Great Australian Live Albums - Part 1

Great Australian Live Albums - Part 1

best aussie live rock albums
Billy Thorpe and Lobby Lloyd, ARIA Hall of Fame Awards, Melbourne, 2006 (Photo by Martin Philbey/Redferns/Getty Images)

Now a dying art, the live album was an iconic and often-career defining concept in the 70s. As often as not a double LP, the live album was a career-encapsulating collection of songs which captured the artist in their preferred element. Live albums could push floundering artists - the likes of Kiss, Peter Frampton, and Cheap Trick – further up the charts, and remain for others – the likes of the Who, the Rolling Stones, Deep Purple, Allman Brothers Band, Lou Reed, Rory Gallagher and Thin Lizzy – as exceptional and perhaps definitive expressions of their art. 

The live album similarly meant much in Australia at the time. Early on, it was even seen by record companies as a cheap alternative to putting bands into a studio: Chain, Greg Quill's Country Radio and even Hush were amongst those who recorded their debut albums live. Later in the decade, the biggest bands in the country would all release live sets that remain amongst their most exciting releases, and this trend would continue into the 80s and beyond, although becoming less prevalent.

In the first of a multi-part series, ILYOS looks back at the classic Australian live albums. We start back at the beginning of the 70s...

While live albums were common enough overseas in the 60s – sets from James Brown, Jerry Lee Lewis, the Stones, and the Kinks remain as classics, and legendary Detroit band the MC5, known for their incendiary live performances, were recorded live in 1968 for their classic debut Kick Out The Jams - the concept of the live album grew as the scale of live performance grew. The emergence of the Rock Festival took audience size to new extremes, and of course, in 1969 the Woodstock festival resulted in a massively successful live album and film and introduced the concept of the multiple artists live album as a record of a festival.

Here in Australia, a couple of years later, we had the first Sunbury festival and a slew of resultant live releases, but the Golden Age of Australian live albums had already begun, thanks to the Golden Age of Aussie blues & boogie. 

Chain - Live (1970)

Before Matt Taylor joined and they recorded their iconic "Black & Blue" single and Towards the Blues album, Chain recorded their first album live - apparently for $32.00! It's a wonder that at that point the record companies didn't decide that all records were to be now made live, but the album failed to connect to a pop audience and didn't stay in print long. Although the band based itself between Perth and Melbourne the album was recorded at Sydney Nightclub Caesar's Palace in July 1970 – Sydney, of course, was where Festival Records was. The power base would soon shift to Melbourne when a young entrepreneur named Michael Gudinski started managing Chain and promoting shows.

Wendy Saddington & The Copperwine  - Live (1971)

Saddington was known as one of the great blues and soul voices of her era, and she was one of many individuals who had moved through Chain in the early days. By 1971 she was fronting Sydney's Copperwine alongside Jeff St John; Wendy & the band, without Jeff, performed at the Wallacia Festival, in central New South Wales, and their performance was recorded and released as Wendy's only album.

Aztecs - Live (1970)

The first of two classic live albums by Billy Thorpe and band, Aztecs Live was recorded at Melbourne Town hall in 1971. With sets from Chain, Daddy Cool, Wild Cherries, La De Da's, Healing Force and Lotus as well as the Aztecs, the show was a veritable rock festival itself, but unfortunately, the other bands weren't recorded. The album was the second by the 70s version of the Aztecs – it followed The Hoax Is Over, which featured Lobby Loyde on guitar as well as Billy – and would confirm their stature as the heaviest and loudest band in the land.

Sunbury (1972)

One of the great lost artifacts of Australia rock – it has never been reissued - the double live document of the first Sunbury Festival includes powerhouse performance from some of the greats of the era, including multiple tracks from the La-de-das, Max Merrit & The Meteors, Spectrum & The Indelible Murtcepts, and the mighty "Mama" from Thorpie & The Aztecs.

The Aztecs - Live at Sunbury (1972)

Also recorded at Sunbury 72, this is the definitive Aztecs statement, and one of the all-time essential Australian albums. Featuring ultimate Aztecs versions of "CC Rider" and "Be Bop A Lula", an extended "Most People I Know Think That I'm Crazy" and a 15+ minute version of "Ooh Poo Pa Doo", this defines the concept of Endless Boogie.

Country Radio - Live (72)

Sydney singer-songwriter Greg Quill and his band Country Radio had already recorded the acclaimed Fleetwood Plain LP for Harvest/EMI in 1970 when he signed to Festivals' Infinity label in 1972. After two successful singles, "Gypsy Queen" and" Wintersong", Infinity put the band, now just called Country Radio, and featuring future Dingoes guitarist Kerry Tolhurst, into a studio in front of an audience to record their next album live. Live is a great document and includes new versions of the two hit singles, and Greg's classic versions of two John Stewart's songs "Some Lonesome Picker" and "Never Goin' Back".

Daddy Cool  - Live! The Last Drive-in Movie Show (1973)

Recorded in August 1972 at what was then Daddy Cool's farewell gig at Melbourne's Much More Ballroom, this is not only the definitive Daddy Cool document but in this writer's humble opinion, the great Australian live album of them all. Combining the best of their rocking first album and their weirder second album, along with all the hits, some great covers (it kicks off with a blinding "That'll Be The Day") and some new weird originals ("Boy, You're Paranoid" is fantastic!), The Last Drive-in Movie Show is full of brilliant rock'n'roll and crazy ideas and deserving of a lot more attention than it's ever received. Released obviously after the band had split, almost as an afterthought by their record company, the album has remained out of print way too long. 

Sunbury 1973 – The Great Australian Rock Festival (1973)

If Sunbury 72 deserved a double LP, new record mogul Michael Gudinski decreed that Mushroom Records would give Sunbury 73 a TRIPLE live set. And so the elaborately packaged 3LP set appeared a mere three months after the festival itself, featuring an impressive line-up including the Aztecs, Friends, Coloured Balls, Madder Lake, Carson, Blackfeather, Band of Light, Country Radio, Matt Taylor, Sid Rumpo and more.

Carson - On The Air (1973)

Just as Sunbury 72 also gave us an Aztecs live set, Sunbury 73 gave us live albums from a number of individual bands. Boogiemeisters Carson, featuring the great Brod Smith on vocals and harmonica, split up almost immediately after the festival and used their Sunbury set for their second and final album just months later.

Blackfeather - Live (1973)

Another Sunbury 73 live set, this was actually Blackfeather's second live album – their first was the Boppin' The Blues LP, recorded live at the  Melbourne Town Hall and the Q Club in late 72 to capitalise on the smash hit single of the same name. Of course, there was some duplication in tracks – not ideal for consecutive albums by the same band – and the group was on its last legs anyway, so the second live set failed to sell.   

Summer Jam (1973)

Yet another Sunbury 73 recording, the legendary Summer Jam set features a late night/early morning jam session and is most famous for the incredibly instrumental piece 'GOD", by Lobby Loyde and his Coloured Balls. Recently reissued on Aztec with Lobby's final recordings added as a bonus, Summer Jam has been bootlegged several times in Europe.

Spectrum/Murtceps - Terminal Buzz (1973)

Certainly more cerebral and humorous than your average boogie band, Mike Rudd's wonderful band Spectrum, who'd hit initially with the plaintive "I'll Be Gone" before heading off into more nebulous areas, called it quits in 1973. So did their alter ego the Murtceps (Spectrum written backwards), who kept things a bit simpler and rootsy, as per the minor hit single "Esmeralda". The combined bands' farewell show at Melbourne's Dallas Brooks Hall in April 73 would soon appear on the much-loved double LP Terminal Buzz (with a dead fly on the cover).

Garrison The Final Blow Unit's 1 & 2 (1973)

A fabulous snapshot of the Melbourne live scene courtesy of Michael Gudinski's Mushroom, these two separate albums were recorded live at the final night of a popular Prahran venue in June 73. Across the two splendidly recorded LPs you get some great stuff from Matt Taylor & Chain, Sid Rumpo, a young Dutch Tilders, Madder Lake, Friends, and, surprisingly, the only recordings by Sydney 60s pop star Ray Brown and his country-rock outfit One Ton Gypsy. Sid Rumpo's tracks appeared on the 2013 reissue of their First Offense LP.

Highlights Of Sunbury ’74 1 & 2 (1974)

I'm guessing Mushroom night have lost some dough on the elaborately packaged 3LP Sunbury 73 set; when it came time to release Sunbury 74 they did so in the form of two separate single LPs, each packaged very basically. But the music was of course still great, and these two between them include more brilliant stuff from the Aztecs, Chain, Ayers Rock, McKenzie Theory and more. That "more" includes an absolutely dynamite "Hi Honey Ho" by Daddy Cool, who'd reformed for the festival, two blitzing rockers from Buster Brown, featuring a couple of young rockers named Angry Anderson and Phil Rudd, and the first two songs on record from a crazy combo out of Carlton named Skyhooks.

In part two we'll look at classic later 70s live albums from Hush, Ariel, Jeff St John, Sherbet, Ol55, Skyhooks, AC/DC, Jo Jo Zep & the Falcons and more!

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