Thursday, 3 August 2017
Layla/High Tide/China Sea/On & On/Hands Off/Something in the Air/Two Can Tell/Love What's Your Face/C Sharp
Ronnie Charles is one of the very best Australian male rock vocalists of his era, but like so many of his contemporaries he has never really received the recognition he deserves. Ronnie, whose full name is Ronnie Charles Boromeo, began his professional singing career at just 16 when he joined Melbourne's The Jackson Kings (1965-66) followed by a very successful three-year stint in The Groop between 1966 and 1969. Both bands also featured the acclaimed singer-songwriter and keyboard player Brian Cadd.
The surprise breakup of The Groop was announced by Molly Meldrum in Go-Set in May 1969, with Cadd and Mudie walking out of The Groop and straight into Axiom. The formation of this new 'supergroup' was reportedly somewhat controversial, with suggestions that Cadd & Mudie had deliberately engineered the break-up of The Groop to form Axiom. It later emerged that Mudie and Cadd had conducted lengthy (and apparently secret) negotiations to recruit Terry Britten, former lead guitarist and songwriter of the recently defunct Twilights. They were unsuccessful in snaring Britten, but instead recruited of Twilights lead singer Glenn Shorrock, along with drummer Doug Lavery (ex The Valentines) and guitarist Chris Stockley from Cam-Pact.
After The Groop, Ronnie went solo. He cut two excellent singles for Festival which, according to Ian McFarlane, "echoed the big, booming pop sound of Love Machine". The first was "Katy Jane" / "No Face, No Name, No Number" (Dec. 1969), the b-side being a track from Traffic's classic debut LP Mr Fantasy. The second single was "It's Been So Long" / "Natural Man" (March 1970) but regrettably neither of these fine recordings made any impression on the charts.
Ronnie then formed an exciting new band called Atlas with Terry Gough and two English musicians, Terry Slade (drums; ex-Sunshine) and ace guitarist Glen Turner (guitar), who had been an early (pre-recording) member of leading UK band Wishbone Ash. Ian McFarlane describes Atlas as "a hard rock/boogie outfit, fitting in with contemporary English bands like Wishbone Ash, Free, Status Quo". They signed with Warner-Reprise, who issued their well-regarded debut album and lifted two fine hard rock singles "Rock 'n'Roll Wizards" / "Military Rag" and "They Don't Know" / "The Knowing" before breaking up in 1974.
While still in the UK, Ronnie recorded two more solo singles, "Yesterday's Witness", followed by "Layla, Part 1" / "Layla, Part 2". The latter single was lifted from Ronnie's extraordinary solo album, Prestidigitation, released on the 20th Century label in 1976 and produced by Lou Reizner, who had overseen the landmark 1971 orchestral version of The Who's Tommy. It featured Ronnie and a small rock ensemble, swathed in lavish orchestral-vocal arrangements performed by the London Symphony Orchestra and the English Chamber Choir. Ronnie, at the peak of his vocal prowess, tackled an ambitious and eclectic range of material, including a dazzling rendition of the title track -- penned by Anthony Newley and Leslie Bricusse and featuring renowned pianist-composer Keith Tippett on piano) it arguably equals anything that Scott Walker ever recorded -- and powerful orchestral-rock versions of Free's "Wishing Well", and Derek & The Dominos "Layla"; Unfortunately, the timing of the LP could hardly have been worse -- England was about to be hurled headlong into the punk revolution, while the USA and Australia were still in the midst of the disco craze. The result was that this remarkable LP vanished without trace, becoming one of the great 'lost' recordings of the era.