Friday, September 7, 2012

Blackfeather - At The Mountains Of Madness (1971 aussie, sensational guitar drivin' prog rock, 2010 remaster)

Blackfeather were one of the most popular and successful groups of the early '70s, and produced one of the landmark Aussie progressive rock albums, but a major split early in the group's history disabled what should have been a promising career for founder John Robinson. With Blackfeather going through at least six major incarnations between 1970 and 1983, with a huge personnel list for each version. The list is a veritable 'Who's Who' of the 70s rock scene. However it's the first two lineups - 'Mark I', who made At The Mountains Of Madness and 'Mark II' who recorded "Boppin' The Blues" - that are the best known.

Blackfeather (Mk I) formed in April 1970 with the original lineup being John Robinson (gtr), Neale Johns (vcls), Leith Corbett (bs) and Mike McCormack (dr). All but Johns had come straight from the split of the highly-rated Dave Miller Set, who were one of NSW's most popular live groups in the late 60s, and whose classic version of "Mr Guy Fawkes" was Go-Set's pick for the Best Single of 1969. 

The new band had lots going for it -- although only 18, Neale Johns was a powerful vocalist, and Robinson has already developed a strong following as a 'guitar hero', along with players like Lobby Loyde, Kevin Borich, Dennis Wilson and Tim Gaze. Corbett and McCormack were a powerful rhythm section in the Free/Led Zeppelin mould and Robinson and Johns quickly formed a strong writing unit, jointly composing all the material on their first LP.

Leith and and Mike left shortly after the band was formed, and were replaced by Fortesque and Kash. (Corbett reunited with Dave Miller and together they recorded the sought-after Reflections Of A Pioneer LP the following year (re-released in 2000 by the Vicious Sloth label.) 

Blackfeather began working consistently around the traps, cementing the strong fan base and critical interest that the Dave Miller Set had built up over the previous three years. As John noted, they became one of the first acts signed to Festival's newly-formed Infinity subsidiary.

It was this second lineup -- Robinson, Johns, Fortesque and Kash -- which featured on their debut album, the Australian progressive classic At The Mountains Of Madness, recorded in late 1970 and released early the following year. The LP was produced by Richard Batchens, who later worked with Sherbet and Richard Clapton. Fraternity's singer Bon Scott guested on recorder and percussion, and their keyboard player John Bissett also contributed.

At The Mountains Of Madness was released in April 1971and was a national Top 10 LP (#7) in May. The album has perhaps not aged as well as some others from the period; the title track and the ambitious suite "The Rat" sound a little dated now, although there is sterling playing by Robinson throughout. Still, there are plenty of highlights, including the heavy-riffing "Long Legged Lovely" (with some of the heaviest bass yet captured on an Aussie recording) and the classic "Seasons Of Change", one of the most memorable and adventurous singles of the period. (Both songs were included on Raven's Golden Miles CD compilation in 1994).
1. At The Mountains Of Madness (Robinson) - 3:31
2. On This Day That I Die (Robinson) - 3:59
3. Seasons Of Change Part 1 (Robinson, Johns) - 3:52
4. Mangos Theme Part 2 (Robinson) - 8:07
5. Long Legged Lovely (Robinson, Johns) - 7:32
6. The Rat (Suite) - 13:55
..a. Main Title (The Rat)  
..b. The Trap
..c. Spainish Blues
..d. Blazwaorden (Land Of Dreams)
..e. Finale (The Rat) (Robinson, Johns)

*Alexander Kash - Drums And Footsteps
*Neale Johns - Vocals
*Robert Fortescue - Bass Guitar
*John Robinson - Electric Guitar, Acoustic Guitar, Effects
Additional Musicians
*Bon Scott - Timbalis, Tambourine
*John Bisset  - Electric Piano

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