Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Mark Williams - ZNZ (1990) plus Bonus Track

(New Zealand 1970 - Present)
Mark Williams was the face of NZ pop in the late 1970s with the runaway success of two No.1 singles ‘Yesterday Was Just The Beginning of My Life’ (1975) and ‘It Doesn’t Matter Anymore’ (1977). These radio-friendly singles came from three albums produced by Lower Hutt-based HMV in-house producer Alan Galbraith – Mark Williams (1975), Sweet Trials (1976) and Taking It All In Stride (1977). They charted No.2, No.14 and No.14 respectively. Tracks from these pop-soul albums are now viewed as rare groove classics by soul music fans.

In music magazine Hot Licks (no.19 1975) Mark Williams explained his easy-going, working relationship with Alan Galbraith, his HMV producer:

“Alan sent up a whole lot of material and I had a listen through them and picked out which ones I wanted to do and which ones I didn’t. And the ones I didn’t want to do we did.”

Williams was commenting on the least successful of his three albums, the rockier Sweet Trials.
Already, at the age of 21, Williams was intent on leaving the country. “I don’t want to stay in New Zealand much longer, basically because I want to learn a lot.”  Williams had found that being a “star” in his homeland was not all fun. His version of “glam” – he has since called “drag” – “The reaction was either absolute adoration or total disgust. Complete opposites. I was very scared of what it created. That’s one of the reasons I left New Zealand, because it was just too scary.” 

When RipItUp spoke to Williams in 1977, Alan Galbraith, the record producer had taken on the role of manager and reiterated the need to move on – “If we’re going to stay in these pubs much longer, we’re all going to die.” Galbraith was critical of NZ talent managers, “All they are is booking agents.” The producer is probably referring to old school managers like Lew Pryme who discovered Williams playing in Dargaville band Face. After booking Face, Pryme encouraged Williams to leave the band and appear as a resident singer on the 1974 TV pop show Free Ride.

By the end of 1977, Williams and Galbraith were both in Sydney. The singer would soon be enjoying working as a recording session backing vocalist and Galbraith joined CBS to work in A&R.
Williams did not record another album until Life After Dark in 1981. The CBS album made no impact on either side of the Tasman.

In 1990 Williams returned to the charts on both sides of the Tasman with the single ‘Show No Mercy’ for Albert Productions, under the direction of Vanda & Young. The single was released under both his band’s name Boy Rocking and his own name, reaching the chart position of No.9 in both countries, and  was chosen to launch the 1990 Rugby League Grand Final. The single gave him unprecedented national exposure and went platinum.

Mark then released the LP 'ZNZ' in the same year as a follow up to his first Australian album 'Life After Dark', the albums being released 10  years apart.  The album reached number 44 on the National Australian Charts and a second single, "Fix of Love"/"Your Love", was released but didn't fare as well, reaching number 37. A third and final single, "Spell Is Broken"/"Fool No More", failed to chart.

During the 1990s Williams would combine trips home to see family with a booking at Auckland’s Sky City Casino bar, fronting a band that included funky bass player Max Stowers. The singer would perform his hits but also excelled on Stevie Wonder’s ‘Master Blaster (Jammin')’, Bob Marley’s ‘Is This Love?’ and Aretha Franklin’s live arrangement of ‘Love The One You’re With’. [extract from Audio Culture]

Since 2005 Williams has been the lead singer for Todd Hunter’s reformed Dragon touring both Australia and New Zealand.

The Vanda & Young Connection
The Vanda and Young hit machine had enough energy left for one last hurrah. It was 1990 and Harry and George had a batch of songs ready to go, including one called "Show No Mercy", which they had earmarked as a single. All it needed was the right voice.

Auckland-born singer Mark Williams once had a No. 1 hit with a Vanda/Young song way back in the 1970s. "Yesterday was Just the Beginning of My Life" is considered a classic in New Zealand to this day. The 1980s were relatively quiet for Mark, who was living and working in Australia and providing backing vocals for Renee Geyer, Tim Finn, Jenny Morris and lan Moss. His claim to fame during this period was as the voice behind the theme for the long-running Australian soap opera Home and Away.

"Harry came to see me in a show that I was doing with Doug Parkinson in a theatre restaurant in Sydney about the Motown story," reveals Mark. 'They were going round looking at male singers to see who was right. Immediately as I sang the song, I knew it was tailored to me, I knew it. It felt absolutely natural, some of the inflections, some of the words, some of the other stuff added into it, it just felt natural. The album was titled ZNZ (pronounced Zee En Zee), a palindromic reference to the singer's New Zealand heritage. The single "Show No Mercy" was a Top 10 hit in both Australia and New Zealand. Williams performed it to a television audience of six million at Sydney's Rugby League grand final.

A second album, 'Mind Over Matter', was released in 1992. As they had done with John Paul Young years earlier, Vanda and Young encouraged Williams to contribute some songs to this album. The Vanda/Young single, "We Can Dream", was inspired by the Rodney King race riots in Los Angeles. Disdain for world leaders had been a regular theme in their songs over the years: "The leaders all will one day understand, and they oughta understand."

Williams found Vanda and Young to be hard taskmasters but great teachers: "They pitched the songs so high for me that I used to get terrible headaches. Then I had to go and do it live! It was all very driving, very high and very hard. They encouraged me to write and taught me what you have to do to stay in the industry." [extract from 'Vanda & Young:Inside Australia's Hit Factory' by John Tait, 2010 p200-201]
This post consists of FLACs and MP3's (320kps) ripped from CD and includes full album artwork. Note that the vinyl release of this album is somewhat rare and I have yet to sight a copy. As a bonus I have also included the 'extended' version of  "Show No Mercy" which was also ripped from CD.
Although not my favourite NZ artist and still respect Mark for his achievements and consider this album to be his best release.
One interesting fact that I discovered while researching this post is that Mark Williams sang the theme to Home And Away (Aussie TV series), along with Karen Boddington, released in 1989.
See below
01 Show No Mercy   4:21
02 Fix Of Love   3:44
03 Spell Is Broken   4:07
04 Heavy Woman     4:12
05 Good Thing         4:12
06 Love Electric       3:45
07 Shanghai Lily      4:34
08 You're So Cool   3:04
09 Feel For The Night   4:01
10 Fool No More        3:32
11 Show No Mercy (Extended Version) 7:39
Mark William FLAC Link (305Mb)
Mark Williams MP3 Link (101Mb)  New Link 16/09/2018

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