Sunday, August 1, 2010

Music Review: Tully - Live At Sydney Town Hall 1969-70

Tully are a long-lost prog band from Sydney, Australia, and the recently released Live At Sydney Town Hall 1969-70 presents some of their only surviving live material. Fortunately, the label Chapter House found some well preserved recordings, because this is music the world was meant to hear, even 40 years later.

Sydney is now best known as the city AC/DC got their start in. But that would not occur until 1973. When the five piece group who called themselves Tully came together in 1968, the music scene was quite a bit different. In the United States, Iron Butterfly were riding high with In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida, in England Cream’s Wheels Of Fire was a big hit. Beatles John Lennon and George Harrison issued their experimental first solo albums Two Virgins #1 and Wonderwall Music, respectively.

Based on Live At Sydney Town Hall, Tully would have turned a lot of heads in the rock community, if only their music had been heard outside of Australia. While much of the prog, or experimental sounds of that era have not stood the test of time, Tully’s remains fresh and exciting. The level of playing and improvisation the group exhibits is uniformly high.

There are but two songs on this CD. “Love 200,” (20:02),and “Sights & Sounds Of 69,” (32:09). The man who is now considered to be “One of Australia's 100 Living National Treasures” Peter Sculthorpe composed “Love 200” specifically for the band. The classical establishment of the time dismissed it, but Sculthorpe still considers it one of his finest compositions. The fury and grace Tully bring to this piece is undeniable, and Jeannie Lewis’ vocals are not only beautiful, but passionate.

The improvised “Sights & Sounds Of 69,” is different, but no less compelling. In the summer of 1969, ABC TV in Australia aired a music series titled Fusions, which presented bands in a live-in-studio format. Tully brought their A-game to this performance. Half hour improvisations can become tedious even under the best of hands. Somehow, Tully are able to maintain momentum all the way through. There is a nod to the times during the dreaded drum solo, but they manage to keep it brief.

Listening to Tully today, I would compare them to the Robert Wyatt-era Soft Machine more than anyone else. They were a talented band, and their music remains as powerful as ever.

Article first published as Music Review: Tully - Live At Sydney Town Hall 1969-70 on Blogcritics.

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