Volcanic Rock - Buffalo (Aztec Music)
I copped this 2006 reish late (thanks ‘n’ a tip o’ the hat to Lou Ridsdale at Lance Rock Publicity), but the Barman is generously allowing me to weigh in with myYankee two cents’ worth.
Like sometime Bar scribe Geoff Ginsberg, I’ll cop to being “more of a rock guy than a punk guy.” Sure, I love all the Detroit and Cleveland punk precursors and the early Noo Yawk crews, but once it all starts sounding like a four-on-the-floor formula based on a Ramones or Sex Pistols template, I kinda lose the thread. And gravitate back to the kinds of noise I was listening to back in my own personal Wonder Years, ’68-’72: hard rock, blues rock, the dregs of psychedelia, the first nascent stirrings of metal.
And the last coupla years have been a veritable treasure trove of discovery for one so inclined, as things that weren’t even on the radar 30something years ago become generally available: ex-Blue Cheer guitar god Randy Holden’s lost masterpiece Population II; Blues Creation’s Demon and Eleven Children, on which a crew of Japanese brats best the Brit brigade at their own blooze-based proto-metal game; even the work of Filipino rawk institution Juan De La Cruz, which provides proof positive that yes, Virginia, you can rock – hard – in Tagalog.
Add Antipodean sludge-metal pioneers Buffalo, who’ve long been a signifier for the Stateside stoner-rock claque, to the list, with Aztec Music’s admirable restoration of the band’s entahr catalog, with sterling remastering, bonus tracks that actually add to, rather than detract from, the ‘riginal albs’ magnificence, and deluxe packaging to boot. And while it’s true that on their last couple of albums, the band was being steered in a more insipid mainstream direction (imagine a day when a management agency could engineer the removal of a pillar of a band’s sound like John Baxter’s knuckle-duster guitar was for Buffalo on the basis of a muso’s “uncontrollability!”), their sophomore release Volcanic Rock from ’73 definitely earns its place on the Olympus of heaviosity alongside the first two Led Zeps, the first three by D. Purp Mk II, and the first four Sabbaths. Having worked their way out of the constraints of I-IV-V-dom (as documented on their debut disc Dead Forever, whose bonus tracks in Aztec edition include a couple of Chuck Berry covers), Buffalo’s approach on Volcanic Rock, while undoubtedly Sabbath-influenced, has a more naturalistic riddimic feel than Ozzy & Co.’s, while matching their black-clad contemporaries stroke for stroke in the dynamism ‘n’ drama sweepstakes.
More to the point, besides Baxter’s roiling rifferama and the percolating propulsion of the Pete Wells-Jimmy Economou riddim section, Buffalo boasted the tortured tonsils of one Dave Tice, whose vocal stylings on Volcanic Rock make Howlin’ Wolf, Captain Beefheart, Dr. John, and Jim Dandy sound like choirboys. He wipes the floor with all the vaunted Pommy powerhouses of the time, too, not just Plant-Gillan-Osbourne but also Paul Rodgers, Steve Marriott, and whoever else you can think of to throw in the pot. The closest thing to a simulacrum that springs to mind is Soundgarden’s Chris Cornell, who’s an avowed admirer of Tice’s. And no wonder.
This thing rips front to back. - Ken Shimamoto
God bless Aztec Music for re-releasing this. Volcanic Rock's first official release since 1973 (all other CD + vinyl re-releases are unauthorised bootlegs which were mastered from old vinyl pressings). Aztec have dug up the 32-year-old original studio tapes and have done a fantastic job on the remastering (some other reissue labels could take a lesson from Aztec ...yes, making your cd SOUND good is important !).
Fans of 1970s pre punk high energy rock need this album pronto!..It's loud, heavy and very aggressive!..Try and imagine the energy levels of Cactus, Black Sabbath, (early) Grand Funk, MC5, and Sir Lord Baltimore etc..add to that some very sinister hard rock riffling, Dave Tice's white version of Howlin Wolf voice, Pete Wells punchy bass styling sounding not too dis-similar to the sound that John Stax got on those early Pretty Things singles plus Jimmy Economou whose drumming recalls the great hit the entire drum kit style of John Bonham and Keith Moon (legend has it that Economou could also rival the two mentioned drummers in the partying department as well)
A lot of Australian records from this era sounded weak and empty, possibly deliberately with thoughts of radio airplay. "Volcanic Rock" is probably the toughest album to come out in Australia during the early 1970s, certainly beating Billy Thorpe and the Aztecs and Lobby Loyde's Coloured Balls.
Buffalo's secret weapon was their ability to ignore the 12 bar blues/boogie that most hard rock bands of the time favoured and instead opt for creating powerful and sinister sounding hard rock riffs .
This is not to say this album is one-dimensional. For example "Freedom" is a slow heavy track which embraces the spirit of some of those pre rock 'n' roll voodoo blues records (while avoiding the standard 12-bar chord progression) and "Till My Death" is slightly psychedelic Hendrix sounding. It and "Shylock" will both blow your head off with high-energy rifforama.
In a era where Zeppelin , Deep Purple and Sabbath were having chart success it's a damn shame that the opening track on this album "Sunrise (Come My Way)" couldn't do for Buffalo what "Whole Lotta Love" , "Black Knight" or "Paranoid" did for their overseas contemporaries i.e. escalate the band to the worldwide stadiums.
As for the bonus tracks we get a 7" mix/edit of "Sunrise" plus a lo-fi but meaty live version of "Shylock" which despite lack of sound quality would still sending 99 percent of todays mall-metal kiddies running for mummy.
The packaging on this is also excellent: a great triple fold out cardboard cover with a fat 22 page booklet featuring a stack of vintage photos, posters and some informative liner notes from Ian McFarlane - Steve Danno-Lorkin
6 beers out of 5 (if that's possible)