VOLCANIC ROCK - Buffalo (Aztec Music)
I copped this 2006 reish late (thanks ‘n’ a tip o’ the hat to Lou Ridsdale at Lance Rock Publicity), but the Barman is generously allowing me to weigh in with my Yankee two cents’ worth.
Like sometime Bar scribe Geoff Ginsberg, I’ll cop to being “more of a rock guy than a punk guy.” Sure, I love all the Detroit and Cleveland punk precursors and the early Noo Yawk crews, but once it all starts sounding like a four-on-the-floor formula based on a Ramones or Sex Pistols template, I kinda lose the thread. And gravitate back to the kinds of noise I was listening to back in my own personal Wonder Years, ’68-’72: hard rock, blues rock, the dregs of psychedelia, the first nascent stirrings of metal. And the last coupla years have been a veritable treasure trove of discovery for one so inclined, as things that weren’t even on the radar 30something years ago become generally available: ex-Blue Cheer guitar god Randy Holden’s lost masterpiece Population II; Blues Creation’s Demon and Eleven Children, on which a crew of Japanese brats best the Brit brigade at their own blooze-based proto-metal game; even the work of Filipino rawk institution Juan De La Cruz, which provides proof positive that yes, Virginia, you can rock – hard – in Tagalog.
Add Antipodean sludge-metal pioneers Buffalo, who’ve long been a signifier for the Stateside stoner-rock claque, to the list, with Aztec Music’s admirable restoration of the band’s entahr catalog, with sterling remastering, bonus tracks that actually add to, rather than detract from, the ‘riginal albs’ magnificence, and deluxe packaging to boot. And while it’s true that on their last couple of albums, the band was being steered in a more insipid mainstream direction (imagine a day when a management agency could engineer the removal of a pillar of a band’s sound like John Baxter’s knuckle-duster guitar was for Buffalo on the basis of a muso’s “uncontrollability!”), their sophomore release Volcanic Rock from ’73 definitely earns its place on the Olympus of heaviosity alongside the first two Led Zeps, the first three by D. Purp Mk II, and the first four Sabbaths. Having worked their way out of the constraints of I-IV-V-dom (as documented on their debut disc Dead Forever, whose bonus tracks in Aztec edition include a couple of Chuck Berry covers), Buffalo’s approach on Volcanic Rock, while undoubtedly Sabbath-influenced, has a more naturalistic riddimic feel than Ozzy & Co.’s, while matching their black-clad contemporaries stroke for stroke in the dynamism ‘n’ drama sweepstakes.
More to the point, besides Baxter’s roiling rifferama and the percolating propulsion of the Pete Wells-Jimmy Economou riddim section, Buffalo boasted the tortured tonsils of one Dave Tice, whose vocal stylings on Volcanic Rock make Howlin’ Wolf, Captain Beefheart, Dr. John, and Jim Dandy sound like choirboys. He wipes the floor with all the vaunted Pommy powerhouses of the time, too, not just Plant-Gillan-Osbourne but also Paul Rodgers, Steve Marriott, and whoever else you can think of to throw in the pot. The closest thing to a simulacrum that springs to mind is Soundgarden’s Chris Cornell, who’s an avowed admirer of Tice’s. And no wonder.
This thing rips front to back. - Ken Shimamoto
God bless Aztec Music for re-releasing this. Volcanic Rock's first official release since 1973 (all other CD + vinyl re-releases are unauthorised bootlegs which were mastered from old vinyl pressings). Aztec have dug up the 32-year-old original studio tapes and have done a fantastic job on the remastering (some other reissue labels could take a lesson from Aztec ...yes, making your cd SOUND good is important !).
Fans of 1970s pre punk high energy rock need this album pronto!..It's loud, heavy and very aggressive!..Try and imagine the energy levels of Cactus, Black Sabbath, (early) Grand Funk, MC5, and Sir Lord Baltimore etc..add to that some very sinister hard rock riffling, Dave Tice's white version of Howlin Wolf voice, Pete Wells punchy bass styling sounding not too dis-similar to the sound that John Stax got on those early Pretty Things singles plus Jimmy Economou whose drumming recalls the great hit the entire drum kit style of John Bonham and Keith Moon (legend has it that Economou could also rival the two mentioned drummers in the partying department as well)
A Lot of Australian records from this era sounded weak and empty, possibly deliberately with thoughts of radio airplay. "Volcanic Rock" is probably the toughest album to come out in Australia during the early 1970s, certainly beating Billy Thorpe and the Aztecs and Lobby Loyde's Coloured Balls.
Buffalo's secret weapon was their ability to ignore the 12 bar blues/boogie that most hard rock bands of the time favoured and instead opt for creating powerful and sinister sounding hard rock riffs .
This is not to say this album is one-dimensional. For example "Freedom" is a slow heavy track which embraces the spirit of some of those pre rock 'n' roll voodoo blues records (while avoiding the standard 12-bar chord progression) and "Till My Death" is slightly psychedelic Hendrix sounding. It and "Shylock" will both blow your head off with high-energy rifforama.
In a era where Zeppelin , Deep Purple and Sabbath were having chart success it's a damn shame that the opening track on this album "Sunrise (Come My Way)" couldn't do for Buffalo what "Whole Lotta Love" , "Black Knight" or "Paranoid" did for their overseas contemporaries i.e. escalate the band to the worldwide stadiums.
As for the bonus tracks we get a 7" mix/edit of "Sunrise" plus a lo-fi but meaty live version of "Shylock" which despite lack of sound quality would still sending 99 percent of todays mall-metal kiddies running for mummy.
The packaging on this is also excellent: a great triple fold out cardboard cover with a fat 22 page booklet featuring a stack of vintage photos, posters and some informative liner notes from Ian McFarlane - Steve Danno-Lorkin
6 beers out of 5 (if that's possible)
MOTHER'S CHOICE - Buffalo (Aztec Music)
AVERAGE ROCK 'N' ROLLER - Buffalo (Aztec Music)
All good things must come to an end and Aztec's reissue series on the mighty Buffalo is something that in a perfect world would never end (a world which would also include hangover free beer, amps that really do go to eleven and pizza that grows on trees).
Considered by some collector types as not being as valid as the earlier Buffalo albums, "Mothers Choice" and "Average Rock & Roller" are both very different to the hard and heavy jams as heard during the John Baxter (guitarist, songwriter) era of the group.
Ok…it’s 1975 and like others before them, Buffalo were at the crossroads. Sure they were packing them out across the country on the endless town hall circuit but the albums were still very much cult items which is all fine and groovy but it doesn’t pay the bills nor keep your record company willing to release and promote your music. SOLUTION: Ditch the guitarist/songwriter and seek new directions.
Which brings us 1976’s "Mothers Choice".
Personally, this is one of my favourite Buffalo albums. The sound is a big move forward with the times, more traditional in the song structuring and the lyric topics. If you can imagine The Rolling Stones' "Brown Sugar" played with more power then you’d be not far off the track.
This really is a great hard hitting high energy rock & roll album. The songs are meaty, short (for Buffalo standards) and dynamic.
New guitarist & music writer Karl Taylor playing is very much in the Paul Kosoff, Mick Ralphs style ie; tough & tight. Singer Dave Tice finally gets a chance to do some great Rock and Roll singing and his lyrics and melodys are strong and catchy. Bass player Peter Wells is really on fire on these tracks. His playing weaves around all the instruments yet like all great players never over does it. Drummer Jimmy “The Greek” Eonomou seems to be in his element here, like Wells he plays exactly what is needed for the songs. Short term slide player Norm Roue appears on most of the tracks here and his playing at times is incredible. It’s not hard to hear where Pete Wells (who after Buffalo starting playing slide and formed the mighty Rose Tattoo) got a lot of his inspiration.
Hell, with the right promotion this album could have been a hit, but one gets the impression that as far as the music industry and radio stations were concerned Buffalo had perhaps lost their chance at being accepted (if only Phonogram in Australia had bribed the right people).
Bonus tracks here are two cool B-sides. A cover of Little Richards' "The Girl Can’t Help It" which absolutely rocks! And a great original "On My Way".
Clocking in at a total of 45 minutes it’s a shame that Aztec didn’t see fit to dig up some more bonus tracks such as a 30-minute live 2 Double Jay set recorded in '75, or even include some of the video clips as a CDROM shot for the singles from this album.
The final ever Buffalo album was 1977’s "Average Rock & Roller". By this time, Wells, Taylor and Roue had long gone. New members Chris Turner and Ross Sims both brought a very different sound to the band.
This is perhaps Buffalo's most varied album release.
Admitley this has always been my least favourite album as it seemed at times to be very self indulgent but this new reissue is starting to grow on me. Musically it reminds me of Humble Pie (although Dave Tice bluesy growl is a million miles away from Steve Marriots high pitched screeches).
The tracks that work best are the acoustic guitar based numbers. "Rollin’", the first single from the album, may well be the best acoustic song the Rolling Stones never wrote. The title tune has a vibe similar to all those 70’s British pub rocks bands like Doctor Feelgood. "Hotel Ladies" is, in my opinion, one of Buffalo's finest ever moments; it to has that acoustic Stones blues feel but it develops over its 5 plus minutes into a huge dynamic piece.
"Sailor" written by drummer Jimmy Economou could also have been snuck onto "Goats Head Soap" or "Exile on Mainstreet" without anyone noticing too much. However some other tracks on this don’t work quite so well as instrumentally they seems a bit lacking in direction or purpose but one must remember Buffalo weren’t the only ones guilty of this during those days.
Once again I must salute Aztec for re-releasing these albums and allowing them to be heard by future generations of Buffalo fans.
Oddly enough only a week ago I bumped into Singer Dave Tice. I asked him for a scoop or exclusive on Buffalo that I could use in this review. Unfortunaly in the interests of good taste I won’t repeat what he said (something to do with a Fish & Chip shop). However he is pleased at the reaction these albums have received world wide.- Steve Danno-Lorkin
- Mother's Choice
- Average Rock n Roller
Punk was supposed to kill this stuff, wasn't it? So goes the popular story. But consider the context before you raise the hatchet.
First, some home truths. The beast that was Oz Rock in the mid-70s was a confused soul, with much of its output dross that was still taking whatever leads it could from overseas. Not that the nascent punks weren't looking offshore for inspiration too, but the high-energy injection they were to bring was still to break out of its inner-city confines. Big outdoor festivals were on the downswing and the conversion of large pubs to heaving, sweaty beer barns packed to bursting point with punters was yet to get underway.
Now recovered from a war a few years earlier with commercial radio (which briefly had the audacity to charge labels fees to play their music), most of the local music scene was still mired in mediocrity. Boogie and plodding 12-bar blues ruled. Skyhooks were on the rise, but if those guys were the best the local glam could scene do, we truly were in more strife than the Early Settlers. (I hold no truck with those who say they were great because they sang about shitty suburbs).
These final two Buffalo albums aren't hailed as their best, but it's noteworthy that they're the output of two different line-ups. The incarnations you hear on them had little to do with the one that churned out three earlier LPs of proto-stoner rock. "Average Rock 'n' Roller" in particular shows a band going for the airplay throat, but it was probably their prior lack of commercial appeal that perversely doomed them to fail.
"Mother's Choice" hails from 1976, starts with a bang ("Long Time Gone" and "Honey Babe") before slowing to a plod ("Essukay" and, a meandering "Little Queenie" that's saved by "Brown Sugar" horns). Powerhouse guitarist John Baxter's gone, given the flick for being "uncontrollable", with Norm Roue (Band of Light) adding his sharp slide work, which brings journeyman blues like "Lucky" to life. Dave Tice delivers a credible vocal throughout but the music drags rather than seizes the moment.
Why a label would saddle a band's album with a title like "Average Rock 'n' Roller" is evidence that some lunatics were landlords of the asylum in 1977. "Average" is not something on which most punters want to shell out hard-earned. The cover too is a handicap; it screams "Ripper Hits '77" in the tradition of the K-Tel cheapie compilations of the day.
In fact, the album's well above average, bringing in horns (again) on the title tune and acoustic guitars on the swelling (and swell) "Hotel Ladies" and the slightly lesser "Sailor". "Hero Suite", a sort of blue collar prog rock three-parter, closes the album and isn't without its attractions. Reminds me of the mid-'70s Pretty Things in parts.
The liners would have it that the mellow but strong "Rollin' " is a precursor to country rock - which is a bit of a stretch considering Gram Parsons was already dead and buried and Neil Young was several years past "Harvest". Thankfully, it sounds nothing like the odious Little River Band (don't get me started). Two Tice solo cuts ("I Don't Want To Spoil The Party" and "Sweet Little Rock 'n' Roller") are appended as extras and aren't really essential.
"Average Rock 'n' Roller" is more a rock effort than the blues/boogie-fuelled "Mother's Choice". Expatriate Pom Chris Turner was now on guitar and his playing is a highlight, Rose Tattoo and his own solo bands providing a home for his talents, post-Buffalo.
Tice is in even finer vocal form on the band's swansong. Pete Wells shipped out as bassist just as recordings were to start, which is a real pity for Buffalo as he'd really hit his straps. (Of course, bigger things and a slide guitar were around the corner.) The band was on a sabbatical by the time the LP hit the racks which, in effect, meant they were finished.
You know the rest of the story (and if you don't Steven Danno will tell it in his review to be posted here shortly), but he, among others, has brought me to the stage where Buffalo is something of a (not so) guilty pleasure in my neck of the woods. Enjoy these last gasps of a semi-legendary band. - The Barman
2/3 - Mother's Choice
- Average Rock 'n' Roller
BUFFALO DEAD FOREVER – Buffalo (Aztec Music)
I remember when I first bought this album. It would have been around 1974 or '75 on my first visit to Sydney's famous Ashwoods Records in Pitt Street (RIP). Being a poor high school student, the idea of cheap second-hand albums was cool beyond words! For about $2-3 each I scored Slade "Slayed", "Black Sabbath Vol 4" and, of course, Buffalo’s debut LP "Dead Forever".
I remember thinking the cover was very evil ..and that these guys were proberly worshippers of some sick Satanic cult! There's even a photo on the inside gate- fold of the band (complete with Amps and P.A) playing a gig in a graveyard. Having said that, I'm sure the boys had good religious beliefs (while still enjoying the indulgences of non-prescription medications and having “relations" with young ladies to whom they were not married)
Now, over 30 years later, Aztec Music has reissued this proto-stoner gem.
This isn’t Buffalo's finest moment; the band was still in its beginnings and its style was still being evolved. The energy levels are not as high as on subsequent albums. Nevertheless, this is a great crunching 1972 heavy rock album which still wipes the floor with its contemporaries. The interesting thing about this line-up of Buffalo is that the band had two lead vocalists, however this was not uncommon for the time (think the Mamas and the Pappas, Blood Sweat and Tears and the aura of the Beatles, which was still lurking around).
The opening track “Leader” kicks off very doomily, with a droning acoustic guitar and vocals before building into a frantic heavy metal ending! “You...yes YOU are the Leader”. Very way out (man).
"Suzi Sunshine" was an early hit single for the band is a great piece of heavy melodic rock with some neat slide guitar from John Baxter. Two cover versions follow, Blues Images’ "Pay My Dues" (which shows the band's early progressive hippy roots) and a 10-minute version of Free's "I’m a Mover" which starts off faithful to the original but quickly builds into some manic jamming rivalling the Stooges and The MC5 ! I can imagine this track hitting the 30 minute mark in a live setting.
A few of the tracks following this have a distinctively heavy, progressive "San Francisco-meets-Quicksilver-Messenger-Service" vibe before returning with some powerful riff-o-mania rockin' on the five-minute title track, which again shows Buffalo's ability to do some great jamming (no doubt picked up from playing countless shows around the Sydney Town hall dances and nightclub scene)
Bonus tracks include some early 7" inch cover version B-sides which more than anything display the bands early high energy rhythm and blues/rock 'n' roll roots. Also included is an ultra rare early pre–Buffalo 1971 single by the band Head (featuring three members of Buffalo in Tice, Baxter and Wells) which reminds me of Eric Burdon and The Animals or early Cream
As with all Aztec releases this re-release comes a great 22 page colour booklet featuring some jaw-dropping early photos, gig posters and magazine adverts. The early photo of Dave Tice and Pete Wells in 1967 looking very Carnaby Street is worth the cost of the album alone. - Steve Danno-Lorkin
ONLY WANT YOU FOR YOUR BODY – Buffalo (Aztec Music)
Aztec Music once again have done a brilliant job with great remastering, a massive booklet with liner notes, band interviews and tons of photos. Plus 2 rare bonus tracks (a 7” edit/mix of "What’s Going On" and a live GTK recording of "United Nations"). Aztec have done such a good job that the bootleggers have actually had the nerve and audacity to cry unfair...Ha! Maybe the bootleggers should pay the band some royalties first, before complaining too much.
This the band's third album and is a big leap forward in terms of songwriting and production. Where, on Buffalo's previous albums, the vibe on songwriting seemed to be "smoke a bunch of pot, turn the amps up full blast and see what happens", there's a different approach on "Only Want You for Your Body". The tunes are still riff-heavy, loud and dynamic, but the song arrangements are more traditional i.e. they actually have verses and choruses (shock!) Production-wise, it’s also a progression with double tracked guitars and vocals, backing vocals (more shock horror!), percussive and sound effects, which add up to make this probabl0y Buffalo's best album.
The band's endless touring prior to this albums recording sessions had tightened the musicianship considerably.Pete Wells (now slide guitarist with Rose Tattoo, Lucy De Soto + the Handsome Devils and The Pete Wells Band) can take a bow: His bass playing is incredible! All budding bassists should check out his playing on this album. Guitarist John Baxter proves to be the heaviest and wildest guitarist in the country at the time, drummer Jimmy Economou is aggressive and hard-hitting but never self-indulgent. Frontman Dave Tice‘s vocals alone are more powerful then most bands at the time.
Ok, you ask: Why wasn’t this album a multi-million selling album it deserved to be? Well, at the time Australian radio was extremely conservativeand it was almost impossible to sell a lot of records without airplay. Buffalo probably weren’t doing themselves any favours by having a front cover featuring a semi-naked young girl tied up on a torture rack. Songs like "I'm a Skirt Lifter, Not a Shirt Raiser" and "Kings Cross Ladies" were unlikely to be played on Catholic church-owned radio station 2SM. However, the band probably took a perverse delight in all this.
So folks - have a listen to this and see what all of the fuss is about.
It should be noted that since the band split back in the mid '70s, Buffalo have picked up a fairly impressive world wide following. Members of Soundgarden were fans , a European stoner rock band Colour Scheme covered a Buffalo song on one of their albums and the Hoodoo Gurus use to play Buffalo over the P.A before going on stage. Sheek The Shayk (ED: Who?) paid tribute to the band on their debut CD. Murray Shepherd (Monarchs , Ride Ons , Funthings etc) is a huge fan .
and Cosmic Psychos released a version of "Sunrise". Hey...maybe we should petition the Homebake organisers and try and get a reunion show happening (although realistically this is unlikely to happen).
Aztec has plans to re-release three more Buffalo albums during 2006. Let’s hope the long rumoured live recordings the band have in their procession can be released eventually.- Steve Danno-Lorkin
(+ one joint + one hit of genuine '70s acid)
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