Monday, June 4, 2018

Albatross - 1973 - A Breath of Fresh Air

A Breath of Fresh Air

01. Full Moon 6:06
02. The Drowning Song 3:57
03. Escher's Door 4:47
04. Drop Me A Line 3:20
05. Bouzouki Boogie 4:09
06. A Breath Of Fresh Air 4:19
07. The Games Cards Play 3:05
08. Nimbin Stopover 3:33
09. Mermaid 4:42
10. A Message To You 3:00
11. Seashell Secrets 3:08
12. Wings Of The Albatross 2:27
13. The Angel And The Boy 3:00

Classical Guitar – Glenn Cardier (tracks: B7)
Drums – Russell Dunlop (tracks: B1)
Drums, Percussion, Glockenspiel, Backing Vocals – Kim Bryant
Electric Bass [Fender Bass] – Peter Barron
Electric Guitar – Russell Hinton (tracks: B1)
Harmonica – Chris Blanchflower (tracks: B2, B3)
Lead Guitar, Slide Guitar – Gary Fredericks
Lead Vocals, Acoustic Guitar, Electric Guitar, Bouzouki – Lindsay Bjerre
Organ – Keith Greig (tracks: B1)
Piano – George Almanza

Albatross formed in September 1972, after the split of legendary Sydney band Tamam Shud. The initial lineup was a trio, comprising Bjerre and Baron (both ex-Shud) and drummer Kim Bryant (ex-Country Radio).

While bands like The Aztecs and The La De Das and were mining the rich veins of blues, boogie and heavy rock, Albatross took a different tack, exploring a mellower, acoustically-based style that was a development from the quieter side of Tamam Shud's Shud's progressive/psychedelic sound. Albatross' music incorporated elements of folk and country music, as were a number of other contemporary Australian groups like Country Radio, The Flying Circus and The Dingoes. Lyrically, the band's material continued Bjerre's concerns with sprituality, nature and environmental issues.

The band's home-base was on Sydney's northern beaches, and during the year of its existence Albatross played regularly at the Memorial Hall in the Sydney beachside suburb of Mona Vale. At New Year 1972-73 Albatross played at the ill-fated Bungool Festival near Windor, NSW, which was poorly attended due conflict with the local council, which led to teh first day of the event being cancelled.

In early 1973 the band was augmented by Lindsay's wife Simone on vocals and in April they were joined by multi-instrumentalist Richard Lockwood, formerly of Tully, who had also played with the last version of Tamam Shud. This augmented lineup recorded the group's only LP, A Breath Of Fresh Air (Warner Reprise), which also included session contributions from Gary Frederick (slide guitar), Pirana organist Keith Greig and Country Radio's Chris Blanchflower (harmonica). It's a fine album, and long overdue for reissue. Bjerre's unusual voice is perhaps an acquired taste but the album is full of excellent material, beautifully played and very well recorded. The pacy opening track "Full Moon" is a road song that opens with an innovative string arrangement, moving into a heavier style that recall Tamam Shud, and it's decorated with some very tasty "Layla"-style slide guitar from Gary Fredericks. Other highlights include the rollicking "Bouzouki Boogie" and "Nimbin Stopover", a commemmoration in song of the 1973 Aquarius Festival, which features the inimitable harmonica stylings of Blanchflower.

Another sought-after Warner album from this period, Total Union by Band Of Light, has been recently reissued by Gil Matthews' Aztec Music label, so there is some hope that the Albatross album will eventually be remastered and re-released on CD. Meanwhile, the original LP -- which presumably sold few copies -- has become highly collectible, with copies now changing hands for over $100.

Albatross gained important exposure with a prestigious support spot on Frank Zappa's his first Australian tour in July 1973, but the band did not last out the year, and had already broken up by the time the LP was released in November.

Lindsay Bjerre spent the next few years pursuing spiritual interests and travelling; he also wrote a (never-performed) rock opera and studied mime in England with theatrical legend Lindsay Kemp. He re-emerged in 1977, with a new performance persona, simply called Bjerre, and with support from Countdown he scored a surprise hit with the single "She Taught Me How To Love Again".

Aim - 1974 - Aim for the Highest

Aim for the Highest

01. Aim For The Highest 2:47
02. My Friend 4:16
03. Hollywood 2:02
04. You Need Me 4:22
05. Seattle 3:37
06. I'm There 4:04
07. Morning Magic 2:18
08. How Are We To Live 2:56
09. Endlessly 2:59
10. 4 O'Clock Rock 3:18
11. We Can Make It 3:05

Michael W. Overly - lead & background vocals, guitars, flutes
Patrick O' Conner - bass
Warren 'Bugs' Pemberton - drums
Loren Newkirk - electric and acoustic piano, organ, harpsichord
Alan Estes - congas, background vocals

Recorded and mixed at Wally Heider's Hollywood

There are elements of Steely Dan in here as well as the Doobie Brothers, but vocally I hear a hint of Stevie Wonder in Michael Overly's performance. Add to this a smattering of a jazz influence (listen to Overly's scat vocals on 'You Need Me' and Loren Newkirk's electric piano work throughout), and you have one very interesting album. The predominant mood of 'Aim For The Highest' is one of sunny, West-Coast positivity. 

A very cool logo on Aim's only LP and easy to spot in cut-out bins for many years; Aim was headed up by guitarist Michael W. Overly who made a name for himself as a solo artist and later in the group Christopher Cloud with Tommy Boyce formerly of the bubblegum songwriting duo Boyce & Hart. Following the 1973 LP 'Blown Away', Christopher Cloud split with Overly forming Aim shortly thereafter and hitting the road with Steely Dan, Blue Oyster Cult, The Guess Who and BTO in support of 'Aim For the Highest'.

With the band's photo surrounded by what appears to be angel wings and lyric content on several tracks that could be construed as 'religious', I imagine this was tough album to market. The title track sets the tone with a loud Ohio Players influenced funk-up, turning it down for the lazy R&B of 'My Friend' and 'Hollywood' which checks-in as side one's best cut matched with the poppy 'Morning Magic' happily recalling the first Steely Dan album. 'Endlessly' is a nice classically based ballad which includes harpsichord, an instrument.

I love this album. It's so high energy that it's hard not to be infected by the enthusiasm in the grooves. I can't sing to save my soul, but that doesn't stop me from trying to keep up with Michael Overly's atmospheric, Soaring vocal range. To this day I think his guitar playing / style and vocals are some of the most unique that I've ever heard. The rest of the band are no Slouch either, they're all excellent. The drummer is exceptionally impressive and the bass player lays down a very solid foundation for the soaring guitar and vocal work.

I believe there's a possibility that this album is a "Christian" rock album due to some of the references made in the lyrics, but the message is so subtle that unless you're really paying attention to the lyrics you'd never know. At any rate listening to this album is pretty much a spiritual experience anyhow so that's not a detracting point.

These days Michael Overly lives in Dayton Ohio and writes some of the best instruction guides for guitar that you can buy. If you play, check out 12 Tone Music Publishing...

A Paradise Is Born - 1980 - A Paradise Is Born

A Paradise Is Born 
A Paradise Is Born

01. A Paradise Is Born 6:37
02. Woody Woodcock 2:02
03. Wind 3:08
04. Freundschaft 3:09
05. We Are A Nation 4:50
06. Teufelsspiel 4:13
07. Speaking To A Bitch 3:02
08. Blaue Stunde 2:50
09. In My Mind 5:00
10. Gegenströmung 3:15
11. Erkenntnis 5:36

Often listed as an album by Richard Abt, but in fact Abt only wrote 6 songs out of 11. The rest are different musicians' contributions, which implies that this is the work of the band rather than a solo project.

German folky with dual male/female vocals, that sounds more English in execution (and language of course). Parallels to Carol Of Harvest can be found, but without the progressive elements. Some nice electric leads. File next to Stone Angel.

Big-time private label rarity from Germany, recorded in 1980 and released on the tiny TTS label - very very few people even KNOW about this one, and, needless to say, it's never been reissued in any format. The artist is either Richard Abt or A Paradise is Born, I've seen it offered as both, although Richard's name is only mentioned on the record label. Musically, it's a fantastic mix of acoustic folk and great echoed-out acid rock, most notably on the killer "We Are A Nation," which pits an electric violin against some manic flying Hendrix guitar. Other cuts are more subdued and folky, like the male/female campfire singalong with the very unfortunate title "Speaking To A Bitch," which also boasts the refrain "Your life is a dead life!" Obviously, even though it's of German origin, the lyrics are almost exclusively in English, and it's obviously been influenced by the early 70's English folk psych giants. I've seen it compared to Carol of Harvest without the progressive influence, or Stone Angel, and I've seen it selling in one of the biggest rare LP collector's lists for $400. It's certainly VERY rare, and someone needs to do a reissue of it soon.

Anyone out there with more info?