Sunday, 27 December 2015

Autumn & Levi Smiths Clefs - 1970 - The Best of Whisky A Go Go

 Autumn: "Day Tripper", "Midnight Special"
 Levi Smiths Clefs: "Down in the Valley", "Lawdy Miss Clawdy" 


Like their contemporaries The Executives, The Affair, New Dream and Zoot, Sydney band Autumn has been unfairly labelled as a lightweight pop band, mainly on the basis of their early recordings. They've also been tagged as 'one-hit wonders', although in fact they had four hits. Fronted by grievously underrated lead vocalist Tony Romeril, Autumn was a superb band with a strong following in their home city of Sydney, and they could tackle pop, country-rock and heavy/progressive rock with equal ease.

Like their close contemporaries The Flying Circus, Autumn formed at a time when rapid and significant changes were taking place in the music scene and the formerly homogeneous "pop" field was diversifying into several distinct genres. The trends that were drawing 'pop' musicians towards progressive music, "heavy rock" and country rock was counterbalanced by the popularity and commercial success of so-called "bubblegum" pop. This created to a situation where, as Glennn A. Baker has observed, being identified as a pop band "drew automatic derision and critical dismissal".

Autumn's chart success with straight-ahead pop material has obscured the fact that this was a highly competent group, with tastes and abilities which went well beyond the confines of the three-minute formula pop single. Their true talents were not really showcased on record until their last few recordings for the Warner label) and as Glennn Baker notes "... nobody, save those who caught them live, came to realise what a sturdy, musically adept and diverse unit they were."

 Levi Smiths Clefs

If there is any Australian group that deserves to be described as "influential" it's Levi Smith's Clefs. Led for most of its career by famed R&B/jazz singer Barrie "The Bear" McAskill the band was not influential in terms of its repertoire or recordings (of which there are sadly too few) but rather because of its status as one of "the 'muso's bands" of the period and as a training ground for literally scores of players and singers. Levi Smith's Clefs arguably supplied more members to more leading Australian groups of the time than any other, and the list of LSC alumni -- many of whom came from bands of great renown -- includes members of The Aztecs, Max Merritt & The Meteors, Billy Thorpe & The Aztecs, SCRA, Tully and Fraternity, to name just a few. With the possible exception of Blackfeather, few other Aussie bands had such a bewildering series of lineups, which link to literally dozens of other contemporary groups. Full credit is due to the redoubtable Chris Spencer and his colleagues, who have managed to decipher and record much of the Clefs' ever-changing membership.

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