domenica, aprile 10, 2011

Madder Lake - Still Point (1973 A'lian prog)

Madder Lake - Still Point

I always considered Australia as a prog wasteland. It is not too much of a charge considering that the UK was the clear leader in this movement, Germany was a distant second and pretty much every other country was way way back. With Spectrum being the only well known Australian band that could be classified as prog, I had ignored the scene until recently. Spectrum have their moments (pretty much all of them on Milesago) but are barely worth mentioning in the same breath as the true prog kings of the early 70s. Fortunately I got my hands on the Madder Lake Aztec releases which, while certainly not prog worldbeaters either, opened my eyes to the burgeoning prog scene in Australia circa 1973 and in that sense Madder Lake could almost be considered as the contemporaries of the 2nd generation of British prog (approx 1972 - 1976) and should be judged accordingly.

With the introductory paragraph attempting to lay down my perspective and appreciation for this prog scene, it is almost a paradox to state that often the best moments of Still Point are when the band are at their poppiest. The band was certainly not averse to a catchy refrain: 'On My Way to Heaven', '12-lb Toothbrush' and 'Goodbye Lollipop' are all tracks that are likely to get stuck in your head even after few listens. 'On My Way to Heaven' is actually a pretty weird pop song - the phasing effect of the half-whispered vocals, sitting atop a floor of oohing harmonies is a pretty weird effect for what turns out to be a fairly catchy refrain. 'Goodbye Lollipop' is a completely unashamed pop song which was released as a single, and a pretty good one at that. The band's most famous track '12-lb Toothbrush' is a far proggier affair with an extensive instrumental midsection, but the silly "na na..." intro and coda nailed it in listener's minds and this is its enduring legacy. Trivia warning: the title of course has nothing to do with the content of the track, but was purely chosen as the band wondered what it would be like to have a ridiculous track title announced on radio. They of course got their wish. Personally I think the track is a little disjointed: the shifts between the poppy intro/outro, straight-ahead blues rock main theme and the psychedelic wandering prog instrumental break are all unnatural, but the track is still very good if you accept this minor flaw.

'Salmon Song' is probably the only track here that could be considered as genuine prog: a gently developing guitar riff, reinforced with some decent keyboards, carries it through its almost vocal free length of eight minutes. Elsewhere the remaining tracks are fairly forgettable, ranging from pseudo-prog tracks with naff refrains ('Helper', 'Listen to the Morning Sun') to pseudo-prog tracks with refrains that aren't quite so naff ('Song for Little Earnest). Okay not so much range with these three tracks, but you get the picture. Still I think the other four tracks I singled out take this album to a respectable 3.5 stars.
From RYM (Bitterman)

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