“One of Australia’s best known blues bands.“(Craig Harris – Allmusic)
“The blues-inspired genius of Chain.“(Jane Rocca – The Weekly Review November 2012 )
“Whilst many of the recordings left to us by Chain are memorable and at times brilliant, at the end of the day they were at their best when they were heard live.“ (This review)
This is album review number One hundred and seventy in the series of retro-reviews of both vinyl and CD albums from my collection.
The series is called Cream of The Crate and each review represents an album that I believe represents significant musical value, either because of its rarity, because it represents the best of a style or styles of a music or because there is something unique about the music, the group or the particular production. The first fifty reviews were based on vinyl albums from my collection, with the following fifty on CD albums from my collection. Links to all these reviews can be found at the bottom of the page.
Time to dip back into my crate and draw out an album that is amongst the rarest in my collection, and the fact that it is one of the greatest Aussie Blues Groups of the 1970’s makes it an exciting album to retro-review.
I am talking about Chain and the vinyl album I’m featuring is titled – Two Of A Kind. Originally released by Mushroom on their own label in 1973, it has the identifying code of L35017. The album has six tracks, four on side 1 and 2 on side two. The album was re-released in 1997 on the CD format.
The story of Chain is in fact two stories. One is of the personnel who can lay claim to being in this highly respected group, and the second is the music it produced.
The group was formed in Melbourne in the latter part of 1968 which in itself was quite remarkable. Whilst all the capital cities and regionals, bred their own groups which would take on varying degrees of popularity, Melbourne was the real breeding ground of both some of the best, most innovative and popular bands. Many started in the early part of the 1960’s like their overseas contemporaries, playing blues based material, before evolving into the varying styles being popularised in England, and eventually mutating into their own ‘home-grown” styles.
But Chain were blues based, and while they put out some very popular tracks, albeit only one made it into the top 20, it was their blues playing that was the original raison d’etre and that at a time when psychedelia and may far more contemporary styles of music were being pumped out – made them pretty unique.
They also became an iconic symbol for the working class, performed songs that represented the feelings of the anti-Vietnam War movement, and were more suited to the alternative lifestyle people of the late sixties / early seventies than the mainstream pop world.
Formed by guitarist extraordinaire Phil Manning, who also had an excellent voice it had Ace Follingtonon drums, Warren “Pig” Morgan on keyboards and Murray Wilkins on bass. The lineup considered to be the “classic” Chain lineup eventuated in 1970, when Manning, who at that time had “Big Goose” and “Little Goose” (Barry Harvey – drums) and Barry Sullivan – bass) invited the remarkable Matt Taylor to become their front man.
Barry “Big Goose” Sullivan and Barry “Small Goose” Harvey
The group had no less than THIRTY ONE musicians play in it in its 47 years of existence and tracking the various combinations and dating all the changes including the break ups and reformations is beyond the scope of this album review.
According to Wikipedia the different members of Chain and Matt Taylor’s Chain included:
- Ace Follington — drums (1968–1969)
- Phil Manning — guitar, vocals (1968–1974, 1982, 1983–1986, 1991, 1995–current)
- Warren Morgan — keyboards, vocals (1968–1972)
- Wendy Saddington — vocals (1968–1969)
- Murray Wilkins — bass guitar (1968–1969)
- Glyn Mason — vocals (1970–1972)
- Tim Piper — bass guitar (1969)
- Claude Papesch — organ (1969)
- Barry Harvey — drums (1969–74, 1982, 1983–1986, 1988, 1995–current)
- Barry Sullivan — bass guitar (1969–74, 1982, 1983–1986)
- Matt Taylor — vocals, harmonica (1970–1971, 1982, 1983–1986, 1991–1992, 1995–current)
- Kevin Murphy — drums (1971)
- Charlie Tumahai — bass guitar (1971)
- Lindsay Wells — lead guitar (1971)
- Laurie Pryor — drums (1971–1972)
- Graham Morgan — drums (1972)
- Mal Capewell — saxophone, flute (1973–1974)
- Ian Clyne — organ (1973–1974)
- George Beauford — vocals, harmonica (1973, session musician)
- James Madison — guitar (1973, session musician)
- Mal Logan — keyboards (1974)
- Tony Lunt — drums (1974)
- John Meyer — guitar (1986, 1988, 1991)
- Roy Daniel — bass guitar (1988)
- Bob Fortesque — bass guitar (1991)
- Michael Burn — drums (1991)
- Dirk Du Bois — bass guitar (1991–1992, 1995–current)
- Jeff Lang — guitar (1991–1992)
- Bob Patient — piano (1991–1992)
- Gus Warburton — drums (1991–1992)
- Mal Eastick — guitar (1992)
As you browse through this list you can’t help but be amazed and impressed at the talent other than those in the “classic” lineup that Chain had in its various incarnations. These include Wendy Saddington, Glyn Mason, Ian Clyne, Mal Eastic, and, some members of Muddy Waters touring band who feature in this album.
Matt Taylor and Phil Manning
There were 14 albums released between 1970 and 2005 and ten singles released from 1969 onward. The 1971 single Black and Blue being the only top ten charting single, reaching number 12 nationally.
This album was the group’s fourth album and it is a “gatefold” production. By this time the line up consisted of – Mal Capewell on saxophone, flute (ex-Company Caine), Ian Clyne on organ (ex-The Loved Ones), Sullivan on bass guitar and Harvey on drums. Chain’s band manager, Michael Gudinski had signed the band to his newly formed label, Mushroom Records which released two non-charting singles and then an album, Two of a Kind in December 1973. However, during May, Chain toured the country as support to the Muddy Waters Band and soon after teamed with that band’s James “Peewee” Madison (guitar, vocals) and George”Mojo” Beauford (vocals, harmonica) to record the album under review – Two Of A Kind.
Track 1 kicks off with a track that carries the same title as the album, or is it vice-versa? Two Of A Kind was written by James “PeeWee” Madison. Madison plays guitar and provides the vocals. Phil Manning on guitar, “Little Goose” on bass, “Big Goose” on drums, Mal Capewell on flute and sax and,Ian Clyne on piano.
An original composition that fairly rocks along with some great playing by all involved, with the flute Playing of Capewell almost duelling with Madison’s guitar playing at times. I find Madison’s voice to be good, but lacking the power of some of the other vocalists Chain featured, particularly Matt Taylor who was the outstanding Chain vocalist. Yet the piece as uptempo blues, is quite a delight with Madison playing some very tasteful guitar licks.
Two Of A Kind
Track 2 is a rework of Lowell Fulsom’s composition – Reconsider Baby. On this track Madison is joined by George “Mojo” Beaufort on harp and vocals. Phil Manning is once again on guitar along withSullivan, Harvey and Clyne. This version features both the harp and guitar whereas the Fulson original was definitely guitar based, and despite the great playing by Chain, the Fulson version is superior. However, the “guys” do fall into a nice groove and the outfit are tight in all aspects and the addition of the piano and the harmonica do set up a really nice piece of blues. I do sometimes forget how goodClyne was on piano – and listening to his playing on this track brings back many fond memories of him playing live with the Loved Ones.
George “Mojo” Beaufort and James “PeeWee” Madison
I also believe that Beaufort has a better “blues voice” than Madison and I like his work. Chain with Reconsider Baby is a really, really nice piece of playing and at times the guitar playing of Phil Manning breaks through beautifully.
Side 2 only contains one track – an Ian Clyne original it has the unlikely title of How To Set Fire To An Elephant and runs for 18:32. This time we are regaled by just Chain, that is to say no US imports justPhil Manning on guitar, Greg “Sleepy” Lawrie on guitar, Barry Sullivan on bass, Greg Harvey on percussion, Mal Capewell on sax and flute and Ian Clyne on electric keyboards.
It wouldn’t be unfair to describe the track as being a fusion of blues and a more experimental electro form. It is the kind of track that would have gone down brilliantly in venues such as the T.F. Much Ballroom and Garrison – in fact it was recorded live at the then Garrison disco in the Melbourne suburb of Prahran/Windsor.
Upon its release many called it “self-indulgent” and in some ways it did represent the trend in that period of the 70’s toward what some called endless guitar “noodling”, while others saw it as breaking out of the 3 – 4 minute “pop” format a-la Frank Zappa, Captain Beefheart and the like. This allowed each musician to have a moment (or moments) where they could demonstrate their abilities. Generally there was a loose overall structure but within it there was endless freedom to as-lib and to develop a “groove, follow it, and allow it to be picked up and mutate into another form by another member of the group.
Listening back now, I find it really great and the development of the piece works because of the quality of the musicians and each has one or more “moments” where they shine!
I won’t upload and play the whole 18+ minutes, but here some edited highlights. Incidentally, there was a track called Elephants that was on the other side of the single I thought You Weren’t My Friend – and this track is the full extended version of that single.
How To Set Fire To An Elephant [edited]
In many ways the album can be considered as low key compared to the other Chain albums, but at the end of the day all the music of this amazing group needs to be revered as part of a brilliant Australian blues history.
Whilst many of the recordings left to us by Chain are memorable and at times outstanding, at the end of the day they were at their best when they were heard live. They were in fact, a premier live entertainment experience. All lineups of Chain are still, today, continued to be spoken of both reverently and with passion by Australian blues fans.
This album may not go down as the best Chain album, in fact it might be seen as simply making use of the tracks the group recorded with those members of Muddy’s band, plus an extended live recorded track of Chain. However, now some forty plus years have gone by we can be thankful it was produced as it represents part of a great legacy by this band.
It does have some great tracks and it has the extra “bonus” of having two members of Muddy Waters touring band, sitting in on it. What it is, is rare – hard to find album, but then again that is the story of ALL Chain albums. Find a copy of any Chain album, anywhere, and you should buy it immediately.
Last time I looked there were three vinyl copies on Ebay, one at $75.00, one at $80.00 and one at $206.00 (it must have the blood of the band somewhere on it), and postage has to be added to all. Discoga had no copies of the vinyl or CD re-release.