Thursday, December 31, 2020

Al Di Meola - Tour De Force - Live (1982)

 (U.S 1974 - Present)

Fusion guitarist extraordinaire     Al Di Meola has entertained audiences for decades since releasing his debut album Land of The Midnight Sun in 1976. From his work with John McLaughlin and Paco de Lucia, and the Rite of Strings trio with bassist Clarke and violinist Jean-Luc Ponty to his time with fusion supergroup Return to Forever, Al Di Meola’s brilliant technique on both acoustic and electric guitars has afforded him regal status among the hordes of fretboard fanatics worldwide.

Al Di Meola's "Tour De Force-Live" was recorded live at the Tower Theatre in Philadelphia on February 4, 1982, and was the first time that the musicians on the album had played together "live" in concert. "Tour De Force-Live" features Jan Hammer (Keyboards), Anthony Jackson (bass) and Steve Gadd (drums), among others, who all contribute to an outstanding version of "Elegant Gypsy Suite" and a superb take on "Crusin'".

I have both live albums by Al Di Meola, this one and 'Friday Night In San Francisco' (which is a collaboration between Di Meola and Paco De Lucia and John McLaughlin). The two albums are pretty much each others opposites. While Friday Night In San Francisco was all an acoustic album featuring only the three guitarists with no other musicians backing them up, Tour De Force is a full on band performance. This means lots of drums, percussion, keyboards and bass guitar, all excellently played. That alone makes this album a lot more progressive than the San Francisco album. However, a combination of the two - an album showing both the electric side and the acoustic side of Al Di Meola would have been far more interesting, giving us a full picture of the guitarists (early) career.

The running time of this whole album is only just above 39 minutes and I am certain it does not feature a full show. In fact, Friday Night In San Francisco was even shorter. I think this album should have been much longer and featured a full show (requiring a double album set I know). 

I have no idea what other songs featured in Di Meola's repertoire at that time, but I would have liked more material from Elegant Gypsy and Casino as well as something from Land Of Midnight Sun and maybe even a couple of Return To Forever cuts. 

To be fair it is probably not right to judge this album by what is missing. What actually is here is very good! The pieces chosen for this live album were taken from the studio albums Elegant Gypsy, Casino and Electric Rendezvous with two numbers not available on any of his studio albums - "Nena" and "Advantage". 

There are some passages in the Elegant Gypsy tracks that are radically different from the original versions and this is indeed interesting, but still these differences are primarily for Di Meola's fans to appreciate.

This live set has proved that Al Di Meola's virtuosity was not only writing and playing the music at the studio but that he can also deliver the music live with an excellent performance, with the help of his Tour De Force team.

This post consists of FLACs ripped from my Japanese vinyl pressing which was purchased from one of my regularly visited import shops in Melbourne.  Of course, full album artwork and label scans are included as usual.
I was lucky enough to see Al Di Meola play at the Melbourne Concert Hall when he toured Australia in 1983 with Paco de LucĂ­a and John McLaughlin. Although their sets were purely acoustic, I was totally blown away by his virtuoso and speed with his axe..  Content to have seen him play live, I regularly listen to the Tour De Force album to satisfy my desire to hear his live electric guitar work.
At this point in time, I believe this post is the only rip available in FLAC for this awesome release, so I suggest you grab it now while it's still hot.

01 Elegant Gypsy Suite 10:08
02 Nena 5:04
03 Advantage 4:55
04 Egyptian Danza 5:39
05 Race With Devil On Spanish Highway 7:28
06 Cruisin' 5:24

Guitar – Al Di Meola
Bass – Anthony Jackson
Drums – Steve Gadd
Keyboards – Jan Hammer
Keyboards [2nd] – Victor Godsey
Keyboards [Additional] – Phillippe Saisse (tracks: 1, 5)
Percussion – Mingo Lewis
Percussion [Additional] – Sammy Figueroa (tracks: 1 to 3)

Friday, December 25, 2020

W.O.C.K on Vinyl: Bob Dylan - Christmas In The Heart (2009)


Before things get too serious here at Rock On Vinyl, I thought it might be fun to post a song / album at the end of each month, that could be categorized as being either Weird, Obscure, Crazy or just plain Korny..

Using his own excellent band and a group of singers whose mellifluous responses to his own rheumy growl hark back to the sounds of the Andrews Sisters, Dylan finds an appropriate setting for each of these Christmas chestnuts, from the reverent to the jovial. The blend of idioms is familiar from Love and Theft and Modern Times, in which he brought together elements of country, bluegrass and a sort of genteel salon music to provide a background to his renewed fondness for old-fashioned crooning.

The result is polished without being glib, and a sympathetic listener may find it addictive. The musicians Dylan brought to Britain in 2009, augmented by David Hildalgo of Los Lobos on accordion, mandolin, violin and guitar, and the great Chicago session guitarist Phil Upchurch, whose earliest successes predate Dylan's own, distinguish themselves on even the most unpromising material. 

According to Hildalgo, quoted in the current issue of Uncut magazine, the sessions were both impromptu and highly concentrated: Dylan and the musicians listened to various recordings of each of the selections, and then decided on the best approach. It seems safe to say, however, that no one has ever tackled O Come All Ye Faithful quite like this.

Is he sincere? Does he mean it? You can only chuckle at his ability to keep us guessing when you turn past the conventional cover painting of a horse-drawn carriage speeding through snowdrifts to find a photograph of Bettie Page (see above), the famous cheesecake model, dressed up in a Santa outfit complete with suspenders and bulging bra. [review by Richard Williams, The Guardian]

For me, I think Dylan enjoyed making this album, and at times sounds more like Tom Waits  than the young troubadour we grew up with, who sang anti-establishment songs and dared to trade his acoustic guitar in for an electric one.  

So, with out any further Christmas jingles and O Come All Ye Faithfuls, I'd like to wish you all a joy filled Christmas and a New Year that provides quantious amounts of new and rare music.

Thanks to Deutros for the Rip (Taken from CD / MP3)

01 Here Comes Santa Claus
02 Do You Hear What I Hear?
03 Winter Wonderland
04 Hark The Herald Angels Sing
05 I'll Be Home For Christmas
06 Little Drummer Boy
07 The Christmas Blues
08 O' Come All Ye Faithful (Adeste Fideles)
09 Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas
10 Must Be Santa
11 Silver Bells
12 The First Noel
13 Christmas Island
14 The Christmas Song
15 O' Little Town Of Bethlehem

New Link 16/07/2022

Saturday, December 19, 2020

Jimi Hendrix Experience - 'Magic Fingers' (1980) Bootleg

(U.S 1963 - 1970)

Recorded March 19 Tuesday, 1968
2nd Show
Capitol Theatre,
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

Not only is this a good show, but one of the few soundboard tapes from the Jimi Hendrix Experience's  North American Tour. Apparently taped by Jimi himself, it sounds excellent. It's the first complete North American show on soundboard since Monterey,. There isn't another soundboard until Miami (and it's only 4 songs), except of course for the infamous Scene Club and Cafe Au Go Go (March 17, 1968) jams. After that, Woburn (insert Twilight Zone theme...)

"Tax Free" is growing longer each time out- now around 10 minutes (almost half again as long as DC Hilton a week before)... "Red House" much longer now (almost 10 min). Jazzier middle section now developing, and I believe it's the first outing for the interlude where Jimi 'slaps'(a drumstick?) the chords rather than strums them. The recording quality really shines on the guitar sound on this one- it's like sitting in front of the Marshalls and you can hear every detail and nuance of his blues technique and clean tones...

"Spanish Castle Magic", on the other hand, has yet to become the jamming vehicle it would be in the 69 shows. Less than 4 minutes, this is only the 5th documented performance of SCM. Jimi's voice sounds great on this- maybe he can hear himself for once because he doesn't seem to be straining and the crisp recording reveals all kinds of little inflections and joking asides that would be lost in most audience tapes...

"Purple Haze" stretched to almost 7 minutes with free form guitar intro and extended outro...

The last track of the 2nd show, "Wild Thing", is cut short, running at only 33sec (Jimi's tape recorder simply ran out of tape).  Most earlier versions of the 2nd show (like this one) don't include this track, and to be honest, including it would be futile and frustrate the listener.

This show's a must have and is available on a number of other boots (Gone But Not Forgotten, Canadian Club, Thanks Ottawa For The Memories., Super Concert 68, Live in Ottawa, Ottawa 1968 and others)

Concert Transcript
The Experience perform two shows at 18.00 and 20.30, supported by Soft Machine. This recording comes from the 2nd show.
During their first show, they perform 'Sergeant Pepper Lonely Hearts Club Band', 'Fire', 'Foxy Lady','Red House' and 'I Don't Live Today'.

After the MC introduces the Experience for their second show, they launch straight into 'Killing Floor'.
After the song, Jimi announces: "Yeah we're having slight difficulties with the equipment, so please hold on for one minute okay, just one second. I hate to bring my own self down with this raggedy equipment, I can tell ya..." The problem is temporarily sorted out, and Jimi continues with 'Tax Free', before announcing "a song called 'Let Me Stand Next To Your Old Lady ...I mean 'Let Me Stand Next To Your Fire'; it is the same thing, you know.

At the start of the song, just as Jimi is counting the band in, loud voices come through the bank of Marshall amplifiers. Jimi apologises to the crowd, but continues the song anyway. The voices come through the amps again and Jimi responds with "Oh man, shut up, man. Anyway, we'd like to do a blues called 'Red House'. This is on the English LP.  I'd like to do if for you now in 1948. "This song is followed by 'Foxy Lady', then Jimi announces: "I'd like to try to continue on and... do a thing that was recorded back in 1778... It was very hard for us to record in those days, very, very hard indeed to find a studio. But dig, we found it some kind of way. And now {we've got} a brand new psychedelic version of it. Brand new, spanking new, new era type of thing.  Yeah we put a 1948 rearrangement on it and it's really outta site man, you should hear it. It goes something like this here."

Jimi continues with a version of 'Hey Joe' that includes the new introduction he has been adding. "Yes, we'd like to try a thing called 'Spanish Magic', eg 'Spanish Magic Laffish', yeah, written by Henry

Jimi has been taping the show himself and now suddenly exclaims, "Oh the tape's gonna run out!" He comments to the audience: "You all just clapping just because you know there a tape recorder running. You don't want us to feel embarrassed when we play it at home to our girlfriends..." The audience responds with loud cheering and clapping.  Jimi comments in a loud voice: "Thank you very, very much, thank you very much, we really didn't... we didn't deserve that really, thank you very much though, I really dig it. So I d like to go ahead on and do 'Spanish Castle magic', to see if we can get our heads together. Afterwards Jimi comments "There's a cat over there...Anyway, he said we have two more numbers to go. so I'd like to say thank you very much man, it's really been a groove and, er, you all really had nice patience' which, er, which is really handy. Thank you very much for letting me, you know get my kicks here and there too.

Now we'd like to play our world-famous song before we get into our last two songs. It's a thing called 'Tune up time blues' part two'." Just then, a roadie tells Jimi that one of his amplifiers is broken. He comments to the audience, in a Bill Cosby voice: "Man, my amplifiers broken' Man' 'em amp's broke, well I can't play my guitar now... It's a drag, man. Hey man' what you wanna break my amp like that for' man? Can you all dig Bill Cosby? He's really outta site." 

Meanwhile, Jimi is trying to tune his guitar and jokes with the audience: "Next we're gonna have on stage with us a jam session with three peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and give 'em out to the winners' Still having problems Betting his instrument in tune'
Jimi picks up the Bill Cosby theme again: "Oh yeah, the cat..' there's a certain person in the audience"' how about a big hand for Bill Cosby sitting over there?
How about a big hand for Bill Cosby' come on! 

Oh, wait a minute"' Oh, I'm sorry lady, I'm sorry lady, I didn't oh" She spat in my eye man"
Now tuned up, Jimi hits the harmonics on his guitar and starts a wild introduction to 'Purple Haze'. At the end of the song' he changes guitars - this makes the amplifiers whistle badly. His guitar is out of tune again, and, exasperated' he comments: "'Wait a minute, wait a minute man this really is a hang-up"' He asks Noel to play an A so that he can tune his guitar' but when he hits the A string it is completely out of tune, and Jimi quips, "Oh that is definitely not an A there' I mean, common sense would tell anybody that".

He continues to tune his A string and tries to sing the same note simultaneously' joking: "Oh wow... I think I'll make a record! That'll be cool: sing on it too'" Jimi proceeds to sing 'Rock Me Baby in a comedy voice. "Oh yes, yes that's it' Oh yeah, you remember those days too, hey?" The audience responds with cheering and Jimi replies: "Yes, thank you very much, yes. For those of you who can't see us tonight, er, they were clapping because I did a little trick with my guitar".

Finally, Jimi repeats his monologue about the group's international anthem for soldiers returning from Vietnam' with M16 machine guns and all this, M16 and hand grenades and tanks all on their backs and stuff. That if they came home with like, er, feedback guitars" That's better than guns, I can tell You" Jimi Plays a big feedback note and comments: something like that, I think I'd dig that. And anyway we wanna dedicate it to the feedback family and, er, all the human beings and You People'  Ending with a mock plea of "Please join in because I've forgot the words." Jimi concludes the evening with 'Wild Thing''. [extract from Jimi Hendrix Concert Files, Omnibus Press, 1999. by Tony Brown, p 86-87]

This post consists of FLACs ripped from my 40 year old 'mint' vinyl - purchased at Melbourne University's weekly market, if my memory serves me right.  This is of course one of my prize bootlegs in my record collection, and thought I should finally share it with you. Full album artwork and label scans are also included.

A1 Foxey Lady     5:01
A2 Fire 4:05
A3 Killing Floor     6:14
B1 Red House    9:36
B2 Spanish Castle Magic     5:12
B3 Hey Joe 5:16
C1 Instrumental-Jimi Jam (aka Taxman) 10:30
C2 Purple Haze     7:00
D1 I Don't Live Today(L.A Forum, 1969) 4:47
D2 In The Midnight Hour/ Jam (with Stevie Wonder) 5:00
D3 Dolly Dagger (Studio Mixing Sessions, Electric Ladyland)   7:25

* Track times on the album's back cover are inaccurate 

Saturday, December 12, 2020

Stars - 1157 (1980) + Bonus Live Single

 (Australian 1975 - 1980, 2019)

1157 is the first and only live album by Australian country rock music group Stars. The album was recorded at Bombay Rock in Melbourne in October 1979 and released in July 1980, following band member Andrew Durant's death. The album peaked at number 46 on the Australian charts, remaining on the chart for 8 weeks.

The Stars toured extensively to sell-out performances Australia-wide during 1975 to 1980, and chose to name their third album 1157 after the number of live gigs they had played.

Sadly, on May 6, 1980, Andy Durant died of cancer aged just 25. A shooting Star that dazzled us was gone. Eastick organised the Andrew Durant memorial concert in Melbourne and the big names of the Australian music industry offered their support, including Cold Chisel. The tribute performance on August 19, 1980 produced the double live album Andrew Durant Memorial Concert and profits from the concert and album went to The Andrew Durant Cancer Research Centre.

The following is an early gig review of The Stars while they were the supporting act for Joe Cocker when he toured Australia in 1977, and provides an insight into why so many people and fellow Australian artists respected this popular Aussie band from the 70's

Slugging It Out With Stars
(Review by Annie Burton)
RAM Mag, Dec 30th, 1977 - #74

When they filled the support spot during Joe Cocker's last tour, Stars proved their ability by being one of the very few Australian support bands to a main act to keep the people in their seats while they played.

Audiences were surprised by them, listened and applauded hard. The usual slightly deplorable attitude is Let's go out and have a smoke and an ice cream, leaving the support band with a three quarters empty hall. Stars were excellent- Tight, solid as a cannonball, with a sound of their own. No shit. They even took on Joe Walsh's "Rocky Mountain Way", the risky set piece for guitarists who use and abuse voice boxes, and won. In the middle of it they slipped into "Heartbreak Hotel" and then out again with easy style. Guitarist Andy Durant was superb, the drums/bass combo of former LRB bassist Roger McLachlan and drummer Glyn Dowding was simultaneously thunderous and nippy, like a rolling storm under flashes of flaring guitar. That sounds fanciful, I know, but they were that good.

No gimmicks, cheap shots or band-waggon hopping. And maybe that's why Stars are where they are and not headlining their own shows. You can't categorise them. Not a bopper band, not Serious Electronic, jazz rock, fag rock or crotch rock, although they most certainly are ballsy. Their stage manner is polite and charming, not abusive, dangerous or androgynous bopper sexy- Singer Mick Pealing is almost self effacing; not shy exactly, or reticent. nor is he a nothing. He has a good voice and he uses it well, it's just that he's not (and God knows I hate to use the word) charismatic. He's good looking, sure, and delivers the goods with knobs on, but he doesn't ever seem to go to the edge. Edgework is exciting; maybe it's the ancient call to the blood lust inherent in rock that's lacking. . .
It doesn't matter all that much, because what Pealing is doing is declining to be a front man. He stands back and lets the rest of the band steam ahead, almost as though he's slightly in awe of being part of such a machine.

When they first appeared at the far end of the plateau in '75. they were somewhat given to gimmickry. Not full on. Rollers type gimmickry, but a tricksy image all the same. They were the Rock 'n' Roll Cowboys, wearing sherriff 's badges, stetsons, neck kerchiefs, vests, boots, the leather 'n' denim schmear -That was the year they won the King of Slop Best New Band category. They followed up with the successful "Quick On The Draw" single. A long gap and then another cowpoke song. "A Winning Hand" Somewhere along the line they got sick of playing cowboy, as the American country soft and southern rock influences dwindled and Australiana took over.

Mal Eastick, second guitarist and founding member, said of its demise: "lf we ever get the opportunity to go to America, and got billed with the Charlie Daniels Band. or Elvin Bishop, or something like that, the tag 'Rock 'n' Roll Cowboys' would iust be ridiculous, cause they're cowboys playing rock 'n' roll. we're rock 'n' rollers playing cowboys." Eastick's statement displays not only the band's influences, but also a certain naivete; if Elvin Bishop has ever been closer to a cattle ranch than face to face with a Holiday Inn steak, l'll eat his Stetson. 

Changes in the line up solidified the sound, made it more Stars and less a conglomerate of influences. At one stage you could hear a Stars bracket and play spot-the-influence easy as pie; an Eagles song succeeded by an Elvin Bishop song succeeded by a Doobies song. . . I remember doing it in the Bondi Lifesaver (although time may have mixed up the influences a little) one night in particular, because then-bassist Graham Thompson was playing his last gig with the band, and volubly pissed off about it, getting drunk and growling at me, the band and eventually total strangers. He was replaced by Roger McLachlan. Andy Durant joined up and his guitar playing, risky solos sounding like a man juggling knives, gave Stars a much fuller. gutsier sound.

And they've kept working solidly, refusing to give up despite the lack of general recognition. Their recent "Mighty Rock" single deserved to go a lot further than it did, a really good, solid rock song with a hook you could pick up a beef carcass with. Stars remind me of an Australian Sanford Townend Band. Solid musicianship, good lead and harmony vocals, excellent lead breaks, gutsy and neat, and a distinct lack of glitter, satin, smoke bombs and all the rest of the step-over
throw hold stage stuff.

They've now got a new single out ["Mighty Rock" Ed.], but the real buzz is about their forthcoming album. It's finished and reputed to be shit hot, and it's also being kept under wraps till January or February next year ['Paradise' Ed.]. 
Just before Christmas, (apparently), is not the time to launch promising new artists. (Aunts and Uncles will insist on sticking to Names They Know and buy the latest Queen and Rod Stewart for young Roderick or Jane).

The Stars from 1979

This post consists of FLACs ripped from my 'near mint' Vinyl, and includes full album artwork for both CD and vinyl.  40 years later, this album sounds as fresh as it was when released in 1980 and I also discovered why they named it 1157.   Also included is a live B-side single entitled "Red Neck Boogie', a regular song on their gig play list. 

Track Listing
01 Watching The River Flow 3:34
02 Living A Lie 3:19
03 Cocaine 3:24
04 I’d Rather Be Blind 3:38
05 Paradise 3:09
06 Watch Out For Lucy 3:23
07 Mainline Florida 3:44
08 Since You’ve Been Gone (Sweet, Sweet Baby) 3:16
09 Jive Town 3:21
10 Rescue Me 3:03
11 Never Coming Back  5:43
12 Red Neck Boogie (Bonus Live B-Side Single)       3:33

Stars were:
Drums – J. J. Hackett
Bass - Ian McDonald
Guitar, Harmonica, Vocals – Andy Durant
Lead Guitar – Mal Eastick
Lead Vocals – Mick Pealing

Stars FLAC Link (334Mb) New Link 12/10/2023

Thursday, December 3, 2020

Skylight - Skyhigh (1974) Plus Bonus Tracks

 (Australian 1972 - 1975)

were a Melbourne band who formed from the ashes of much loved 60's band The Vibrants who had disbanded at the end of 1971, having been together 6 years

Continuing in the soul direction of the previous band but with a sometimes funkier 70's edge, keyboard player Geoff Skewes who had been there since the start & drummer in the last Penny Parsons fronted line-up, Trevor Courtney (ex-Chants R&B, Cam-Pact) gathered around them a seasoned bunch in Greg Cook (guitar; ex-Cam-Pact, The Graduates, Mixtures), and in demand session players Mike Clarke (bass, guitar) and renowned percussion Sunil De Silva. They were fronted by the little known Bonnie Lever, a fine newcomer with a powerful, deep voice.

The band signed to EMI in 1974 who released Skylight's debut single, the funky "Get It Happening" / "Skyhigh". It was not successful but EMI had had enough faith to allow them to record an album straight away, which was overseen by then hot producer Ian Miller (Coloured Ball's "Ball Power", Jim Keays "Boy From The Stars", The Moir Sisters debut). And this is that album which managed just 2 weeks at the bottom of the Top 100 albums chart, peaking at #91.

A further non album single was issued in late 1974 "Too Many People" / "Give Me Your Love", but when this too failed to make a chart impression, the band decided to call it a day. [extract from Milesago]

Skylight played live at the Ridgetop festival, Upper Hermitage (Adelaide hills) on October 13, 1974. Their rendition of Donny Hathaway's "Ghetto"  is featured in the YouTube clip below, and the song appeared on their only LP "Skyhigh", released in the same year.

Interview With Geoff Skewes

'We started the Vibrants in Adelaide in 1962,' he says now. 'My good friend Terry Osborne and I were students here at Brighton High School here in Adelaide.

'I knew he played guitar and someone told him I played a bit of piano and we got together with a couple of guys at school and formed our band. We practised weekly at the Warradale Congregational Church Hall. The very good Reverend Wardell was a lovely young chap and he was very happy to give us the hall for nothing so we could rehearse.'

The group's name was inspired by the mother of one of its members, who visited a rehearsal and remarked that they were vibrant young boys.

The Vibrants

All up, The Vibrants cut just over a dozen singles between 1965 and 1971. In 1966 they moved to Melbourne and John Perry joined the group on vocals. They had a string of national chart successes including the power pop classic 'Something About You, Baby'.

As one of the hottest bands in the country, The Vibrants played all the big venues of the day.

'We played everywhere,' says Skewes. 'In Melbourne we did the Thumping Tum, Tenth Avenue, Berties, Sebastians. We came to Adelaide and did the Twenty Plus Club. We went to Perth played The Latin Quarter, Pinocchio's [and] Beethoven’s.'

As the '60s rolled on, the pop scene began to change and The Vibrants knew they had to change direction too. They entered Hoadley’s National Battle Of The Sounds hoping to win, which would have meant a trip to the UK. They ended up finishing second to The Groop and eventually decided on another strategy.

'Post-Woodstock things were a little more Jimi Hendrix and Janice Joplin, that sort of thing came into vogue, and here’s us as a little pop group and we thought, "Well what will we do?"

'We thought that we would slip into more of a cabaret type scene. That’s how we survived and played and earned a darn good living as professional musicians,' Skewes remembers.

In 1971, The Vibrants did a tour of Vietnam playing for Australian troops and called it a day in 1972 after a very successful decade together.

Skewes joined forces with Vibrants drummer Trevor Courtney to form Skylight.

Skylight (feat. Bonnie Lever centre)

'He was a bit more serious about music than us silly old pop stars were,' Skewes says, 'but there came a time in my life when I felt that I had to get into something a little more original and a little bit more creative and I wanted to get a little more into songwriting and Trevor was the same.

'We got together for a jam session and the magic was just phenomenal and that was the very beginning of Skylight, which went on to become a sort of a funk, soul, jazz fusion type band that started in the end of late 1972.'

Skylight pulled together some brilliant musical talent. Of course there was Skewes on keyboards and Courtney on drums, who were joined by Greg Cook on guitar, Mike Clarke on bass, Sunil De Silva on percussion and a young singer named Bonnie Lever.

'Someone knew her and said "we know this little girl she’s only 16 or 17 but she’s got a real gravelly, tough soul voice like an African American female singer",' says Skewes. 'So we just had a jam with her and that was it, she was in the band. When Bonnie joined we knew we had the line up that worked for us and, consequently, we got a record contract with EMI.'

The group spent 1973 sharpening their sound through copious live work, particularly in inner-city Melbourne and could often be found playing gigs with some of the like minded bands at the time.

'There was an inner suburban clique where you were almost damned to be sort of alternate. And we were very much involved in that scene and we had a great fan base in that scene.'

'We were great friends with a band from Sydney called Mother Earth (fronted by Renee Geyer). We used to do gigs together when they came down to Melbourne,' says Skewes.

'There was a very good little scene here, in the gay scene, and there were two dances. One was called Jan’s Dance, it was run by a wonderful lady named Jan Hillier. The other one was called Spangles. All the tickets were sold quietly and silently through mail order and things like that cause you know you’re talking 1973, '74.'

A personal highlight for Skewes occurred in January of 1974 when the group secured a gig at Sunbury and found they were opening the festival.

'We kicked it off,' he says. 'They were all there waiting for the first band and we were it. I can remember reading the report in The Melbourne Herald: "The lights were dimmed and that cheeky girl and her band Skylight came on stage."

Not long after that they signed a contract with EMI to make Skyhigh. It was produced in Melbourne by Ian Miller at Armstrong Studios. Skewes says the sound quality holds up 40 years later.

'Every time I play it I go "wow",' says Skewes. 'I can still hear the ambience and three dimensional depth that Ian created to produce our sound.

'He came to so many gigs before we went into the studio, so he had an absolute thorough knowledge of the band. We just took to it like ducks to water really.'

The title track from Skyhigh was released as a single as a single in June 1974.

'It was quite imperative that we had a breakout hit to get the band up to the next level in terms of selling the LP and being able to do a bit more out in the bigger venues.'

However, as good as the single was, it just couldn’t find a place on the radio. The music for many stations around the country was being programmed from one place in Sydney. If you couldn’t make their list, then you had a problem.

'At the time the airwaves were ruled by Gary Glitter, Suzie Quatro, Slade and that was what the AM station programmers programmed,' says Skewes. 'We just couldn’t crack it to get enough airplay.

'We got album time, late night, all that sort of stuff, but we couldn’t get that drive and breakfast radio two or three times in four or five hours, which they used to do then with hit singles. We couldn’t get that so we probably didn’t get the record success that we felt we should have. We certainly put the work in.'

The album followed a month or so after the single. Most of the songs on it were written by members of the band with a couple of notable exceptions, like Donny Hathaway’s The Ghetto.

While cuts like these were great on the dance floors, they didn’t cut through on the radio and the album’s sales suffered. They released one further single, the non-album track "Too Many People", in October of 1974. It was an attempt to break through, but it didn’t work.

Disappointed, the group split in the early months of 1975. Perhaps, many would say, just a little too soon.

'About six months later a band from Scotland called Average White Band had a big hit right around the world and had very successful albums.

'It’s a funny thing timing isn’t it?' says Skewes.

'Most people I talk to now, friends I connect with all around the country, will all say that Skylight was a band before its time.' [Extract from the website]

This post consists of FLACs ripped from CD (thanks to BrianL at Midoztouch) and includes album artwork for both Vinyl and CD. I am also including some bonus tracks, their 1974 single "Too Many People" and its B-Side "Give Me Your Love", along with an early GTK recording of "Sex Machine" (a very funky James Brown cover).  I really like this album, and like so many Aussie bands from the early 70's, they were under recorded and were never given the opportunity to record a followup album. And oh, what an amazing voice Bonnie Lever had !    Sadly, she died in a car accident in 1978, aged just 23.

Track Listing
01. Skyhigh
02. Get It Happening
03. What's Happening To You
04. Learn To Love
05. Let's Get Outta Here (Part 1&2)
06. Can I Get A Light
07. Gotta Get Away
08. What's Going On
09. The Ghetto
Bonus Tracks
10. Too Many People (A-Side Single)
11. Give me Your Love (B-Side Single)
12. Sex Machine

Bonnie Lever (vocals)
Greg Cook (guitar, organ)
Mike Clarke (bass, guitar)
Sunil De Silva (percussion)
Geoff Skewes (keyboards)
Trevor Courtney (drums)

Skylight FLAC Link (337Mb)
New Link 31/05/2021