Two Hundred Years - Cub Callaway and The Revolutionnaires (Dominion Records)
Want the short version? A collection of veteran, all-star Australian underground luminaries (and one bankable Hollywood star) make a thought-provoking and at times surprising album, packed full of solid songs.
You deserve better than that, and so does "Two Hundred Years". So try this: Playing "Two Hundred Years" is like digging through an attic full of relics and finding things you remember, and things you never found the first time.
Mainman Bruce “Cub” Callaway should require no introduction but a few of you may have been sleeping, so here goes: He’s a former member of The Saints (post-Ed) who toured Australia extensively in the early '80s with The Bard, Bailey, and his merry men.
You can hear his work on the fantastically ragged “A Gallon Of Rum Is A Harsh Mistress The Morning After, Live In Oz” disc that comes in the Saints CD box set, "The Greatest Cowboy Movie Never Made".Whatever you think about various permutations of The Saints, the line-ups for most of the '80s - and the ones built around "The Monkey Puzzle" songs - rocked fantastically.
Cub had played with Died Pretty's John Hoey in a Brisbane band, X-Men, during the early days of that city's punk scene, and was a founding member of Rob Younger’s New Christs, playing on the wonderful “Face a New God” b/w “Waiting World” single. He went on to produce records for Ed Kuepper, Louis Tillett, Damien Lovelock and The Triffids.
"Two Hundred Years" is his fourth album under his own name. Callaway plays guitar and sings and his cast includes Hoey, horn player Jack Howard (Hunters and Collectors), drummer Andrew Nunns (AutoHaze, Underground Lovers), bassist Phil Hall (Dropbears, Sardine V, Lime Spiders), drummer Richard Ploog (The Church), and guitarists Craig Marshalsey and Rick Springfield.
Yes, that Rick Springfield of Zoot and "Jessie's Girl" fame.
Louis Callaway (percussion) and Zika Vuletic (backing vocals) round out the cast. Hoey, Hall, Marshalsey and Nunns are the core band and share production and writing credits.
"Two Hundred Years" recalls half the bands Cub has produced and many that he should have. Callaway has what can politely be called "a guitar player's voice" (shades of Lovelock and early Kuepper there) so he does what he can with what he's got. The music ranges from measured and sometimes dark pop to airy psychedelic rock. Jack Howard's horns add a touch of "On The Waterfront" Chicago blues Saints, in parts. Hoey's keys bring extra colour.
The title track is stinging blues-rock, Springfield appearing from his own studio in California via the connection of a mutual friend. This is lithe, muscular music - in the style of "Waiting World", actually - and peppered with sharp guitar licks. Springfield's lead parts are bang on the money.
The brassy "The Shining Moon" is a cross between Motown and "Know Your Product", but breaking into a defiant strut instead of a gallop. Methinks it would have been right at home on an album by Louis Tillett and the Aspersion Cast. Long-distance travel song, Midnight Over Tashkent", is a tune of yearning and very Australian sounding. It builds on delicate piano and acoustic guitar", picking up to a canter and riding along on Callaway's deadpan vocal...before being rent open by searing guitar breaks.
The thoughtful arrangements that abound make "Two Hundred Years" an album to explore. Jack Howard's wiry flugelhorn horn and the entwining guitars, for example, make "Ocean Salesman" something quite special. "The Seas" builds into a jagged amalgam of psychedelia, with the guitarists reaching out. "Heaven Is Just Fine" (featuring Richard Ploog) is a gorgeous, psych-tinged instrumental that serves as platform for the various band members - John Hoey, especially - to stretch out again.
The cover of Sardine V's "Sabotage" is worth bottling with Phil Hall, of course, reprising his bass-lines from the original recording.
Lyrically, the original songs have an air of mystery, with words about loss, longing and journeys.
Sonicaly speaking, nothing's polished to within an inch of its life or has the shit compressed out of it - and during these days of volume wars, that's welcome. The rhythm beds were recorded at SWAA in Sydney with the rest presumably put down at Callaway's own studio outside Canberra. The production is a little under-stated and transparent enough to let each musical element shine through.