Wednesday, October 13, 2021

Axiom - The Axiom Archive (1969-71 australia, remarkable classic soft country rock, 2004 issue)

Formed in Melbourne in 1969, Axiom were arguably Australia's first true supergroup. Yet, in spite of a wealth of talent and promise, some notable chart successes and two superb Albums of original material, they failed to achieve lasting popularity, due in part to waning public support in Australia as they vainly tried to crack the fickle English market, and the band fizzled out after less than two years. Nevertheless, Axiom deserve to be recognised as an important musical bridge between Sixties pop and Seventies rock in Australia, as one of the first serious attempts to make Australian rock with international appeal, and as one of the finest bands of their time.

Axiom was formed by Brian Cadd and Don Mudie, both former members of leading Melbourne popsters The Groop. Cadd, who began his career with Melbourne's The Jackson Kings, was already a prominent singer, songwriter and keyboard player. Besides his success with The Groop, he wrote hits for other acts, including "Elevator Driver" for the Master's Apprentices and "When I Was Only Six Years Old" for Ronnie Burns (which was also a UK hit for Paul Jones) and both he and Mudie worked as session players on a number of important recordings including the Russell Morris' classics "The Real Thing" and "Part III into Paper Walls".

After linking up in The Groop, Mudie and Cadd formed a successful songwriting partnership that carried on through Axiom and beyond. Shorrock was the former lead singer of The Twilights; Lavery was from Perth's (in)famous The Valentines; Stockley was from leading Melbourne group Cam-Pact.

The formation of Axiom was apparently somewhat controversial, and there have been suggestions (probably based on reports in Go-Set) that Cadd & Mudie had deliberately engineered the break-up of The Groop in order to be able to form Axiom. The offer was evidently an attactive one -- Lavery and Stockley quit their respective bands and Shorrock withdrew from managing Melbourne band The Avengers to join. The Groop split after Mudie and Cadd had conducted lengthy (and apparently secret) negotiations to recruit Terry Britten who, like Shorrock had been a member of the recently defunct Twilights. They were unsuccessful in snaring Britten, but this evidently enabled them to make the link that resulted in the recruitment of Shorrock.

Axiom signed to Ron Tudor's Fable Records. Their first single "Arkansas Grass" (co-written by Cadd and Mudie) was an immediate hit, reaching #7 in December 1969. Cadd, like many other Aussie musicians, had been deeply influenced by the trend towards a fusion of country and folk elements with rock, spearheaded by acts like Dylan, The Byrds, Crosby Stills & Nash and especially The Band. Songs like "Arkansas Grass" show how well and how quickly Axiom mastered the idiom, and proved that they were able to create material that could stand up against (or indeed pass for) that of any major American group.

Axiom, and Brian Cadd in his later solo work, have sometimes been criticised for the overt "American-ness" of some of their songs. There is no denying it, but there are several important factors that need to be understood when considering why Cadd and Mudie took to this style so enthusiastically. It's tempting to think that they had the US market in mind but Brian Cadd . Moreover, The Groop had been leading local proponents of soul and R&B, but Australian radio's entrenched resistance to black music -- even of the homegrown variety -- made it clear that this route would soon be a musical dead-end, at least in commercial terms (and it was not until the advent of disco in the late 1970s that this changed).

Brian Cadd was by no means the only ones smitten by the charms of innovations of The Band. George Harrison and Eric Clapton have openly admitted that lyrical honesty and the rootsy, organic musical style of The Band's first two LPs completely transformed the direction of their own music (a fact clearly in evidence on Clapton and Harrison's early solo albums) and as well a providing a rich new musical vocabulary, The Band caught the ears of many songwriters with their use of American Civil War imagery (also prominent on "Arkansas Grass"). The currency has faded now, but at the time it provided a convenient allegory that writers like Cadd and Mudie could use to refer to the controversial war then raging in Indochina, without facing the very real risk of having their anti-war messages censored by record labels or denied airplay by radio.

Doug Lavery left the band in early 1970 to join The Mixtures and was replaced by Don Lebler (ex-The Avengers). Axiom left for London in April with publishing deal from Leeds Music and reported record deal offers from both Apple and Decca. Their attempts to break into the English scene were understandable in the context of the time, but in retrospect their material clearly suggests that they would have been much more likely to succeed in America (as LRB would ultimately prove). Indeed, the latter part of their career suggest that they were heading in that direction, as so often happened, it seems that they lacked the necessary management and record company support.

They released their second single "Little Ray of Sunshine" just prior to leaving for England. Fool's Gold unquestionably ranks as one of the best and most original Aussie albums of the period, and (in my opinion) one of the best Australian pop-rock albums ever. It was also a significant step forward in creative control, being one of the very first Australian rock albums released on a major label that was produced by the artists themselves. Axiom was able to take advantage of the great improvement in sound provided by the new 8-track facilities at Armstrong's Studios, which showcased a selection of superb songs, brilliantly performed. Like the equally overlooked 1970 LP Prepared In Peace by Flying Circus, Fool's Gold was an important bridge between pop and country rock, and another notable feature is the closing track, "Who Am I Gonna See?", which is probably the first Australian pop-rock recording to use a didgeridoo in the arrangement.

Although there is a strong American flavour to many of the songs, Fool's Gold anticipated the approach taken by later acts like The Dingoes and Skyhoooks, and features some of the first examples of Australian pop songwriters tackling distinctly Australian themes and using local references, notably on the tracks "Mansfield Hotel" and "Once A Month Country Race Day". Soon after arriving in England, Axiom signed a three-year contract with Warner's Reprise label. Evidently Warners were sufficiently impressed to assign the making of band's third single to legendary American-born producer Shel Talmy (The Kinks, The Who, Creation, Manfred Mann, The Easybeats). The single "Father Confessor" was released in July, but after the spectacular success of the first two singles, this one curiously failed to chart at all in Australia, probably due to the effect of the recently imposed 1970 Radio Ban.
1. Arkansas Grass - 3:07
2. Baby Bear - 3:47
3. Ford's Bridge - 3:43
4. Samantha - 2:37
5. Take It Or Leave It - 2:34
6. A Litttle Ray Of Sunshine - 3:20
7. Yesterday, Today And Tomorrow - 2:55
8. Mansfield Hotel - 3:40
9. Can't Let Go Out This Feeling - 3:25
10.Country Pickin' - 1:21
11.Once A Month Country Race Day - 2:25
12.Fool's Gold - 4:31
13.Who Am I Gonna See? - 4:22
14.Same Old Country Song - 2:23
15.My Baby's Gone - 3:16
16.Father Confessor - 3:28
17.Hold The Phone - 3:16
18.Sailing Ships - 3:30
19.Talking About It - 3:03
20.Time And Time Again - 3:36
21.Longest Day - 3:28
22.Matter Of Time - 2:41
23.Show Me The Way - 4:00
24.Rolling And Tumbling Down - 2:39
All compositions by Brian Cadd, Don Mudie
Tracks 23-24 as Brian Cadd And Don Mudie
Tracks 1-13 taken from the Fool's Gold album, 1970
Track 14 recorded for ABC-TV series GTK
Tracks 15-22 taken from the If Only album, 1971. Produced by Shel Talmy in London
Tracks 23-24 by Brian Cadd and Don Mudie, 1971

*Brian Cadd - Keyboards, Vocals
*Don Mudie - Bass
*Glenn Shorrock - Vocals
*Chris Stockley – Guitar
*Doug Lavery - Drums (1969)
*Don Lebler - Drums (1969-71)

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