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Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Madder Lake...Stillpoint 1973 ..A Progressive Rock Classic

Madder Lake were one of the most original and distinctive of the "new wave" of Australian groups that emerged around 1970. They were also an important and popular part of the of the Melbourne music scene. It's unfortunate that they're only known for their extant recordings -- their two excellent 1970s Albums and one "Best Of.." compilation -- because they are prolific writers, and according to Mick Fettes they have "literally hundreds of songs" stockpiled,waiting to see the light of day.

band members:
Andy Cowan (keyboards, vocals) 1973-75
Mick Fettes (vocals) 1971-75, 1978-
Ian Holding (bass) 1976-78
Jack Kreemers (drums) 1969-??
Tony Lake (vocals) 1976-78
Brendan Mason (guitar, vocals)
Kerry McKenna (bass, vocals)
John McKinnon (keyboards, vocals) 1970-73
Colin Setches (vocals) 1976-78

The original lineup — McKenna, Kreemers, McKinnon, Mason and Fettes — all met in 1968, while studying at the Swinburne Institute of Technology, Melbourne's renowned arts and media college. The entry in Noel McGrath's 1978 rock encyclopedia says that Madder Lake was their first band, but in fact all the members had been through the usual round of teenage beat groups before meeting at Swinburne. The band which became Madder Lake evolved from an earlier student band, which included Kerry McKenna and Brendan Mason, who had been playing together since their early teens. By the time they began studying at Swinburne, Kerry and Brendan already had their own established band, San Sebastian, gigging regularly around the Melbourne area.

Madder Lake evolved a distinctive sound very early on. According to Mick, the group's sound was very much in place by 1971. And while influences can be identified — English progressive groups like King Crimson, Family, Traffic — one listen to the Stillpoint album should convince you that they were very much their own band. They were as musically dynamic and accomplished as any of the contemporary English groups, like early Genesis, but with none of the latter's fey qualities. A focal point was the energetic,bear-like presence and tough, bluesy voice of Mick Fettes. It's become a convention to compare his singing to Joe Cocker, but it's really only a surface similarity. If you listen with open ears you quickly pretty realise that Mick was (and is) very much his own singer. Another often overlooked feature of the group was their strong harmony singing.

Stillpoint, released in 1973, remains one of the classics of progressive Australian music from the 1970's and still sounds fresh today. If you haven't heard hit then have a listen now.

  1. Salmon Song 8:23
  2. On My Way To Heaven 4:53
  3. Helper 5:12
  4. Listen To The Morning Sunshine 5:03
  5. Goodbye Lollipop 3:37
  6. A Song For Little Ernest 4:29
  7. 12LB. Toothbrush 6:02

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