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Thursday, September 18, 2014

Ariel..A Strange and Fantastic Dream..1974

The original lineup of Ariel was a genuine 'supergroup', combining key members from two of Australia's leading progressive bands of the period: Rudd, Putt and Mills hailed from Melbourne's legendary Spectrum, Gaze and Macara from Spectrum's esteemed Sydney peers Tamam Shud. Lead guitarist Tim Gaze, regarded as one of the hottest players on the scene, had also joined Shud at just 16 and by the time he joined Ariel he had also been a member of Kahvas Jute, and played on their only album, the brilliant Wide Open.

Like its predecessor, Ariel was primarily a vehicle for the talents and vision of singer, songwriter and guitarist Mike Rudd, and his longtime bass-player and musical partner, Bill Putt. Like Spectrum, the band began strongly, but lineup changes, record company problems and the changing nature of music in the mid-70s meant that they never achieved the level of success they deserved, and Ariel proved to be Mike Rudd's last really high-profile outfit, although he remains one of the most respected figures in the music scene.

Ariel formed in mid-1973, after the breakup of Spectrum. Within a few months of Spectrums's farewell performance their new band (whose name was taken from the character in Shakespeare's "The Tempest") was up and running. 

Ariel Mk I (1973-74) 
Mike Rudd (guitar, harmonica, vocals) 
Bill Putt (bass) 
Tim Gaze (guitar/vocals) 
John Mills (keyboards) 

Nigel Macara (drums) 

Strong record company interest in Ariel quickly led to a contract with EMI's progressive Harvest imprint. They released their excellent first LP A Strange Fantastic Dream in December 1973. According to Noel McGrath, the album was also the first use of Moog synthesizer on an Australian rock record (though it's possible Tully may have been the first Australian band to record with one) and producer Peter Dawkins still names it as one of his favourite productions.

It fared well commercially and critically, reaching #12 in the LP charts in February 1974, although there was a minor controversy about Stephen Nelson's brilliant, hallucinatory cover painting, which included (shock! horror!) a hypodermic syringe. Airplay for the LP was further hindered by the banning of three songs ("Confessions Of A Psychotic Cowpoke", "Medicine Man" and "Chicken Shit") by the commercial radio industry's self-regulatory body, the FACB.

One particularly important outcome for the group was that EMI International's President, Allan Davies, fell in love with the album: "You know, Peter," he enthused to Dawkins, "I can't recall ever hearing a song about necrophilia!" Renowned British DJ John Peel also picked up both album and single and "said some really nice things about both of them". These and other factors led to Ariel being invited to tour the UK and record their next album at Abbey Rd.

text courtesy of Milesago