Monday, June 14, 2010

Sebastian Hardie - More Moments (Compilation)

(Australian 1968-1977, 1998, 2003)
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By and large, symphonic rock has not flourished in Australia. Sebastian Hardie was the country's first and foremost symphonic rock band. During the mid-1970s, the band enjoyed considerable success with the album 'Four Moments', but since that time has been largely forgotten in the land of Oz. Yet in European, Japanese and American progressive rock circles, the highly revered 'Four Moments' and its follow-up 'Windchase' are considered to be classics of the genre.
Graham Ford formed the Sebastian Hardie Blues Band in 1967. The band played R&B and soul covers and experienced several line-up changes. The line-up included Ford, Dennis Laughlin (vocals; later in the original version of Sherbet), Dave Waddington (vocals), Neil Williamson (organ), John Bellamy (bass), Syd Richmond (drums) and Richard Lillico (drums). The Sebastian Hardie Blues Band became Sebastian Hardie in 1968 with the arrival of singer Jon English and the Plavsic brothers. All three musicians were students at Sydney's Cabramatta High School. The band went semi-professional, working the same suburban dance circuit as The Affair, House of Bricks, The Clik and dozens of other Sydney pop bands.
Throughout 1969, Sebastian Hardie worked as backing band for rock'n'roll legend Johnny O'Keefe. At the end of 1971, Sebastian Hardie broke up when English accepted the role of Judas Iscariot in the Australian stage production of the rock musical Jesus Christ Superstar. A year later, Ford and the Plavsics re-formed Sebastian Hardie with Steve Dunne (vocals, keyboards). At that point, the band was still playing pop covers on the dance/club circuit, with little indication of future directions. Visiting English producer Larry Page (Daniel Boone, Kincade) was impressed enough, however, to produce the band's debut single "All Right Now/The Professional" (September 1973), released by RCA. One month after the single appeared, 19-year-old Mario Millo replaced Ford on lead guitar. Millo had been playing the Sydney dance circuit since 1969 with his band The Clik. Millo played on Sebastian Hardie's second single, "Day After Day/Mermaid on the Sand" (April 1974).
By that stage, Millo had begun to write original, highly orchestrated and inventive material which helped usher in a much-needed change of direction for Sebastian Hardie. The catalyst in the band's transformation from accomplished dance-pop band to fully fledged symphonic rock band was the decision to play a 20-minute arrangement of Mike Oldfield's popular `Tubular Bells'. Polydor Records signed the band on the strength of Millo's new material. The band supported international visitors Lou Reed and Osibisa on their respective Australian tours. At the end of 1974, classically trained musician Toivo Pilt (ex-Forever) replaced Dunne on keyboards and Millo took over lead vocals. Sebastian Hardie upstaged Dutch jazz-rock veterans Focus on their June 1975 Australian tour. With the band's increased profile, the album Four Moments and the single "Rosanna/Openings (edit)" (both August 1975) appeared to strong critical acclaim. The album attained gold status (35000 copies sold) after peaking at #13 on the national album chart; "Rosanna" reached #31.
Featuring seamless, dramatic arrangements and impeccable musicianship, Four Moments revealed the influence of European progressive rock bands like Yes, King Crimson, Genesis and Focus. It contained just three tracks, the side-long, four suite "Four Moments", the sensual, melancholic "Rosanna" and the majestic "Openings". Millo contributed some of his most epic and graceful guitar playing to the instrumental "Openings". Mercury issued Four Moments in the USA and Japan. At the end of 1975, Sebastian Hardie undertook a very successful 63-date Australian concert tour. The band's second album, Windchase, appeared in February 1976 to coincide with another national tour as support to US band Santana. Like its predecessor, Windchase boasted superb playing and well-crafted progressive rock, but it failed to live up to expectations. It produced the single "Life, Love and Music/Hello Phimistar" (February 1976).
In June 1976, the Plavsic brothers left the band amid a flurry of ill-feeling. Millo and Pilt immediately recruited a new rhythm section consisting of  Doug Nethercote (bass; ex-Clockwork Strawberry) and Doug Bligh (drums; by then ex-Stuart & McKay), but a legal wrangle over ownership of the Sebastian Hardie name prevented the band from playing live. Peter Plavsic had registered the name Sebastian Hardie and therefore claimed legal right to its use. Millo argued because it was his music that had established the band's identity he was entitled to the name. The Plavsic brothers emerged as the successful party in the ensuing court case, and Millo was forced to rename his band Windchase. The brothers never did use the Sebastian Hardie name for their new band as intended. They recruited Graham Wardrop (guitar), John Bushell (guitar) and Rick Mellick (keyboards) in order to back rock'n'roll revival duo The Studs.
Windchase entered the studio during January 1977 to record a new album. Nethercote left halfway through the album session to be replaced by journeyman bass player Duncan McGuire (ex-Doug Parkinson In Focus, King Harvest, Friends, Ayers Rock). By the time the album 'Symphinity' appeared in June, McGuire and Bligh had left to be replaced by the returning Nethercote and Ralph Cooper respectively. 'Symphinity' saw the band moving into heavier jazz-fusion territory (akin to Al Di Meola), but it was not a chart success. It produced the singles "Glad to Be Alive/No Scruples" (May 1977) and "Flight Call/Horsemen to Symphinity" (October). Millo took the band on the road, but in the meantime the emergent punk and new wave movement had relegated bands like Windchase to the dinosaur scrap heap. Windchase played its last gig to 60 people in a Melbourne pub during October 1977.
Mario Millo went on to work with Jon English on the highly successful Against the Wind soundtrack, before issuing two fine, but neglected, solo albums, Epic III and Human Games. He then embarked on a successful career in television and movie soundtrack production. In 1994, the organisers of the annual US progressive rock gathering ProgFest invited Sebastian Hardie to appear on the bill. Although Millo, Pilt and the Plavsic brothers had not played together since 1976, they flew to Los Angeles in November for the festival. By all accounts, Sebastian Hardie delivered a brilliant set to which the audience responded with a standing ovation.
With overseas interest in Sebastian Hardie still strong throughout the late 1990s, the Avalon label in Japan and the Musea label in France reissued the band's back catalogue on CD. The Japanese reissues of Four Moments and Windchase included a bonus track apiece, "Day after Day" and "Since You Left Me" respectively. The band's live set from the 1994 US ProgFest also finally saw the light of day on CD, as Live in L. A. The Avalon and Musea labels also issued Mario Millo's highly regarded solo album, Epic III, on CD for the first time.
The full Sebastian Hardie / Windchase calalogue is available in CD from Mario Millo's website, along with his solo ventures.
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If you are interested in reading interviews conducted with Mario Millo, see The Progressor and an interview conducted with Sebastian Hardie while they supported YES on tour in 2003
This compilation album is a mixture of rare Sebastian Hardie tracks (currently unavailable on any official release to the best of my knowledge). Their first three singles (thanks to Tom Mix Oz Music) were taken from Vinyl at 256kps, the 1998 live track ripped from YouTube at 256kps and the 2003 Vodaphone live tracks (thanks to Russell Chambers at Midoztouch) ripped from cassette at 128kps - but still excellent quality. Full album artwork is included (adapted from a Rock Legend's vinyl cover). The black & white photos in this posting were sourced from Mario Millo's website (with thanks).
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Track Listing 

01 - All Right Now (Single 1973)
02 - Day After Day (Single 1974)
03 - Mermaid On The Sand (Single 1974)
04 - Horsemen To Symphinity (Mario Millo & Men From Mars Live 1998)
05 - Four Moments (Live at Vodaphone Arena 2003)

06 - Rosanna (Live at Vodaphone Arena 2003)
07 - Openings (Live at Vodaphone Arena 2003)

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Early Band Members:
Jon English - Vocals, rhythm guitar
Graham Ford - lead guitar
Peter Plavsic - bass
Alex Plavsic - drums
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Later Band Members:
Mario Millo - Guitar, Mandolin, Vocals
Peter Plavsic - Bass Guitar
Alex Plavsic - Drums / Percussion
Toivo Pilt - Keyboards

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Sebastian Hardie Link (82Mb)

10 comments:

  1. another classic :-) great stuff keep up the Aussie rock

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  2. Thanks Skids - glad I made ya day and always happy to share these gems.

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  3. Hi AussieRock,
    I'm the Doug Nethercote mentioned in the Sebastian Hardie article. It has been written that I am from New Zealand for many years, I think an assumption made as a result of a Trade Mag interview where I spoke about having a New Zealand girlfriend, the reason I left during the recording of Symphinity to go to NZ, where in fact I am Australian, and proudly so. I was born in Brisbane on May 14 1951.

    I'm impressed by the diligence you show in your information gathering, and even found some content of which I was not aware regarding Seb Hardie.

    In the interest of you having even more detail to consider, I started playing electric guitar as an 11yo, and graduated from the Kleghorn Academy of Music in Brisbane the same year as Glenn Wheatley.

    I honed my skills playing Clapton, Stones, Deep Purple, Beatles, Pink Floyd, Led Zep etc... in Brisbane bands until I was recruited (along with a wonderful young drummer and multi instrumentalist John Barns) by English YES band 'Clockwork Strawberry'. They were mid 30s and very well practiced, and there began the deep learning curve that would eventually find me
    in such a great band as Sebastian Hardie.

    Clockwork Strawberry toured around the country until we reached Perth, where we were performing up to 13 gigs a week (5 pub 7-10>5 club 11.30-3AMers and a Sunday arvo at the Sands Hotel) for almost 3 years. The Perth live music scene was alive, with many big pub gigs and quite a few very large late night Clubs. I then headed back to Brisbane, where John Barns and I formed a 3 piece 'Emerson Lake & Palmer' style cover band in which I was performing Gtr/Bass/Lead-harmony vocals. After touring up the Qld Coast it was going so well we decided to go on the road proper. It was in Canberra at a Soccer Club gig that we supported Stuart & McKay. They were terrific in their treatment of us, and it is there that I first met Doug Bligh the drummer.

    Symphony petered out, and I ended up back in Perth working with Clockwork again. There I received a call from my mother in Brisbane that Mario Millo was trying to contact me. I called him in Sydney, and upon my acceptance, being invited to join Sebastian Hardie, he told me to go to Phonogram in Perth where copies of Four Moments and Windchase were waiting. I collected them Friday arvo, learned them in their entirety over that weekend, and boarded a flight to Sydney Monday. We rehearsed at Mario's studio at Seven Hills 3 times that week, and on the Fri night played our first big pub gig. That was a dream come true for me. Playing what I considered to be real music. It began a long musical and personal association between Mario and I that has not been much documented, and I have to say, even considering the nastiness of the court case, it was a wonderful on-stage musical experience.

    So you are aware, it was not due to lack of interest in the form that ended the band, but that we did not have the funds available to outbid for the Seb Hardie name. The band continued to play full houses for some time, but because of the name change, the fee was a fraction of what the SH name would command. This impacted on all aspects of the operation, so in a sense the 'owners' of the name exacted their revenge, but at the cost to Australia of a band that I believe could have gone on to bigger and better things. Only my opinion of course, but it is based upon the reaction to the Symphinity album within the music industry while I was living and working in Los Angeles.

    I could include so much more detail, history, and a clear definition of how the music was arranged and rehearsed, but it's enough to say that the obvious is true; without the composition, musicianship, determination, and stage presence/guitar virtuosity of Mario Millo, Sebastian Hardie would have remained a relatively unknown band, again in my opinion.

    Thanks for caring :)

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    1. Hi Doug
      How could I have missed this wonderful account by you? - I've only just stumbled upon it now following up an issue with the post's link, so my deepest apologies.
      This additional insight into the Sebastian Hardie story is both intriguing and priceless, so thank you.
      Oh, and you have now caught my attention with another two bands to followup - Clockwork Strawberry and Symphony.
      Finally, thank you for your kind words about my blog, and trust that this post has done justice for one of Australia's best, yet most highly underrated bands.
      PS> I've amended the reference about being a New Zealander

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  4. filefactory made wrong files ...
    try again and again, but ...

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    1. Hi 367
      All looks OK when I go to select the download, and shows correct RAR file.
      The only thing to watch out for is the additional Downloader software that Filefactory wants you to download at same time (creating an EXE file, a format that potentially has viruses attached). You need to untick this option at bottom before Downloading - perhaps this is what you were referring to.
      Good luck

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  5. Is it possible for a reup, link keeps timing out after I hit download.

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    Replies
    1. OK - I've added an alternative link for you with another host

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  6. If I've posted this before, apologies, but I first saw SH right in the heyday of the mid-70's, either at a college/ Uni gig, or an external gig, in fact I seem to recall that our Swinburne Student Union sourced some "student price/ subsidised" tickets to Focus, and which SH supported (1975), and I was always an afficionado of "Four Moments" Anyway, fast forward to 1995 (20 years), and I am working on the Gold Coast, and walk in to a cafe at Main Beach, and read the cafe's business card which says "Karen and Peter Plavsic". So I ask in my naivety if the Peter Plavsic is any relation to the Sebastian Hardie guys, and to which the woman answers "No, he IS the Sebastian Hardie Peter Plavisic". Wow! moment. So someone arranged for me to either meet Peter and/ or for a copy of "Four Moments" on CD to be left there for me (serial # CD001), and which I thought was a generous and thoughtful gesture; and, like a lot of "watershed" pieces of music/ musical pieces, "Four Moments", in its creation, arrangement/s and playing of, certainly IMHO "stands the test of time", and is a lasting tribute to the players and producer/s at the time. And I never did get to buy a copy of "Windchase", but that can be a 2016 "goal".

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    1. How lucky were you Tony - I'm very envious. Windchase can be purchased from Mario Millo's website.
      I have all 3 LP's on vinyl and they are some of my most prized items in my record collection
      Thanks for sharing your 'magic moment' with us Tony

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