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3 stars Excited by the new directions of the 1970s but still with a foot in their soulful past, Australian cave-dwellers Fraternity sprang from rhythm&blues outfit Levi Smith's Clef. Led by bassist Bruce Howe, the quartet soon had a singer in future hard rock legend Bon Scott and produced this low key but impressive debut in 1970 (released '71). Scott's hungry rock heart can be heard trying to break through but his skills as an artist and performer would truly blossom in 1974 after joining AC/DC. Still, Livestock is as good as much ilk of the period with the warm fugue organ of John Bisset, Mick Jurd's tasteful guitar and the tension of a band with an appetite for something bigger than them. Make no mistake; except for a few pop numbers, this is prog through and through. Dated and yellowed at the edges like a library book you took out and never returned when you were ten, but prog.

The title cut dances and funks like the Brady Bunch kids on mushrooms-- floral shirts & bellbottoms everywhere on this tragedy somehow put up front followed by considerably better 'Summerville' where Bon Scott's sneers and snarls start to emerge, raising an otherwise bland period piece. Finally the party gets started with 'Raglans Folly', the conspicuous prog markers from John Bisset's organ and subtle dynamics of the band. Out of place 'Cool Spot' is generic and whiney but 'Grand Canyon Suites' revives the art and grinds along, perhaps giving this debut the meandering reputation it had but showing rather interesting ventures into some very strange space without coming completely apart. Lovely 'Jupiter's Landscape' next, a real forgotten beauty of a tune, the band at a highpoint of emotion with Scott's distinctive voice and phrasing wonderful here. Procol Harum-esque 'You Have a God' is nice, and eight-minute 'It' is a chance for the guys to stretch out and improvise, coming together halfway through to become an actual song.

Gritty, inconsistent and occasionally verging on silly, Fraternity were, like many acts of the era, quite easily chewed to bits and swallowed by the very movement they wanted to be a part of, not to mention by an unforgiving press. The follow-up to Livestock was in a blues-rock vein and after a long drawn out demise, the band went their separate ways and Bon Scott made music history with the Young Brothers. Recommended? Only if you can't get enough dusty old prog when no one really knew what they were supposed to be doing or how to do it, played by musicians who were better than anyone cared to notice.

Report this review (#231440)
Posted Thursday, August 13, 2009 | Review Permalink
4 stars My copy of Livestock is a plain-label CD release that adds three tracks apparently not from the original album - the two parts of "The Race" bookend the CD, and the original single version of "Seasons of Change" is the second track. That particular configuration of 11 tracks balances the album out perfectly, so credit to whoever put that edition together - pity the band didn't think of it themselves. Anyway...

Fraternity took influences from a few different directions, and that's reflected in this album - in contrast to the proggier moments, there is the Stephen Stills-like title track, and The Band-like "Summerville", and some poppier moments like "Cool Spot" and "Jupiter Landscape" (though the latter still has a slightly proggy keyboard part). These tracks are strong in their own right, and the diversity adds to the strength of the album. On the proggier side: "Raglan's Folly" is the best track, with it's unpredictable chord structure, several changes of mood, and surprising recorder-driven conclusion. The instrumental "Grand Canyon Suites" (not a direct rip-off of Copland, although you'll hear some allusions) is also pleasing, with it's sweeping melody swapping between the organ and guitar. "You Have A God" is more bombastic. "It" unfortunately is the weakest track, several minutes of atonal noodling before it finally finds a song - and it closes the album. (This is why having "The Race part two" at the end on my CD version works very well indeed).

Overall, one of the stronger albums to come out of the Australian prog scene in the early 1970s.

Report this review (#724502)
Posted Thursday, April 12, 2012 | Review Permalink

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