Ripped By: ChrisGoesRock
This is album review number One Hundred and Ninety 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 pull another Aussie album from the Crate, and this week and when this album came out, it caused a little stir, with some saying it was a mighty progressive album, and others saying it was full of "fillers". Personally, I believe that overall is was groundbreaking in it's particular genre.
The group is Madder Lake and this is a vinyl album and is titled - Stillpoint. It was released on the Mushroom Records in 1973 and has the identifying code of MRL 34915. It only has 7 tracks. It was rereleased on CD in 2009 by Aztec Records.
Madder Lake has its genesis with 2 young students at what was then, Swinburne Institute of Technology and were playing in their band, San Sebastion in and around Melbourne, with limited success.
Originally a covers band, some time between mutating from San Sebastian to Madder Lake, they began to introduce original compositions, being switched on enough to recognise that strictly covers bands had limited appeal, and lifespan.
With the rise and rise of a new wave of British progressive rock music, the guys were particularly drawn toward groups such as Traffic and King Crimson and by late 1970 the decision was made to become known as Madder Lake. The term is most widely interpreted as being a crimson based special water paint - but in the growing "head sub-culture", it was seen as a reference to alternative psychedelia - and certainly the names of the tracks that quickly followed in the next year or so, seemed to reinforce this.
This form of the group saw Mick Fettes on vocals, Jack Kreemers on drums, Brendan Mason on guitar, Kerry McKenna on bass and John McKinnon on keyboards. With Melbourne based Michael Gudinski looking out for new acts to present to the public in this developing music genre, and Madder Lake looking to establish themselves wider than pubs, the match was made and by 1973 following them being they were the opening act at the inaugural 1972 Sunbury Pop Festival, they became the headline act!
In February of that year they released their first single with the unlikely title of Goodbye Lollypop, which struck a chord in the groups growing band of followers and it went to number 15 in Melbourne and cracked the top 40 Australian singles chart. Things were rocketing along for the group and they supported The Rolling Stones at their Melbourne concerts at the Kooyong Tennis Centre.
In April '73 Mushroom released their classic debut album, Stillpoint. This album was recorded at TCS Studios in January and March and produced by John French. It was another breakthrough success for the band and provided Mushroom with their first gold record. It reached #11 nationally and #2 in Melbourne, where they had become one of the top live draws. The album is beautifully framed by Drak's wonderful cover illustration, which complemented the music in much the same way as Roger Dean's famous covers for Yes. The distinctive Madder Lake logo, designed by Ian McCausland, completed the package.
In August another track from Stillpoint was released, and it showed the group had lost non of their penchant for evocative names, being 12 Lb Toothbrush, which fast became one of the groups most recogniseable tracks. By this time John McKinnon had been replaced by Andy Cowan, in what would be the first of quite a few membership lineup changes over the next few years.
In 1974 the group released its second album - Butterfly Farm. It was received with far less enthusiasm and it seems that significant momentum had been lost and in fact by 1976, after more membership changes, the band didn't fold as much as go into a hiatus, in fact over the years several hiatus's and it was in 1975 that many believe the real "crunch" came.
According to the Madder Lake website - "Madder Lake returned to Melbourne and leaped into the project, drastically curtailing live gigs (and thus their income). Through a friend, they were able to use an empty pub in the dockland area of Port Melbourne as a regular base in which to write, arrange and rehearse the new music. They made several tapes for the project, including a full preliminary demo made on 4-track at the ABC studios in Perth. It's not known if these ABC tapes have survived, but the band at least do have a cassette copy (although the quality is necessarily limited). Around 90 minutes of songs and linking music was composed, a rough set of working lyrics had been written, and according to Mick the project was more than ready to hand over to Measham for the next stage, the orchestral arrangements .
Unfortunately, this was the point at which Brave New World became one of the great "lost" works of Australian rock. Mushroom's initial interesting in the project rapidly cooled, Measham's concert commitments kept him away and as it dragged out over months, the band saw the writing on the wall, and it was eventually shelved. Because it was written to be performed as single piece, the band only ever played it live once in its entirety, although one favourite segment was preformed at gigs as a stand-alone piece for a while.
The combination of the Madder Lake's innovative music and the Brave New World book leaves you wondering what might have been. We hope that some of the Brave New World demos will find a public release in the future, and it's also possible that, with the advent of new computer technology, it might be possible for the group to realise the work electronically in the future.
Stung by the failure of this ambitious project, the band limped on through 1975, but the various forces acting on them were tearing the formerly close-knit group apart. Lack of record company support, financial pressure, the grind of five years' constant gigging, internal stresses and the hazards of the rock'n'roll lifestyle were all taking their toll. As Mick ruefully observes:
"We just hit a brick wall at a million miles an hour ... in those times you were just on a merry-go-round, and you just went on it in concentric circles until you reached the centre, and then it spat you out It wasn't just us -- it happened to so many people."
Things came to a head at the end of 1975. While on a trip to Sydney, Mick Fettes, who was very much the voice and face of Madder Lake, decided he had had enough, and one night before a gig at the Bondi Lifesaver he quit the group."
The group has resurfaced several times over intervening years and reissued with bonus tracks, Stillpoint on 10 October 2008 and Butterfly Farm on 24 March 2009. Fetes who had come and gone and come and gone rejoined the band and in 2009, Madder Lake were Andy Burns on keyboards, Fettes, Kreemers, Mason and McKenna.
In 2013 they released the critically acclaimed album 'World', their first album in 39 years. and in December of that year, Mick Fettes once again retired and was replaced by Ian Ferguson ex-RJSS, Carson and the Blue Dukes on lead vocals.
* Mick Fettes — vocals
* Jac Kreemers — drums
* Brenden Mason — guitar
* Kerry McKenna — bass guitar, guitar
* John McKinnon — keyboards, vocals
01. Salmon Song 8:23
02. On My Way to Heaven 3:52
03. Helper 5:07
04. Listen to the Morning Sunshine 5:11
05. Goodbye Lollipop 3:36
06. Song for Little Ernest 4:31
07. 12-lb. Toothbrush 6:02
08. Bumper Bar Song (B-Side) [bonus track] 4:42
09. 12-lb. Toothbrush (Single Version) [bonus track] 3:51
10. Country Blues (B-Side) [bonus track] 2:43
11. Down the River (Live at Sunbury) [bonus track] 6:14
12. 12-lb. Toothbrush (Live at Sunbury) [bonus track] 8:18
13. Bumper Bar Song (Live at Garrison) [bonus track] 5:50
14. When Is a Mouse (Live at Garrison) [bonus track] 5:38
Madder Lake - Butterfly Farm (Australian Progressive 1974)
Ripped by: ChrisGoesRock
Some Artwork Included
The 1974 follow up to their startling debut 'stillpoint' is another progressive rock gem another chapter in the story of one australia's best bands of the seventies. This, their last lp (excepting their legendary "lost" album 'brave new world.we're still searching.') again featured a striking cover from roadie / artist drak and was lavishly packaged in a gatefold sleeve and insert (artwork faithfully created for this release). Musically, 'butterfly farm' continues in the same "psychedelic blues" vein as its predecessor and features the mighty 'ride on fast' along with some amusing adlibs (on the live at sunbury version of 'lizards') from singer mick fettes! Aztec have added two subsequent non-lp singles and a live track from sunbury and the garrison as bonus tracks!
Madder Lake was one of the most original and distinctive of the "new wave" of Australian groups that emerged around 1970. They were also an important and popular part of the of the emerging Melbourne music scene. It's unfortunate that they're only known for their extant recordings -- their two excellent 1970s Albums and one "Best Of.." compilation. They were one of the first bands signed to the Michael Gudinski co-owned Mushroom Records which released their debut single, "Goodbye Lollipop" in February 1973, followed by the album Stillpoint in August. This contained their most recognisable single, "12lb Toothbrush". Their second album Butterfly Farm was released in April 1974, they left Mushroom after their last single, "I Get High" appeared in July 1976. A compilation album The Best of Madder Lake was released by Mushroom Records in 1978.
San Sebastian was a part-time rock band formed by Swinburne Institute of Technology (now Swinburne University of Technology, Hawthorn campus) Graphic Design students in 1968, including Kerry McKenna on bass guitar and Brendan Mason on guitar.By 1969 the line-up was McKenna, Mason, Mick Fettes on vocals, Jack Kreemers on drums and John McKinnon on keyboards, they were playing cover versions for the pub circuit. Original material was introduced and, by late 1970, band members were leaving their tertiary studies to fulfil their bookings.
With a repertoire of progressive, psychedelic, blues music they changed their name, in early 1971, to Madder Lake—madder lake is a crimson-coloured water-based dye (alizarin) mixed with alum and used in painting. The Melbourne-based line-up of Fettes, Kreemers, Mason, McKenna and McKinnon were picked up by Michael Gudinski's booking agency, Consolidated Rock.
Madder Lake were influenced by British progressive rock acts, Family, Traffic and King Crimson.They were the opening act at the inaugural Sunbury Pop Festival in January 1972. As their popularity increased, they were one of the first band's signed to the Gudinski co-owned Mushroom Records in late 1972.
By 1973 they were a headlining act at the 1973 Sunbury Pop Festival, where they actually followed immediately after the hapless Queen, who were booed and bottled offstage ("The crowd wanted us" reckons Mick!) and Mushroom Records' first release was their debut single, "Goodbye Lollipop", in February. The single peaked at #15 in Melbourne and made the Australian singles Top 40. Mushroom Record's first album release was the ambitious triple-live, The Great Australian Rock Festival - Sunbury 1973, which was released in early April, and included two Madder Lake tracks.
Madder Lake's debut album, Stillpoint followed in August, which peaked at #13 on the Australian albums chart, it spawned their most recognised single, "12lb Toothbrush" written by band members, Fettes, Kreemers, McKenna and McKinnon.
McKinnon had been replaced on keyboards by Andy Cowan (who was introduced to the band by future 'Skyhook' Bob Starkie - another former schoolmate of Brendan and Kerry's), by the time the album and its related single had been released. In 1974, the band recorded their second album, Butterfly Farm which was released in April but the album and its related singles had less critical and commercial success than earlier work.
British conductor, David Measham, who had worked with Rick Wakeman on his Journey to the Centre of the Earth, was based in Perth, Western Australia from 1974. He commissioned Madder Lake for a theme piece on Aldous Huxley's science fiction novel Brave New World, but the project stalled when funding from Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) was cut-back and Measham's other commitments intruded. Cowan and Fettes left Madder Lake by late 1975, Fettes formed Bandicoot with comedian, Shane Bourne.
Fettes was initially replaced by Colin Setches on vocals but when McKinnon returned in early 1976 he took up vocals in addition to keyboards, meanwhile Ian Holding replaced a departing McKenna on bass guitar and the band recorded their last single, "I Get High" and left Mushroom Records. McKenna returned, now on second guitar, and Tony Lake joined on vocals but soon left. Although not formally disbanding, Madder Lake subsequently had numerous periods of low activity. Fettes returned in April 1978 for touring and Mushroom released their compilation album, The Best of Madder Lake in May, a new album was planned but Fettes left again in January 1979.
Madder Lake resurfaced with three tracks on The Mushroom Evolution Concert live album, to celebrate the record company's tenth anniversary in 1982. They returned to touring in 1996 and appeared on Mushroom 25 Live: The Concert of the Century released in 1998, after which Gudinski sold his interests in Mushroom to Festival Records. Madder Lake's two studio albums have been re-issued by Aztec Music with bonus tracks added, Stillpoint on 10 October 2008 and Butterfly Farm on 24 March 2009. As of May 2009, Madder Lake are Andy Burns on keyboards, Fettes, Kreemers, Mason and McKenna.
01. Rodney's Birthday
03. Booze Blues
04. Ride On Fast
05. One Star And The Moon
06. Butterfly Farm
07. Slack Alice
08. Back Seat Song
09. It's All In Your Head (Single A-Side, November 1974)
10. I Get High (Single A-Side, July 1976)
11. Rodney's Birthday (From 'Garrison: The Final Blow Unit 1', October 1973)
12. Lizards (From 'Highlights Of Sunbury '74', May 1974)
Part 1: Madder Lake 1
Part 2: Madder Lake 2
Part 1: Madder Lake 1
Part 2: Madder Lake 2
Part 1: Madder Lake 1
Part 2: Madder Lake 2