Thursday, June 15, 2006

Levi Smith's Clefs - Empty Monkey [1970] @192 (Aussie rock)

Firstly, a confession. This band comes from Adelaide, South Australia, my home city.

That out the way, what we have here is a brilliant slab of rock and Hammond driven blues topped off by the brilliant vocalist, Barrie McAskill, the only constant in the group's ever changing lineup. In trying to describe his vocal style, think of Chris Farlowe, circa Colosseum.

Many such bands of this era fell victim to making an album of 10 variations of the one tune, topped
with some drivel, known as filler, all rather wearing on the listener. No such problem here. All members of the and are excellent musicians, having honed their skills on the then thriving pub circuit.

Before this album was made the band had moved to Australia's biggest city, Sydney and had performed constantly at the notorious Whisky A Go Go club.

Its fair to say that live, Levi Smith's Clefs were awesome and not surprisingly, had a very strong live following. This observation, however, maybe affected by the years and my love of the band! (another disclaimer)

After opening with a truly excellent instrumental, the band gets into full swing with the original "Shotgun" before getting to the album's centrepiece, a rather surprising version of the Beatles "You Can Do That". I can assure you that at over 11 minutes, the Lennon McCartney tune is only recognizable at the beginning and end, when McAskill adds his raspy vocals, the middle is full of great solos and invention, no dull bits. Stunning.

More stabs at blues-rock follow before the album concludes with the rather jazzy, instrumental title track.

I'm sure virtually no-one out there knows of this band, which is a pity, but as they used to say here, "do yourself a favour" and get this album. Maybe due recognition starts here.

McAskill, Inez Amaya - vocals
Michael Carlos - organ
John Blake - drums
Mick Jurd - guitar
Richard Lockwood - flute sax
Robert Taylor - drums

Who Is That Shall Come

Keep listening!!!


Anonymous said...

Pretty good band, never knew it. It's a kind of Vanilla Fudge meets Blood, Sweat & Tears in a few tracks.
"Shotgun" is a carbon copy, almost note by note, of the Fudge's version.
Tremendous rendition of "You Can't Do That" indeed.

Saintsmon said...

Great post. Remember seeing this band heaps of times when they hit Melbourne.

Anonymous said...

Oh yeah I've heard of them, I was around back then. Mostly saw them on GTK though...

I became a friend of Richard Lockwood a few years later, through the Meher Baba people, when he gave up 'mundane' music. He played me a tape of him jamming with Pete Townsend in India, I think they wrote a couple of songs. All very 'spiritual' tho.

At the time he composed a wonderful piece of neo-classical music, a sonata for piano and flute, and we were lucky to be the first to hear it. Memories. Lost track after a while.

'Paradise of perfect silence'.

Anonymous said...

Any chance to repost this gem?

Anonymous said...

I had a great time recording this album. The unreleased version has a different slant on my music.
Empty Monkey was us endeavouring to be commercial, Ho Ho Ho.

Barrie McAskill.

I'm still Singing & PlaYing.

Paul said...

I remember buying this album for my older brother in 1970. I have never seen a copy of it anywhere else before then or since. It is a great mix of rhythm and blues with some prog rock and still sounds as great as ever. The title track showed their versatility. I believe it was their only album, so sad.

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