BEYOND MORGIA: THE LABYRINTHS OF KLIMSTER - Lobby Loyde (Aztec Music)
First listen to this is like watching that slightly older, drunken and rogueish uncle who always turns up to family events with a slab of beer. This Xmas he's still hanging around the beer tub, but he's taken a faceful of gold top mushrooms and he's acting distinctly weird.
"Beyond Morgia" is the hitherto unreleased 1976 album from Lobby Loyde and his then band, Southern Electric. It's the instrumental soundtrack to an imaginary film based on a sci-fi book the Lobster wrote, decided not to publish and threw on the fire. If it all sounds a little Ron L. Hubbard-ish, the booklet that's part of the deluxe packaging lays it out. It involves the people of Relgon (who were Children of the Sun long before Billy Thorpe had a US hit of the same name) having shitfights with the winged simian Hymenoptera and the Time Lords having a garage sale in their own solar system. Anyway, Lobby rocketed off to the UK after it was recorded, to be impressed with a race called Punks who were re-ordering their own universe, and the tapes vanished under a pile of space debris in someone's garage.
Recorded in a day under the callow hand of future production legend Tony Cohen while Armstrong Studios' owners weren't looking (and mixed in equally short order before they came back from their weekend break) this is highly-amped, intense space rock. Moody and ethereal and for the most part driven by guitar synths and John Dey's keyboards.
Son of Ballpower it's not. The guitars from Lobby and Andrew Fordham are only thrown into full relief on later songs like "Hymenoptera's Revenge" and "Return to Ether" (the latter of which is included in its 15-minute, undubbed form as a bonus cut. Still, when the six-strings kick in it's worth the wait.
These are complex arrangements and it would have been a blast if they'd played these songs live. Southern Electric was the place where the Coloured Balls' attack fused with more intricate elements with a recall that would have put the Who to shame in their more complicated moments. Janis Miglans' basslines may still bubble in the best jazz traditions but is still anchored to an engine room that provides a mighty bedrock.
Logic might pose a question about how a soundtrack gets written and recorded before there's a movie, but this was a time when Lobby Loyde and Co were fed up to the back teeth with the music industry in general, and the biggest considerations were (a.) where's the next gig? (b.) who's shout is it? (c.) who smoked the last of the hash? and (d.) what was your name anyway? Is "Beyond Morgia" an indulgence? Sure as shit.
If, like me, you have a short attention span and wonder where the vocals went, you might struggle with "Beyond Morgia". But if, like me, you stick it out and give it a few spins, it does tend to grow on you and you'll be filing your ears and asking Scotty to beam you up before you know it. – The Barman
HEAVY METAL KID – The Colored Balls (Aztec Music)
Coloured Balls guitarist Lobby Loyde is not one to stay in one spot for too long. He’d jumped from Pretty Things-esq R&B stomp (Purple Hearts), Psychedelic Soul inspired melodic pop/rock (Wild Cherries) and guitar overdose heavy blues (Aztecs), all wihin the space of five years.
"Heavy Metal Kid" is The Colored Balls' second album (not including an earlier session from '72 which remained unreleased until '76). Where as predecessor "Ball Power" was a way out, wall-to-wall heavy rock onslaught, "Heavy Metal Kid" shoots off into territories not even hinted at previously.
The fact that all band members contributed to the song-writing makes for very varied listening.
This album could be by 10 different bands and ranges from proto high speed punk of the title track, sharpie jive of "Do It", McCartney-ish ballad of "See What I Mean", the '50s doo-wop of "Need Your Love", the cosmic acoustic instrumental of "Metal Feathers", the almost Hawkwind-ish "Tin Tango" and the “should of been a classic” hard rock slab of Back To You (which Lobby performed recently with The Aztecs at the Aria Hall of Fame), as well as lashings of Oz rawk boogie.
There is even some potential radio hits on this; ironically no single was released from this album. Not that commercial radio would of played them…and maybe EMI knew this.
This was the band's final project. Their massive sharpie fan base were causing untold violence at gigs and the band found themselves black-listed from most venues (which in those days were mostly council owned town halls). As as a result, the Balls felt they could no longer continue to function as a working band.
Aztec, needless to say, have done a mighty fine job on the mastering which sounds beefier than my old EMI vinyl copy, which incidentally I bought at a sale at Sydney Town Hall during the '80s for $2. The originals can now fetch a few hundred dollars.
Raise your glasses to the Coloured Balls.- Stephen Danno-Lorkin
If you’ve perused the reviews below this, you’ll have worked out we’re quite the Lobby Loyde fans. By all accounts, the guy was the original six-string punk, a laconic old bugger before such a persona was fashionable. What's more, he'd attained the status of Australian Guitar Hero when Kevin Borich was still on the other side of the Tasman, ordering "fush and chups". It's probably also evident that we're also huge fans of Aztec’s painstakingly-assembled re-issues so when one hits the letterbox, seconds elapse before it hits the CD player.
I count myself lucky to have had a CD-R of the original album for years, so contextually I knew where this fitted. But Aztec’s inclusion of more bonuses than a cashed-up dotcom at Xmas means every re-issue changes the game when you pretend to be a rock critic and pen a review. My take (after taking into account the extras) is that “Heavy Metal Kid” is every bit as great as most of the rest of the series, maybe sitting just a short half head behind “Ball Power” as the pick of this Lobby Loyde/Coloured Balls litter.
There’s the usual mix of hard driving blues rockers, the dip into ‘50s and ‘60s stylisations to remind you where Mr Loyde and Co were coming from, and enough experimentalism and lighter moments ("Metal Feathers", "Tin Tango") to show these guys were always waaaay ahead of the curve in a then increasingly moribund Australian music scene. OK, maybe “Obsescration” and “Live With Dubs” stretch out more, but differences in the relative greatness of these albums is measurable in oh-so-slight degrees.
If “Ball Power” was a giant “fuck you” to the industry, “Heavy Metal Kid” was the varied sound of a band keeping faith with its fans but ready to move on. The Colored Balls (note the US spelling – a mistake in the cover art that the band didn’t have the heart to correct) were now media targets, victims of tabloid beat-up merchants tagging their every appearance as bloodbaths, thanks to the band's popularity among “sharpies” (Australia’s version of skinheads).
With breakthrough singles not forthcoming, and the personal philosophy of band members diametrically opposed to the Clockwork Orange psychopathic droog image that the popular press were imposing, The Colored Balls splintered after this LP. Internal fissures were inevitable, under the weight of all that baggage.
Of the album proper, "Back to You" ranks as one of Lobby's greatest tunes bar none. There are no slouches amongst the others, either, with the Leibler & Stoller-penned "Just Because (You're So Square) Baby I Don't Care" a nice diversion and the title track a rampant proto-punk riot (years before the white variant thereupon became a Clash staple). Vocals are evenly shared between Lobby, guitarist Bobbsy Millar and drummer Trevor Young and there are some transcendental moments in the playing. This was one road-hardened crew in most senses of the term.
Turning an eye to the bonuses, and you get five cuts from singles (the B side "Dave the Rave" being overflow from the "Ball Power" re-ish) that, apart from mentioning "babe" disturbingly often, form a formidable grouping of ballads and glam rockers. "Flying" and "Around & Around" are long lost unreleased tracks and show the Balls in spacey and raw form.
This is indispensable for fans of hard blues guitar rock with a sharp and intelligent edge. Trust us on this one.
- The Barman
BALL POWER - Coloured Balls (Aztec Music)
In the career of the Australian guitar colossus that was Lobby Loyde, this album might just be the Killer App, long before such a term were known or even dreamt of. Nine tracks of raw, heavy and hard rocking blues with experimental edges, it's a defining, genre-defying collection of songs that's never sounded better.
By the time this came out, Lobby had been around the block twice and "Ball Power" was one giant "fuck you" to an Australian industry that, even in its infancy, was still calling out for blandness and the next hit single. Let's not be too elitist here - commercial success is a driver of the means of production, and Lobby Loyde was more than willing to work within certain boundaries to get along. Fact is he'd been an early innovator and creator of a hard guitar sound with the Purple Hearts and the more experimental Wild Cherries, one of the country's original guitar heroes, as well as a veteran of big tours and stages as a member of the Aztec. But being the next John Farnham sat uneasily on his shoulders and "Ball Power" was a reaction to that.
And so to the formation of the Coloured Balls (1972) - or Lobby Loyde and the Coloured Balls, as they would be billed. Think about the essential elements (tight but adaptive rhythm section, workmanlike vocalists, meshing guitars, strong songs) and overlay Loyde's stellar guitar playing. Over-driven with masses of mid-range saturation and vibrato but never overwhelmed by distortion and turning feedback and harmonics into an art form, the man was unmatchable.
(I never saw Lobby Loyde and the Coloured Balls in the early '70s, by the way, but their aura was alive on the unremarkable streets of south-western Sydney suburbia thanks to the skinheads who adopted them as their own. I missed their gig at the local Police Boys Club that billed names like Stevie Wright and Blackfeather and I'm sure it was a neighbour's kid's record player that put a sound to the name.)
"Ball Power" cracked the Australian album charts (figuring in the low teens and cracking the top 10 in hometown Melbourne) and put the Coloured Ball on the map but it's what it presaged that might be of more interest, 33 years on. In a recent interview, Lobby said all the talk of him being an influence on the current generation of New Rockers was a load of horseshit because 90 percent of the current crop had never heard of him. Fair comment, but the punks that crawled out of Darlinghurst and St Kilda in the '70s and '80s certainly had, and he worked with many of them as manager/producer/mentor. While most of them took their immediate cues from London, Detroit or New York City, most were aware of the broader rock and roll heritage they were appropriating. I'm also damn that sure a "Ball Power" track like "Won't You Make Up Your Mind" is as primal and "punk" (whatever that means) as 99 percent of the stuff that came popped out of the local pipeline in 1979. Don't believe it? Have a listen to this one, as a raced-off guitar player's vocal collides with frenetic rhythms and snarling guitar.
The lead-off album single and opening track, "Flash", is as mainstream as "Ball Power" gets (which is to say it rocks regally). From then on it's a mix of bulldozer rock ("Human Being"), crunching 12-bar blues (the relatively conventional but heavy "B.P.R.") gutter raunch ("That's What Mama Said"). The album ducks, weaves stomps and bloody-well crashes through walls over these nine cuts in a wondrous display of guitar pyrotechnics that's as edgy as anything else you'll hear from the last 40 years. Occasional use of a foot-operated theremin adds a cosmic touch. "Ball Power" is in your face but its heart lay in traditional places (the souped-up cover of "Whole Lotta Shakin'" is a giveaway), but that's a bad thing?
Of course, this being on Aztec, bonus tracks abound. Six single tracks (from '72-73) are tame by comparison but don't let that put you off. Bringing up the rear in mindfuck fashion is the glorious "G.O.D.", the showcloser from the Coloured Balls' '73 appearance at the Sunbury festival. Just over 16 minutes of slow-build, circular feedback and as intense an expression of the sheer joy a pair of overdriven electric guitars can bring as you'll experience in a month of sunny beer garden Sundays. This is the unexpurgated version (a previous CD cut left out some of the outro to make sure "The Best of Ball Power" clocked in under 80 minutes) and bereft of the strategic scratch my own copy of the "Summer Jam" LP bears.
Let's put the lid on this by declaring "Ball Power" 2006's best re-issue by a country mile, building on an album that (and here's a brave statement) rates as one of the top five or six Australian of the last four decades. – The Barman
OBSECRATION – Lobby Loyde (Aztec Music)
With which ex-Aztecs drummer Gil Matthews continues his march towards sainthood by re-releasing forgotten gems from Australia’s early and mid-‘70s. Aztec hit more than they miss with their choice of legacy recordings, and this one is right on the money again.
One of the digital age’s great injustices has been that “Obsecration” and the under-rated “Last Supper First” have only been available as a hard-to-find double disc package, bereft of liner notes and mis-titled as “Lobby Loyde and the Coloured Balls” - and never sounded as good as this anyway. The air is thick with Lobby re-issues: If you look down the CD superhighway you might see “Last Supper First” on its way towards us…
Re-issues get a bad name, both from 1980s ineptness in transferring analogue sound to digital CDs and for the fact that many have been barefaced attempts to make consumers poor twice over. But not when Aztec does one. The transfer from vinyl (or source tape) is undertaken lovingly and with due diligence while the mastering jobs are uniformly superb. (So enough of drummer jokes for now; Matthews is credited for the latter and obviously has a great ear). “Obsecration” doesn’t miss out on any of this treatment which extends to six-panel fold-out digipaks (faux pressed leather this time out, no less), exhaustive liner notes and more bonus tracks than you can poke a set of free TV Shopping Network steak knives at (‘though in this case you don’t have to call in the next 10 minutes). In short, it’s how all re-issues should be.
If you’re wondering what it sounds like, remember that the Lobby Loyde of 1975 was producing music that crossed boundaries and fell between easily definable genres. By then he’d been an anarchic bluesman (The Purple Hearts), a point-man for numbingly loud blues-jazz/feedback (The Wild Cherries), a bona fide touring rock star (as a member of Billy Thorpe’s Aztecs) and a solo band leader (Lobby Loyde and the Coloured Balls). This was a guy in the process of looking for something new, whether it be jarring time changes or keyboard and synthesiser experimentation. But guitar was still his stock-in-trade.
“Obsecration” swings through hard rock rifferama for which he’s best known for (“Obsecration Parts A to D”) to hard jazz fusion (“Refrain”) to sax-and-piano-infused bluegrass (the mis-spelt “Lousianna”). That the title track runs to 17 minutes may scare off old punks, but be assured there’s enough pure power in these grooves to pound the living shit out of much anything else that’s around today.
Hippie lyrics aside, the music is a step away from the hard rock/blues boogie that was prevalent in Australia then. Most vocals are handled by the soulful astral traveller Mandu, but where the Lobster chooses to sing he shows a strong journeyman style. Thankfully, if Loyde ever placed a ‘singer wanted’ classified ad, Robert Plant did not apply.
Pissed off with the plodding state of most of the Australian scene, Loyde and band had re-located to the UK when this came out in ’76, working live as Southern Electric. Lobby was also dabbling in studio production with new wavers Doll by Doll and front-of-house for a touring Devo (among others), a path that he pursued to great effect when he came home a few years later.
While in England, an augmented Southern Electric recorded an EP (“Too Poor To Die”). It might have been called “Shit Outta Luck” because it disappeared and remained unissued for years. If that wasn’t enough, the prattish Dicky Branson was all set to give “Obsecration” a UK release when the tapes were impounded by receivers Down Under who’d moved in on Loyde’s Australian label.
It’s a moot point but I bet Virgin might have scored success with Southern Electric - even if they were Australians in a punk-besotted England. The Pistols and the Clash might have scored the headlines, but there was still a solid niche for rock bands like King Crimson.
The good news is that “Too Poor to Die” is the backbone of the bonus cuts, and that its brutal, punkish four-and-a-half minute firestorm that’s its title track is as good as anything I’ve heard in 2006. “Fist Of Is” is trippy psych and “Desperate for a Quid” is a twisted instro, while “Gypsy In My Soul” was, to my mind, recorded better in its reprised and more familiar version on “Live With Dubs”, but this poppy, choppy uplifter is still a grower. The other bonuses are the A side and flip of the ’75 solo single “Do You Believe in Magic”. It’s a barrelling rocker with keys and sax, while its companion “Love Lost on Dream Tides” is an ethereal ballad that’s more of a jam.
But back to the LP proper and one of the insights in Ian MacFarlane’s typically exhaustive liners is that the album was only recorded on full moons. “This might sound like hippie shit,” Lobby says (as whole phalanxes of music fans nod in agreement). Truth is that Southern Electric could have committed most of these songs to tape only on days in the Gregorian calendar coinciding with garbage nights in Amish communities starting with the letter ‘M’, and the music would have sounded good enough to blast the leaves off non-deciduous trees in a windless, hermetically sealed glasshouse.– The Barman
LIVE WITH DUBS - Lobby Loyde with Sudden Electric (Aztec Music)
Anachronism he may have been in Australia on the cusp of the '80s with his 15-minute songs. hippie sentiments and ear-splitting guitar histrionics, but Lobby Loyde's recorded output remains, for the most part, eminently listenable. The price of vinyl copies of "LIve With Dubs" might have just plummeted with this CD re-issue, but it's only record collector geeks who are crying.
This is the album that announced Lobby's return from a three-year spell in a Britain that was in the thrall of punk rock. The Aussie vet had been soaking up the new music, producing bands, mixing front-of-house and playing with his own Southern Electric. One Sydney date of an Australian tour with a reconstituted line-up, with drummer extraordinaire Gil Matthews and longtime bassist Gavin Carroll, was recorded for a live-to-air by 2JJ, but somehow the vocal track got lost in the wash. Singularly-named vocalist Mandu and Rose Tattoo's Angry Anderson were hauled into the studio to lay do some singing with extra guitar touches appended (hence the dubs of the title). The new line-up was called Sudden Electric and Mushroom dutifully issued the LP to a perplexed public in 1980 .
People were now heavily into an exploding live scene populated by new wavers, radio-friendly West Coast soft cocks and the detritus of punk's short but sharp flowering. A few of Lobby's contemporaries were still around, but most sounded nothing like this. "Live With Dubs" sunk without a trace, to be furtively traded for huge sums of money in collecting circles.
It must have been a little galling for a guy whose mid-70s band, the Coloured Balls arguably presaged punk in a way like Warsaw Pakt or Jesse Hector did in the UK. More than a quarter of a century on, musical tastes are even more fragmented. In spite of - or maybe because of that - "Live With Dubs" stands up extremely well. More prog than punk and bordering on psych with those long solos, touches of guitar synth and shifting sands-like time signatures, it still sounds nimble enough to be corralled away from the more odious dinosaur bands. Loyde calls it "fusion rock" which is as good a tag as any, I suppose.
"LIve With Dubs" was really a five-song album ("Flying Scotsman" is the sound of the steam train of the same name that was pulled out of the BBC sound archives). Rest assured, five songs filled a lot of vinyl back in the day. The opener, "Crazy as a Loon", explodes like Cracker Night fireworks in a 10-year-old's face and at 4min9sec is the shortest song. "Weekend Paradise (part 2)" is a near 20-minute re-working of "G.O.D." (an acronym for "Guitar Over Dose" - and you can't half tell.)
"Sympathy in D" is a masterful slice of excess, with astral travelling Mandu's high register vocal struggling for air amid all the guitar and diamond hard bedrock. This is so much a guitar album that the singers have to take a backseat in the mix. "Gypsy in My Soul" is the only Angry Anderson vocal and it's still a cracker of a song, all scorching guitar and evocative lyrics about having rock and roll tattooed onto your heart from a formative age.
There's a long line you can trace right through Lobby Loyde's post Purple Hearts band, the Wild Cherries, through the Coloured Balls and into Sudden Electric that ha,s as its common thread, massively over-driven guitar and searing harmonics. Some of Lobby's best stuff comes from those symphonic guitar sounds - if you know the track "G.O.D." from the 1973 Sunbury live album, you'll know exactly what I mean - and "Live With Dubs" is the logical endpoint.
In case "Dubs" isn't enough, Aztec's tacked on four crunching live tracks from a 2000 show by Lobby Loyde & Ball Power, the twin-guitar aggregation originally called Fish Tree Mother. Loyde was originally going out as bass player with this lot (a job he filled for a year with the Tatts in the '80s) but these cuts find him back where he belongs. The near-nine-minute version of "G.O.D." lives up to its name and the jams find themselves thoroughly kicked out as well on re-interpretations of "Flash", "Human Being" and possibly the most radically altered "Heartbreak Hotel" since John Cale had white line fever.
The usual deluxe digipack and expansive Ian MacFarlane liner notes accompany. Someone should knight label owner Gil Matthews for services to preservation. Unlike past efforts by labels un-named, these Aztec re-issues sound superb.
Essential really, and I can finally lay my CD-R rip of the original vinyl to rest. – The Barman
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