Share LIVE CHAIN - Chain (Aztec Music)
You might have heard of Australian blues band Chain and you may know the classic line-up (Taylor-Manning-Harvey-Harvey) without being aware that they had more configurations than the redux and heavily appended version of the Kama Sutra. Some of the early versions of Chain ("The Chain") even played music that could be filed under the dubious title 'Progressive Rock' so do you know where this review is going?

Prog music has always bored me silly. It might just be a name but the idea that being a virtuoso was a prerequisite to producing great music was an anathema, the subsequent coming and going of punk put to one side. Prog seemed code for Pretension and although such a term couldn't be applied generally to the music of Chain, their 1970 debut "Live Chain" goes perilously close.

To be honest, I'd forgotten this LP existed. It sounds more like Jeffro Tool crossed with some Clapton-era Bluesbreakers than "Black And Blue"-period Chain, and that's because the band that recorded it was into long jams with jazz influences. They lacked a killer voice (Matt Taylor was not yet a member) so it was all about the instrumentation.

Chain's original drivers were West Australians Phil Manning (guitar and vocals) and Warren "Pig" Morgan (electric piano), the former a fixture in this band and a notable solo artist in his own right, the latter a future Aztec. In the run towards this album being recorded, they'd landed themselves a nascent yet great rhythm section in Barry Sullivan (bass) and Barry Harvey (drums) - aka Big Goose and Little Goose - and rounded it off with a second superbly talented guitarist in Glynn Mason. Many other line-ups would follow.

"LIve Chain" was taped in an empty nightclub as this version of the band was preparing to dissolve. There's no audience ambience and the vocals are buried. You can't fault the playing on its own; Manning takes most of the guitar solos and tears it up with that distinctive knife-edge style, with Morgan grabbing similar prominence. But with the exception of "Chaser", where the instrumental interplay takes off, the songs ramble interminably (it's an indicaiton of length that only five made it to the original LP format) and the jamming is indulgent. This is a band playing to, and with, itself. As in wanking.

Because it wouldn't be an Aztec re-issue without bonuses, there's a Glynn Mason-sung track ("On The Road Again" - not THAT one) and two of the earliest band singles (with a different line-up.) "Show Me Home" cops liberally from The Band and "Mr Time" sounds like an insipid hymn. - The Barman




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