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Friday, June 12, 2015

Pirana and Pirana II...1971-72...underrated and semi-legendary prog-rock band from Sydney

Critics have pigeonholed Pirana as mere Santana clones, and while comparisons are understandable and the influence of Santana is obvious, this arguably did the group a considerable disservice. Its dynamic and rhythmic performance at the definitive Sunbury music festival in 1972 drew inevitable comparisons to the Latin-rock champions of Woodstock, due in no small measure to their superb performance of Santana's "Soul Sacrifice". But there was much more to Pirana than that facile categorization allows.

Beyond that, we can hear examples of fine, melodic songwriting -- mainly from keyboardist Stan White on the first album, but consummately taken over by guitarist and vocalist Tony Hamilton on the second -- that displays a diversity of influences while still keeping the band's innate individuality. 

For a start, Tony Hamilton's guitar was never less than wonderful. He sang commandingly, with soul, atop Jim Yonge's fluid drumming, supported by the anchorage of Graeme Thompson's throbbing bass. Keyboards were vital to the Pirana sound, and Stan White and his successor, Keith Greig, provided rich Hammond organ reinforcement for the overall feel of the band.

In Pirana, members came and went, but it is essentially the core band comprising Duke-Yonge, Thompson, Hamilton and Greig (who replaced Stan White after the first LP), who made the records and sustained the bulk of the band's performing tenure, and must be most remembered as the definitive entity.

Pirana's first recordings were as the backing group for Greg Quill's 1970 solo album Fleetwood Plain. They signed to Harvest in 1971 and issued two singles. Here It Comes Again (May) was reputedly the first local single released in stereo, and can still be found on Raven's Golden Miles compilation CD.

In concert they were always regarded as a top-drawer act; they went down a storm at the inaugural Sunbury rock festival, and their live version of Santana's "Soul Sacrifice" earned them a track on the Sunbury '72 album. EMI issued their second LP Pirana II in November 1972, by which time Richard McEwan had replaced Hamilton on guitar. Andrew James replaced Greig in 1973 and Phil Hitchcock replaced Graeme Thompson on bass in 1974. The band continued to work on the dance and pub circuit, but they didn't record again, and they eventually broke up in late 1975.

(from Original article by Paul Culnane on Milesago)

Sydney 1970-75
Stan White (keyboards) 1970-1971
Keith Greig (keyboards) 1971-72
Jim Duke-Yonge (drums) 1970-1973
Tony Hamilton (guitar) 1970-75
Graeme Thompson (bass) 1970-75
Phil Hitchcock (bass) 1974
Andrew McCue (keyboards, flute) 1973
Richard McEwan (guitar, vocals) 1972
Paul Spetter (drums) 1973

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