Follow The Sun - Various Artists (Mexican Summer)
Question: Who is this compilation of 20 songs of Australian folk obscurities of the 1970s for? Answer: Head to your nearest record collectors fair.
These are mythical gatherings, full of badly-dressed people with body odour problems who are entirely bereft of social graces. They clamber over each other, poring through crates and boxes while entirely oblivious to the other’s existence. They wear T-shirts commemorating concerts that nobody went to or that occurred before they were born. Or so the cliche goes.
Like most legends, this story does contain some kernels of truth. At every one of these events, you’ll find a core of collectors with encyclopaedic knowledge of the most obscure, unheard and unfathomable music. They’ll mostly be vinyl obsessives and they’ll know what’s written in the run-out groove of every edition of some Brazilian psych collection.
Because they own all of them.
“Follow The Sun” is ‘70s folk-rock, compiled by Mexican Summer label head Keith Abrahamsson and Eddy Current Suppression Ring member Mikey Young. All but a handful of the artists on it are obscure (Flying Circus, the guy who composed the "Stone" soundtrack and Doug Ashdown are notable exceptions) and no song here made a solid dent on the Top 40. Some of them come from soundtracks. One was issued on a record with a pressing run of only 100 copies.
So what’s it like?
“Follow The Sun” is gentle, lilting and, well, folky stuff. Hippie music. Not as energetic, loopy or, it must be said, tragically insipid as some of the outpourings of San Francisco’s Summer of Love which, of course, was long finished years before these recordings were conceived, much less committed to tape. Australia was way behind the times back then.
Some of the vocalists determinedly sing in Aussie accents (I’m talking to you, Dave Douglas, who breaks into what passed for a rap in the title track and sounds like he’s sitting next to you at the footy.) Lots of it is idiosyncratic pop.
The blurb says Autumn was a well known band in the ‘70s. Not by me. But their 1971 track, “Kill My World”, gets a blue ribbon for over-wrought arrangements. Maybe it’s where Neil Young derived inspiration for “Harvest”. The Mata Hari B side “Easy”, on the other hand, rocks in a quaint way. Cathie O’Sullivan “has worked as a pharmacist, anthropologist and academic and has a PhD in cultural studies”. Her harpsichord (?) scored “The Orange Tree” is downright eclectic.
Just thought you might need to know that the 1973 LP that “Good Morning” by Paul Adolphus (who sounds like John Cale with the Welsh accent beaten out of him) is culled from was recorded live, accompanied by Mitsu Harada, at a calligraphy school in Japan with 200 copies only pressed, housed in hand-made sleeves.
Now, I’m not suggesting that there aren’t contemporary Aussie musicians who are similarly inclined, putting out CD-Rs or short-run vinyl that scarcely bother the inventory guy in local indie shops. In some ways, however, that’s emblematic of the gentler, isolated and naive Australia that we used to be. Which, if I’m not mistaken, is the point of “Follow The Sun”.
This is a double vinyl LP and it comes with an essay by Mikey Young. They’re the essentials. It’s not really for me, although I found a couple of diversions in its tracks. So I’m not going to rate it. Perhaps it’s for you? See you at the next record fair. I’ll be the one in the black T-shirt. And don't forget: Deniz Tek is a closet Seekers fan.