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2 Jun 2017

Mackenzie Theory “Out Of The Blue” 1973 Australia Prog Jazz Rock Fusion









Mackenzie Theory “Out Of The Blue” 1973 Australia Prog Jazz Rock Fusion
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Pioneering Aussie instrumental jazz fusion from 1973. “Mackenzie Theory could go from a delicate whisper to a ferocious roar in a heartbeat with blast furnace riffing and mind bending rhythms… There were also moments of great lyrical beauty in the arrangements as the music soared effortlessly, continually peaking and residing with ease. It’s that vibrant ebb and flow that marks the greatness in the band’s music”. Ian McFarlane, 2009. Recorded in front of a live audience at T.C.S. Studios, Melbourne, Sunday 20 May 1973, Out of the Blue is a startling, emotional album - experience it in all it’s re-mastered glory, packaged with a 24 page booklet and bonus live track from Sunbury 1973……….. 

“MacKenzie Theory could go from a delicate whisper to a ferocious roar in a heartbeat with blast furnace riffing and mindbending rhythms… There were also moments of great lyrical beauty in the arrangements as the music soared effortlessly, continually peaking and residing with ease. It’s that vibrant ebb and flow that marks the greatness in the band’s music”. Ian McFarlane, 2009. For those who haven’t heard the music of MacKenzie Theory, think of The Mahavishnu Orchestra, Santana (circa Caravanserai), or even The Dirty Three. Recorded in front of a live audience at T.C.S. Studios, Melbourne, Sunday 20 May 1973, Out Of The Blue is a startling, emotional album - experience it in all its re-mastered glory…………………. 

A raw sound captured live-in-the-studio! 
After failed attempts at an out and out studio album Australian outfit MACKENZIE THEORY recorded its debut album “Out Of The Blue” live-in-the-studio in front of a very small but appreciative audience in Melbourne back in 1973. 

“Out Of The Blue” is an all instrumental affair where the listener is taken on a pulsating, often fiery musical journey as the guitar playing of band leader Rob MacKenzie intertwines with the electric viola of Cleis Pearce, all the time being chaperoned by a fairly low- key rhythm section in Mike Leadabrand on bass and Andy Majewski on drums. 

The music on “Out Of The Blue” shifts from the very jazzy to fairly hard rocking and goes to a number of places in-between, truly fusing these two main musical influences. 

For me the stand out track is the opener “Extra Terrestrial Boogie”, but having said that all six tracks are great to listen to and the longer ones feature some great improvising. 

“Out Of The Blue” is recommend for those with an interest in the MAHAVISHNU ORCHESTRA style of jazz-rock or “Night Of The Living Dregs” era DIXIE DREGS. 4 out of 5 stars from the Dinosaur….by T.Rox ………………………. 

Very interesting instrumental album from this australian band named MACKENZIE THEORY. Recorded at a studio in front of a small audience you can feel the live character - a special sort of spontanity. During (only) 45 minutes, because of the original LP format, we have some similiarities to the Mahavishnu Orchestra because of Pearce’s viola playing - she is sometimes Jerry Goodman like but mostly very unique. The album is dominated by Rob MacKenzie’s compelling guitar work which also is a little bit spacy. Exploring this you are listening to a dynamic performance - complex songs with a mix of slow melancholic and highspeed racing parts. Recommended Jazz Rock/Fusion …..by Rivertree …………….. 

“MacKenzie Theory could go from a delicate whisper to a ferocious roar in a heartbeat with blast furnace riffing and mindbending rhythms… There were also moments of great lyrical beauty in the arrangements as the music soared effortlessly, continually peaking and residing with ease. It’s that vibrant ebb and flow that marks the greatness in the band’s music”. Ian McFarlane, 2009. 

For those who haven’t heard the music of MacKenzie Theory, think of The Mahavishnu Orchestra, Santana (circa Caravanserai), or even The Dirty Three. 

Recorded in front of a live audience at T.C.S. Studios, Melbourne, Sunday 20 May 1973, Out Of The Blue is a startling, emotional album - experience it in all its re-mastered glory…………… 

The most surprising thing about this album is how much I enjoy it. I am usually pretty ambivalent towards jazz-rock releases, especially those heavily reliant on jams. I can usually respect the playing but not totally enjoy it personally. But Mackenzie Theory’s Out of the Blue touches a nerve in me that most jazz-rock releases don’t. The main reason I think is the (seemingly) carefully designed structure of the tracks, in common with much prog, but at odds with most jazz-rock. The structure allows the instruments to work together and this approach is given roughly equal importance by the band as the instrumental solo spots (as opposed to being dominated by solo spots which so often happens in jazz-rock). 

There are a heap of really cool sections, many of which are provided by the novel and exciting electric viola played by Cleis Pearce (essentially taking the place of a saxophone or brass section typical of jazz-rock) as well as Rob MacKenzie’s excellent guitars. The interplay between these two instruments makes for some of the best moments of the album. Practically every track features an extended build up of tension and multiple releases by the two instruments. Despite every track following roughly the same pattern (except perhaps for the title track, which is a short, powerful workout), the album never feels samey or repetitive. 

Apparently the band tried to recreate a live performance with the album and were allegedly disappointed with the final product supposedly not capturing their true sound. If that is the case, then they must have been a very exciting prospect live…..by……Bitterman ……… 

I think the best way to describe Mackenzie Theory’s debut is that of a laid back Mahavishnu Orchestra. Which sounds like an oxymoron, but when you hear “Out of the Blue” it will make sense. Electric guitar and electric viola are the main protagonists here, and both put in a splendid performance. Not only do they possess the necessary chops, but also achieve the most wonderful psychedelic tones. The music is clearly composed, and offers far more than the usual three note backdrop while throwing endless boring jams on top. The tight ensemble work is really where the Mahavishnu Orchestra comparison comes in, especially at the time of “Inner Mounting Flame”. Another element that Mackenzie Theory excels at is pacing - that is to say, their ability to slow a song down and suddenly propel it back to a blistering speed. It adds a level of unexpected excitement, and it’s just these kind of surprises that make “Out of the Blue” a truly progressive jazz rock album. And don’t miss the live version of ‘New Song’ as presented on the Aztec CD, as it will leave your speakers smoldering for a few hours afterward. This is a must own album for early instrumental fusion fans………by…..ashratom …….. 

“Like an Australian bred mixture of Canterbury prog and Mahavishnu fusion, Mackenzie Theory’s music is that kind that grabs you instantly. Be it by the presence of an electric viola, or be it for the fiery guitar playing, this stuff is truly hot. … the music that you hear is made even more impressive by the fact that it was recorded live! Completely instrumental, the long improvs will remind you of the extended Caravan jams, only that they’ve replaced the organ for the already mentioned viola, in tandem with some tasty guitar playing, which’ll most surely remind you of Mahavishnu.” 
- The Progressive Rock Listening Booth 

Prior to forming Mackenzie Theory, Melbourne-born Rob Mackenzie had played as a guest guitarist with a number of bands, including Friends and Billy Thorpe and the Aztecs. Rob was a natural and gifted musician. He came from a musical family, and had been brought up playing a wide variety of musical styles. During his teenage years he became a highly proficient and inventive guitarist, although remarkably he never read music. 

Cleis Pearce, who was born in Sydney, moved around Australia widely with her family as a child. She went through a very intensive and conventional regime of classical music training on violin, and as the eldest in the family, she says she bore the brunt of her parents’ high expectations. By the time she started university the family was living in Tasmania, but around the age of 18 her relationship with her family reached breaking point, so Cleis left home and headed to Sydney. 

For a while, Cleis says, she was more or less living on the street. One of her first encounters with the rock world was when she attended the Pilgrimage For Pop at Ourimbah in January 1970, and there she was befriended by people from Sydney who offered her a place to live. Back in Sydney, her freewheeling existence gradually led her to the Sydney underground music scene and she became a regular visitor to the fabled Arts Factory in Darlinghurst. 

One fateful night in September 1971, Cleis attended an Arts Factory performance by a trio from Melbourne. She was immediately enthralled with the music and playing style of the young guitarist, Rob Mackenzie, and when she introduced herself Rob invited her to join them in a jam at the following night’s performance. This she did, and on the strength of that one evening’s jamming, Rob obviously realised that he had found a kindred spirit. He invited Cleis to come to Melbourne and form a band with him. After arriving in Melbourne, Rob recruited bassist Mike Leadabrand and drummer Andy Majewski and Mackenzie Theory was born. The name, says Cleis, was simply the expression of Rob’s outlook. He lived for music, constantly talking and theorising about music and its relationship to life, and putting the band together was the embodiment of his philosophies. 

Mackenzie Theory’s unique style and presentation quickly established them as a major presence on the flourishing early ‘70s Melbourne scene, playing at venues like the TF Much Ballroom, Sebastians and Berties. It’s safe to say that there were few, if any rock bands following anything like the same path in Australia. As Ian McFarlane observed: 

“The band consistently enthralled festival and concert audiences with a dynamic instrumental sound that embraced elements of Santana (circa Caravanserai), King Crimson, John Coltrane and Mahavishnu Orchestra.” 

As their popularity grew, Mackenzie Theory made regular appearances alongside the likes of Spectrum, Madder Lake, Chain, The Aztecs and Band of Light. As they became established, they were taken up by rising young pop entrepreneur Michael Gudinski who amanged thm and booked them through his agency, Consolidated Rock. 

The first MacKenzie Theory recording to be released was the eight-minute “New Song and”, which was included on Mushroom’s inaugural release, the live triple album The Great Australian Rock Festival Sunbury 1973, issued in April. 

Cleis recalled the Sunbury performance as a memorable experience. Mackenzie Theory were scheduled to on at midnight, immediately after a blistering two-hour set by The Aztecs, and it’s hard to think of two more wildly contrasting acts. (Cleis says she suspects that some expected Theory’s set to be a flop). But it fact, Mackenzie Theory proved to be the perfect “chill out” music to follow the Aztecs’ sonic assault and they were warmly received. 

The band attempted some studio recordings, but according to Cleis her complete lack of studio experience combined with what she felt was the unsympathetic attitudes of the studio staff, and she does not have happy memories of the experience. Whatever results there might have been were deemed unuseable, so Mushroom opted for a compromise and recorded a live-in-the-studio set, which was released as their debut album, the highly-regarded Out of the Blue in July 1973. Cleis concurs with Ian McFarlane’s observation that it “did not do justice to the band’s powerful stage presence” but it is invaluable as a snapshot of the band in performace and as a document of at least some of what they were capable of. 

In September 1973, both Leadabrand and Majewski were replaced by Paul `Sheepdog’ Wheeler from the Aztecs and Greg Sheehan (drums; ex-Blackfeather) and the group was further augmented by Peter Jones on electric piano. 

The band appeared again at Sunbury in 1974, but early in the year Rob became one of the first rock musicians (along with Glenn Cardier and Greg Quill) to be awarded a study grant from the Australian Council for the Arts. Mackenzie and Pearce planned to travel to the UK, which of course spelled the end of Mackenzie Theory’s career. 

Mushroom Records recorded the farewell concert, which was held at Melbourne’s Dallas Brooks Hall, 15 May 1974 but the band were unhappy with the results. Although Rob obtained a written, signed undertaking from Mushroom that the tapes would not be released, Mushroom waited until Mackenzie and Pearce were out of the country and then reneged on their promise, releasing excerpts from the concerts as the ‘farewell’ album Bon Voyage. 

“Once again, the album only offered a superficial glimpse into the band’s live power. Nevertheless, epic tracks like `Clouds’ and `Supreme Love’ were at times sweet and dreamy, at others frantic and chaotic.” 
- Ian McFarlane 

Mushroom included the band’s Sunbury performance of “Supreme Love” on the album Highlights of Sunbury '74 Part 2. 

In 1994, Raven included “Extraterrestrial Boogie” on the Golden Miles compilation. 

In the 1980s Cleis Pearce joined Sandy Evans’ groundbreaking ensemble Women & Children First. Clies now lives, composes, teaches and makes art in the Byron Bay area and has been an artist in residence with Southern Cross University. Her son Marley was born in 1992. 

In the 1980s, Rob MacKenzie moved to the USA, where he played for twelve years as lead guitarist with rock'n'roll revival act Sha Na Na. He returned to Australia for a visit in march 2004 and made a one-off performance in Melbourne at the Elwood Blues Jam. ……..Milesago………….. 
So many rock bands with violinists and there was not exactly. At MacKenzie Theory from Melbourne this post was occupied by a woman. Rob MacKenzie was a well-known guitarist in Australia in the late '60s in the early’ 70s who had played in the bands The Trips, The Virgil Brothers, Leo and Friends, King Harvest and The Great Men. In the summer of 1971, he occasionally met a concert in Sydney on Cleis Pierce, a classically trained violinist who was just in a kind of life crisis and was looking for a job and meaning in general. When she heard MacKenzie playing, she writes in the booklet of the CD-Reissue of the first MacKenzie Theory album, she immediately knew what her fate was. The two hitched to Melbourne and founded a band. A rhythm section was found with Mike Leadabrand and Andrew Majewski, and in May 1973, after extensive concert activity, the quartet played its debut. 

“Out of the Blue” was produced live in the studio, before a small, selected audience. Rob MacKenzie writes in the booklet that he does not like the recordings of “Out of the Blue”, because he thinks the band, especially he, played badly on this evening. So, when I compare the studios with the live-soundtrack of the CD-Reissues, also recorded 1973 at the “Great Australian Rock Festival” in Sunbury, I do not get the impression that the band was so bad on that day in May. 

MacKenzie Theory play jazz instrumental rock (the plate label Mushroom applied “Out of the Blue” as the first instrumental album of an Australian rock band), a mix of jazz rock and psychedelic-jammed Westcoastrock. The result sounds like a cross between Mahavishnu Orchestra and Quicksilver Messenger Service (or It’s a Beautiful Day, which also had a violinist with David LaFlame). MacKenzie’s very own electric guitar, psychedelic-bluesy and always slightly spacey, is reminiscent of John Cippolina, alternating with the jazzy lines of the electrically amplified Viola Cleis Pearces. This lively, sometimes also worn alternation or interplay determines the happenings, always embedded in the rhythmic and rhythmic patterns of the rhythm section. Now and then it is elegiac-dreamy and rarely MacKenzie also once in the keys of a piano (at the beginning of “World’s the Way”, for example). All in all it is very playful and loose music here and it is fun to hear the band. 

The very nicely made Digipack from Aztec Music comes not only with a richly illustrated, the tape story carefully recapping supplement, but - as already noted - as Bonustrack still a live recording of the piece “New Song”, which with good sound quality a track more elusive is. But the differences in comparison to the Studiokonzert are small and - as I said - do not confirm MacKenzie’s statement, the group would have been badly at the time. 

“Out of the Blue” is a beautiful album with an Australian instrumental prog, which should be a match for fans of loose-jocked, jam-like jazzrock and collectors from Geigen-Prog!……by……… Achim Breiling …………. 
Born in the Melbourne music scene of early 1970’s Australia, MACKENZIE THEORY played a brand of instrumental jazz-rock not unlike that of MAHAVISHNU ORCHESTRA tempered by ITS A BEAUTIFUL DAY. 

The MACKENZIE THEORY sound was centred on the inventive and fiery guitar playing of Rob MacKenzie teamed with the electric viola of the classically-trained Cleis Pearce. 

As well as MacKenzie and Pearce, the the initial MACKENZIE THEORY line-up was rounded out with the recruitment of bassist Mike Leadabrand and drummer Andy Majewski. 

The band took the name MACKENZIE THEORY as recognition of its alignment to Rob MacKenzie’s theories on music and his philosophies on the link between the music and life. 

In September of 1973 there were changes to the MACKENZIE THEORY line-up when Mike Leadabrand and Andy Majewski left the band and were replaced by Paul 'Sheepdog’ Wheeler and Greg Sheehan, respectively. At the same time Peter Jones came into MACKENZIE THEORY on electric piano, adding a new dimension to their sound. 

After burning brightly for a short period, things were all over for MACKENZIE THEORY by the middle of 1974 after Rob MacKenzie was awarded a study grant from the Australian Council for the Arts, and he and Pearce decided to head to the UK Kingdom to pursue study options. 

While in the UK and later in the USA, Rob MacKenzie had the opportunity to work the likes of Peter Gabriel, Pete Townshend, members of Brand X and Mike Bloomfield. 

Rob MacKenzie was last known to be residing in the USA and playing lead guitar for rock 'n’ roll revivalists SHA NA NA. Cleis Pearce continues to play music in Australia as well as having achieved success in the visual arts arena. 

The first recorded work of MACKENZIE THEORY appeared on the 1973 Sunbury Music Festival triple live album “The Great Australian Rock Festival Sunbury 1973”. 

After failed attempts to create a studio album, the highly acclaimed MACKENZIE THEORY debut set “Out Of The Blue” was recorded live-in-the-studio before a small audience and released by Mushroom Records in July 1973. 

In 1974 a farewell concert for MACKENZIE THEORY was recorded at Dallas Brooks Hall in Melbourne, which was later released by Mushroom Records as the second MACKENZIE THEORY album “Bon Voyage”. 

MACKENZIE THEORY also featured as an artist in the 1974 Sunbury Music Festival recording “Highlights of Sunbury '74, Part 2”, plus the band has appeared from time to time on compilation releases. 

One notable compilation featuring MACKENZIE THEORY is the Australian progressive rock compilation “Golden Miles: Australian Progressive Rock 1969-74”, released in 1994 by Raven Records. 

MACKENZIE THEORY is an interesting band with a raw-edged sound for those who enjoy jazz-rock and the interplay between guitar and violin or, as is the case with MACKENZIE THEORY, the electric viola. Recommended…………………. 

Discography 

Apr. 1973 
The Great Australian Rock Festival Sunbury 1973 (Mushroom) 
(one track only - “New Song And” 

1974 
Bon Voyage (Mushroom L 35276) 

1974 
Highlights of Sunbury '74 Part 2 (Mushroom) 

Line-up / Musicians 

- Rob MacKenzie / guitars 
- Cleis Pearce / electric viola 
- Mike Leadabrand / bass 
- Andy Majewski / drums 

Tracklist 
A1 Extra Terrestrial Boogie 5:47 
A2 O 9:53 
A3 Opening Number 8:02 
B1 New Song 11:38 
B2 Out Of The Blue 2:59 
B3 World’s The Way 7:57 

Rob MacKenzie (guitar) 
Cleis Pearce (electric viola) 
Peter Jones (keyboards) Sep. 1973 - May 1974 
Mike Leadabrand (bass) Sep. 1971 - Sep. 1973 
Andy Majewski (drums) Sep. 1971 - Sep. 1973 
Greg Sheehan (drums) Sep. 1973 - May 1974 
Paul “Sheepdog” Wheeler (bass) Sep. 1973 - May 1974 

johnkatsmc5, welcome music..