Mother's Choice and Average Rock 'n' Roller - Buffalo (Aztec)
All good things must come to an end and Aztec's reissue series on the mighty Buffalo is something that in a perfect world would never end (a world which would also include hangover free beer, amps that really do go to eleven and pizza that grows on trees).
Considered by some collector types as not being as valid as the earlier Buffalo albums, "Mothers Choice" and "Average Rock & Roller" are both very different to the hard and heavy jams as heard during the John Baxter (guitarist, songwriter) era of the group.
Ok…it’s 1975 and like others before them, Buffalo were at the crossroads. Sure they were packing them out across the country on the endless town hall circuit but the albums were still very much cult items which is all fine and groovy but it doesn’t pay the bills nor keep your record company willing to release and promote your music. SOLUTION: Ditch the guitarist/songwriter and seek new directions.
Which brings us 1976’s "Mothers Choice".
Personally, this is one of my favourite Buffalo albums. The sound is a big move forward with the times, more traditional in the song structuring and the lyric topics. If you can imagine The Rolling Stones' "Brown Sugar" played with more power then you’d be not far off the track.
This really is a great hard hitting high energy rock & roll album. The songs are meaty, short (for Buffalo standards) and dynamic.
New guitarist & music writer Karl Taylor playing is very much in the Paul Kosoff, Mick Ralphs style ie; tough & tight. Singer Dave Tice finally gets a chance to do some great Rock and Roll singing and his lyrics and melodys are strong and catchy. Bass player Peter Wells is really on fire on these tracks. His playing weaves around all the instruments yet like all great players never over does it. Drummer Jimmy “The Greek” Eonomou seems to be in his element here, like Wells he plays exactly what is needed for the songs. Short term slide player Norm Roue appears on most of the tracks here and his playing at times is incredible. It’s not hard to hear where Pete Wells (who after Buffalo starting playing slide and formed the mighty Rose Tattoo) got a lot of his inspiration.
Hell, with the right promotion this album could have been a hit, but one gets the impression that as far as the music industry and radio stations were concerned Buffalo had perhaps lost their chance at being accepted (if only Phonogram in Australia had bribed the right people).
Bonus tracks here are two cool B-sides. A cover of Little Richards' "The Girl Can’t Help It" which absolutely rocks! And a great original "On My Way".
Clocking in at a total of 45 minutes it’s a shame that Aztec didn’t see fit to dig up some more bonus tracks such as a 30-minute live 2 Double Jay set recorded in '75, or even include some of the video clips as a CDROM shot for the singles from this album.
The final ever Buffalo album was 1977’s "Average Rock & Roller". By this time, Wells, Taylor and Roue had long gone. New members Chris Turner and Ross Sims both brought a very different sound to the band.
This is perhaps Buffalo's most varied album release.
Admitley this has always been my least favourite album as it seemed at times to be very self indulgent but this new reissue is starting to grow on me. Musically it reminds me of Humble Pie (although Dave Tice bluesy growl is a million miles away from Steve Marriots high pitched screeches).
The tracks that work best are the acoustic guitar based numbers. "Rollin’", the first single from the album, may well be the best acoustic song the Rolling Stones never wrote. The title tune has a vibe similar to all those 70’s British pub rocks bands like Doctor Feelgood. "Hotel Ladies" is, in my opinion, one of Buffalo's finest ever moments; it to has that acoustic Stones blues feel but it develops over its 5 plus minutes into a huge dynamic piece.
"Sailor" written by drummer Jimmy Economou could also have been snuck onto "Goats Head Soap" or "Exile on Mainstreet" without anyone noticing too much. However some other tracks on this don’t work quite so well as instrumentally they seems a bit lacking in direction or purpose but one must remember Buffalo weren’t the only ones guilty of this during those days.
Once again I must salute Aztec for re-releasing these albums and allowing them to be heard by future generations of Buffalo fans.
Oddly enough only a week ago I bumped into singer Dave Tice. I asked him for a scoop or exclusive on Buffalo that I could use in this review. Unfortunaly in the interests of good taste I won’t repeat what he said (something to do with a Fish & Chip shop). However he is pleased at the reaction these albums have received world wide.- Steve Danno-Lorkin
- Mother's Choice
- Average Rock n Roller
Punk was supposed to kill this stuff, wasn't it? So goes the popular story. But consider the context before you raise the hatchet.
First, some home truths. The beast that was Oz Rock in the mid-70s was a confused soul, with much of its output dross that was still taking whatever leads it could from overseas. Not that the nascent punks weren't looking offshore for inspiration too, but the high-energy injection they were to bring was still to break out of its inner-city confines. Big outdoor festivals were on the downswing and the conversion of large pubs to heaving, sweaty beer barns packed to bursting point with punters was yet to get underway.
Now recovered from a war a few years earlier with commercial radio (which briefly had the audacity to charge labels fees to play their music), most of the local music scene was still mired in mediocrity. Boogie and plodding 12-bar blues ruled. Skyhooks were on the rise, but if those guys were the best the local glam could scene do, we truly were in more strife than the Early Settlers. (I hold no truck with those who say they were great because they sang about shitty suburbs).
These final two Buffalo albums aren't hailed as their best, but it's noteworthy that they're the output of two different line-ups. The incarnations you hear on them had little to do with the one that churned out three earlier LPs of proto-stoner rock. "Average Rock 'n' Roller" in particular shows a band going for the airplay throat, but it was probably their prior lack of commercial appeal that perversely doomed them to fail.
"Mother's Choice" hails from 1976, starts with a bang ("Long Time Gone" and "Honey Babe") before slowing to a plod ("Essukay" and, a meandering "Little Queenie" that's saved by "Brown Sugar" horns). Powerhouse guitarist John Baxter's gone, given the flick for being "uncontrollable", with Norm Roue (Band of Light) adding his sharp slide work, which brings journeyman blues like "Lucky" to life. Dave Tice delivers a credible vocal throughout but the music drags rather than seizes the moment.
Why a label would saddle a band's album with a title like "Average Rock 'n' Roller" is evidence that some lunatics were landlords of the asylum in 1977. "Average" is not something on which most punters want to shell out hard-earned. The cover too is a handicap; it screams "Ripper Hits '77" in the tradition of the K-Tel cheapie compilations of the day.
In fact, the album's well above average, bringing in horns (again) on the title tune and acoustic guitars on the swelling (and swell) "Hotel Ladies" and the slightly lesser "Sailor". "Hero Suite", a sort of blue collar prog rock three-parter, closes the album and isn't without its attractions. Reminds me of the mid-'70s Pretty Things in parts.
The liners would have it that the mellow but strong "Rollin' " is a precursor to country rock - which is a bit of a stretch considering Gram Parsons was already dead and buried and Neil Young was several years past "Harvest". Thankfully, it sounds nothing like the odious Little River Band (don't get me started). Two Tice solo cuts ("I Don't Want To Spoil The Party" and "Sweet Little Rock 'n' Roller") are appended as extras and aren't really essential.
"Average Rock 'n' Roller" is more a rock effort than the blues/boogie-fuelled "Mother's Choice". Expatriate Pom Chris Turner was now on guitar and his playing is a highlight, Rose Tattoo and his own solo bands providing a home for his talents, post-Buffalo.
Tice is in even finer vocal form on the band's swansong. Pete Wells shipped out as bassist just as recordings were to start, which is a real pity for Buffalo as he'd really hit his straps. (Of course, bigger things and a slide guitar were around the corner.) The band was on a sabbatical by the time the LP hit the racks which, in effect, meant they were finished.
You know the rest of the story (and if you don't Steven Danno will tell it in his review to be posted here shortly), but he, among others, has brought me to the stage where Buffalo is something of a (not so) guilty pleasure in my neck of the woods. Enjoy these last gasps of a legendary band. - The Barman
2/3 - Mother's Choice
- Average Rock 'n' Roller