doesn’t help that the country went through nearly half a century of virtual isolation on the international stage due to their apartheid policies, and honestly my only other musical point of reference from that period is Freedom’s Children, a group whose music was just as difficult to classify. Guitarist Julian Laxton, who would join the band for their second and final album, came from Freedom’s Children, and there are some notable similarities between the bands, although Hawk was considerably less heavy and employed a wider range of native percussion, provided mostly by a session musician identified only as ‘Dave’.

Vocalist/guitarist Dave Ornellas is one of the blackest-sounding white guys I’ve ever heard, and the vocals harmonies throughout the album will leave you double-checking the album artwork and liner notes just to confirm these are actually five white guys. The percussion is outstanding, featuring copious helpings of native hard drums and other acoustic percussion. This helps to make up for production that is less than stellar, with the mixing of the album in particular coming across as haphazard at times. The vocals tend to be unevenly amplified, and at times the saxophone and especially the flute get buried in the mix.

Other than a pretty decent rendition (except again for the poor engineering) of George Harrison’s “Here Comes the Sun” these are all original compositions, with only drummer Braam Malherbe receiving no specific credits for either arrangements or lyrics.

The album’s high point is clearly the opening epic title track, a seventeen minute-plus wandering tune that shifts between blasts of guitar, acoustic percussion breaks, wispy flute work, multi-part harmonies, and occasional spoken-word passages. There is also more than a few points where the band appears to resort to improvisational jamming not unlike some of the tamer examples of Caribbean reggae.

Otherwise the songs are brief, decent but un-ambitious, and quite steeped in vocal harmonies and percussive syncopation. There’s nothing to really make the music exceptional in any way, other than the fact it provides one of the few available examples of modern popular music from a country that never managed to export much of that during this period. I can’t say this is really a must-have piece, but it has some interest value to students of modern folk and ‘world’ music. Three stars is the best I can give this album in all fairness, although if your progressive music tastes lean away from lots of acoustic percussion and layered folk vocals that might be too high.

Gabriel Bondage - 1977 - Another Trip To Earth

Gabriel Bondage 
Another Trip To Earth

01. Take It On A Dare (6:03)
02. Long Time (3:47)
03. Living In The City (4:12)
04. Birth Of The Unconquered Sun (5:33)
05. In The Daylight (4:06)
06. No Winners (5:02)
07. All I Know (3:53)
08. Those Games (3:55)
09. Fallen Angels (11:11)

- Rex Bundy / lead vocals, guitar, 12-string guitar, drums, piano, effects
- Tony Stram / vocals, bass, keyboards, programming
- Larry Biernacki / vocals, guitar, mandolin
- Bill Wisniewski / lead vocals, backing vocals, Saxes, Flute & Clarinet
- Ron Schwartz / piano, synthesizer, Hammond organ, programming

This isn't as bad as the reviews on here led me to believe.  It's simple and not very exciting, but solidly enjoyable throughout.  Over and over again the lead singer's voice and use of synthesizers made me think that this is a long lost Ween album, or at least what Ween would sound like if they took themselves seriously (which luckily they don't).

Gabriel Bondage - 1975 - Angel Dust

Gabriel Bondage
Angel Dust

01. Babylon
02. First Stone in a Pyramid
03. You and the Wind
04. Take My Eyes
05. Ladies and Gentlemen
06. Bondage
-Rust Flakes
-Implosion Islands
07. Island
08. Sing Me a Song

Rex Bundy (lead vocals, guitar, 12-string guitar, drums, piano, effects)
Tony Stram (vocals, bass, keyboards, programming),
Larry Biernacki (vocals, guitar, mandolin),
Bill Wisniewski (lead vocals, backing vocals, saxes,flute,clarinet)
Ron Schwartz (piano, synthesizer, Hammond organ, programming)

Having delved briefly into the history it seems Gabriel Bondage was a Chicago-based outfit, active between the years 1973-81, that formed when lead singer Rex Bundy recruited bassist Tony Stram from a local Pink Floyd tribute band. In their early days they supported Rush and a couple of their personnel had also played with future members of Chicago. They actually cite Chicago as one of their main influences along with the likes of Genesis and ELP but just don't expect anything like that here. Their own music is very folksy, mainstream even, and personally I think they sound more like a soft-prog Crosby, Stills & Nash than anything.

'Angel Dust' was the first of their two albums in the mid-seventies, the second being 'Another Trip To Earth' which was released in three different colours of vinyl. A third album was planned but had to be shelved when the Dharma label folded and, in spite of Dharma's collapse, the label refused a buy-out of the band's contract by Columbia. Both albums hint at a blending of the sacred and the profane with the colloquial references to drugs in their titles and the religious subject matter of some of the lyrics.

For example 'Babylon' is a song that to me portrays the deterioration in man's character with the Babylon of Revelation serving as a symbol of the US. The opening bars remind me of 'Sandman' by America (I was sad to hear that Dan Peek had died at the age of 60 in July this year) except it soon gets spacey with wind effects, saxophone and droning synthesizer. It has a majestic air that's filled with some rather overwrought vocals, and these give it a theatrical dimension that suits the theme of human perspective set against that of a supernatural power.

'You And The Wind' is vaguely reminiscent of Simon & Garfunkel's 'Parsley, Sage, Rosemary & Thyme' complete with mandolin, harpsichord and flute, while 'Ladies And Gentlemen' progresses from its subdued CSN beginnings of acoustic guitar and spidery flute to surging Mellotron that's perhaps in imitation of The Moody Blues. These guys seem to have been aiming for some kind of ambitious English-American crossbreed but there's not quite the former's distinctive harmonies or the latter's cosmicism, nice though the music is.

The West Coast spirit is completely abandoned on the free-roaming terror of 'Bondage', a chaotic-sounding piece and the only track that lives up to the kind of PCP-induced nightmare hinted at in the album title. It sounds like a battle being fought deep in the psyche and involving malevolent sax and aggressive riffs. Apart from this track 'Angel Dust' isn't exactly overburdened with progressive moments and the religious nature of several songs may put some listeners off. However if you're looking for music that inhabits a melodic world somewhere between prog rock and folksy West Coast then the fat lady has well and truly sung.

Atlantis Philharmonic - 1974 - Atlantis Philharmonic

Atlantis Philharmonic
Atlantis Philharmonic

01. Atlantis (5:15)
02. Woodsman (7:36)
03. Death man (5:27)
04. Fly-the-night (4:36)
05. My friend (3:59)
06. Atlas (8:15)

- Joe DiFazio / organ, piano, electronic piano, harpsichord, Mellotron, Moog synthesizer, guitar, bass, foot bass pedals, lead - and backing vocals
- Royce Gibson / drums, tympani, bass drum, gong, ratchet, concert snare and backing vocals

This USA duo formed in Cleveland during the early/mid 70's by Royce Gibson on drums and the multi instrumentalist Joe DiFazio on everything else. Their style is mostly the blending of Symphonic influences like CAMEL, ELP, etc with some Fusion and a bit of the sound of the MOODY BLUES and Hard Rock by moments.

Their first and only LP is the 1974 self titled album released by the label "Deutsche Harmonia Mundi". the eclectic sound of this album has very characteristic features like the excellent vocals close to a blend of Psyche and Pop plus a hard edged guitar that reminds of Early ELP or THE NICE with a touch of CAMEL.

But this isn't all, in tracks as "Friends" we can finds some heavy rock influence similar to URIAH HEEP or DEEP PURPLE, others closer to ATOMIC ROOSTER like "Atlantis", plus atmospheric touches like in the incredible "Woodsman" that also blends some Jazzy leanings, strange but this last track reminds me a bit of the KING CRIMSON's masterpiece In the Court of the Crimson King"

The lush keyboard arrangements including piano, organ and mellotron and the varied mixture of sounds and styles are perfect for the taste of the most demanding Progressive Rock fans

This eclectic album with a clear classical orientation (As their name clearly isuggest) is considered one of the earliest examples of USA Progressive rock and deserves to be listened by progheads.

This is a decent album from yet another of the scores of forgotten seventies regional prog bands whose legacies today are not much more than a few website mentions and often stripped-down CD reissues of their old music. The region in this case was Cleveland, Ohio, which had more of a hard rock and R&B scene in the days Atlantis Philharmonic were active; and the group was really just a duo. The regional influences are somewhat reflected in the band’s music, which while unquestionably influenced by ELP and possibly Yes, but also weren’t afraid to crank up the amps and throw down some heavy guitar riffs as well (check out “Death Man” and “Atlas” for good examples of this).

This album also deviates from the ‘classic’ symphonic rock sound with its rather extensive use of vocals, something that certainly Yes were known for but in general tended to be deemphasized with the more pompous symph prog bands of that day.

The music here is certainly not particularly original or groundbreaking, but the two musicians have to be acknowledged for the way they were able to leverage multiple studio tracks to lay down a very ‘full’ symphonic sound with only two sets of hands. Drummer Royce Gibson handles all the percussion including gongs, bells and the like, while keyboardist Joe DiFazio also lays down the guitar and bass tracks. Both men sing on every song, although DiFazio tends to be the lead voice with Gibson offering backing harmonies or in some cases simple wordless vocal contrasts.

DiFazio had a wide range of keyboards at his disposal for the album including a mellotron, which unfortunately he doesn’t use to the extent I personally would have liked for a mid- seventies prog album. Over-the-top and pretentious was en vogue at the time, and by laying off DiFazio leaves the band appearing to be just a tad underachieving.

Otherwise this is a decent record, but again – nothing earth-shattering. A little brief as well, clocking it at around thirty-five minutes. The band seems to have had a modest amount of success with touring engagements and scattered mentions in trade magazines from the 1974-1975 timeframe. I’m not sure exactly when they broke up, but I do know there was another album recorded with a third band member that was not released at the time (I’ve read it is available on CD today but haven’t seen it personally).