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Saturday, 26 May 2018

Levi Smith’s Clefs “Empty Monkey” 1970 Australia Psych Hard Blues Rock


Levi Smith’s Clefs “Empty Monkey” 1970 Australia Psych Hard Blues Rock
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Rated as “the best Rock Album ever produced in Australia” by the local press, it’s about time that this album can reach a wider audience after 35 years. 
Mayfair Music is very proud to present Levi Smith’s Clef’s superb album ‘Empty Monkey’. This group played a dynamic Progressive Rock with a heavy organ and riffing guitars. But what makes this album really outstanding is the roaring Soul-voice of the band’s founder Barrie “The Bear” McAskill ! 
As we had the full support of Barrie during this project a lot of unreleased material popped up, including a test pressing of the first recording session. The songs on the album were re-recorded versions, making the First Session-Tracks a special treat because they sound much rawer and full of sweat ! 
Due to the vast amount of additional tracks we decided to release this as a Double - LP in the original Gatefold Cover…..music emporium….~



Paving the way for soul and R&B music in Australia during the 1960s, Scottish-born singer Barrie McAskill fronted the ever-changing Levi Smith’s Clefs lineup from 1967 to 1975. The band was started by organ player Tweed Harris in Adelaide in 1963 as the Clefs and soon developed a strong local reputation. McAskill joined in 1965 and the lineup became Tweed Harris, Bruce Howe (bass), Les Tanner (guitar), Bob Jeffrey (sax), and Vince Jones (drums). 

The Clefs released three singles in 1966: “I Can Only Give You Everything”/“Roberta,” “Last Night”/“March of the Siamese Twins,” and “A Boy Like Me”/“Bring It to Jerome.” Harris left to join the Groove in 1967 and McAskill became the leader. After a suggestion from their manager, the Clefs changed their name to the Levi Smith’s Clefs that year. The band then moved to Sydney where they took up a residency at the Whisky a Go Go club. The lineup changed several times and by 1968 was composed of McAskill, Inez Amaya (vocals), Michael Carlos (organ), John Blake (drums), Mick Jurd (guitar), Richard Lockwood (flute, sax), and Robert Taylor (drums). 

By the end of 1968, Carlos, Lockwood, Blake, and Taylor left to form the band Tully, which backed the Australian production of Hair later that year, followed by Amaya, who left to join the cast. A new lineup of McAskill, Mick Jurd, John Bissett (organ), Bruce Howe (bass), and Tony Buettel (drums) recorded and released the Empty Monkey album in 1970. Two singles were released from the album, “Lisa”/“Roadrunner” (January 1970) and a cover of Junior Walker’s “Shotgun”/“Who Is It That Shall Come?” (April 1970). 

Several lineup changes followed and a new band known as Barrie McAskill’s Levi Smith’s Clefs released the singles “Live Like a Man”/“Piece of My Heart” (September 1970) and “Gonna Get a Seizure”/“Dancing and Drinking” (April 1971), as well as a shared EP with the band Autumn, Best of Whisky A Go Go. The band played Sydney’s infamous Chequers club throughout 1971. 

Several lineup changes followed again, and by late 1971, the lineup of McAskill, Carlos, Stirling, Henson, and Jeffrey toured as Barrie McAskill’s Bear Brigade and McAskill’s Marauders. By mid-1972, McAskill was touring with another Levi Smith’s Clefs lineup, but the band was coming to an end, and by 1976, McAskill was touring under his own name. In the coming years he played in and formed several bands in Adelaide, the Levi Smith’s Clefs among them. ~ Brendan Swift….~


This is essentially a perfect marriage of blues rock and prog rock with a number of other related genres thrown in: soul, jazz rock and even a little bit of pop. I don’t think I have heard an album that so effortlessly blends prog with another genre (in this case blues rock) while maintaining such respect for both genres. The main highlights are the guitars, all the way from big and bluesy to quiet and atmospheric, and Barrie McAskill’s vocals, which are generally big and gravelly but also extremely soulful in parts. The organ also adds a lot of depth to the sound but is very much a “second fiddle” as even in the quiet, atmospheric sections, most of the “heavy lifting” is still done by the guitars. 
The opening instrumental 'Relief From a Lighted Doorway’ is monumental and a perfect introduction to the band’s sound. This track effortlessly progresses from a quiet soulful guitar introduction and slowly builds guitar layer by guitar layer into a monster of a track with tons of driving solos backed by dense keyboards. 
'Shotgun’ is a cover of a song originally by Junior Walker and is far less subtle than the opening track. This is a no holds barred workout showcasing McAskill’s big wailing voice over soaring lead breaks and swirling organs. 
'You Can’t Do That’ is a Beatles “cover” although the term “reworking” would be fairer. Supposedly inspired by Joe Cocker’s substantial reworking of 'With a Little Help From My Friends’, the band takes the short 2:37 original and turns it into an 11:37 prog epic. The main theme is of course nice and melodic (the amateurish harmonies notwithstanding), but the real meat of the track is the lengthy instrumental break in the centre. I can’t say that I enjoy it all, but there are quite a few nice guitar and organ passages. 
'Lisa’ is a somewhat soulful and emotional soft rock ballad, although for me the only real strength is the melody in the chorus with the rest of the track being quite bland. Better is the folksy 'Who is it That Shall Come’ with a really strong and catchy vocal performance and really cool atmospheric organs. 
'Shake and Finger Pop’ (another Junior Walker cover) offers some relatively light hearted relief with a cool groovy pop influenced blues track. Compared to the rest of the album 'The Hunter’ (yet another cover) is a relatively straightforward reading of the blues song made famous by Led Zeppelin’s “borrowing” for 'How Many More Times’ and, as good as that riff is, the track is a little bit too straight and forgettable on the album. 
After all that the title track closes the album with a fairly standard but respectable jazz-funk workout. It doesn’t really seem to fit in with the rest of the album to me; it seems to be more a statement to let everyone know that we can play jazz-funk as well as everything else here. 
While I certainly don’t like the entirety of the album, there are just too many good ideas and good sections for this album to be ignored. It’s a real shame then that this album is pretty much forgotten except by Australian 70s rock aficionados and only the most earnest prog rock fans….by….Bitterman …~



This band comes from Adelaide, South Australia and what we have here is a brilliant blend of Rock and Blues driven by Hammond accompanied by a brilliant singer Barrie McAskill, the only constant in the group who is always changing his lineup. In an attempt to describe his vocal style, I think it is right on the line of Chris Farlowe in its work with the COLOSSEUM. 
Before this album was done the band moved to the biggest city in Australia, Sydney and constantly stood at the notorious club Whisky A Go Go. Their performances were very good and full of energy which gave a certain fame in the early years of the band . 
The album opens with an instrumental, “Relief From A Lighted Doorway” and then the band continues with the original “Shotgun” before reaching the midpoint of the album, an amazing version of the Beatles “You Can not Do That”, in which more than 11 minutes, the music of Lennon and McCartney, is only recognizable at the beginning and at the end when McAskill adds his raspy voice, the media is full of great solos and inventions, !!! impressive. Very Blues-Rock below before the album finishes with, title track instrumental and very Jazz Rock. 
This remastered version is full of tracks in the first and second CDS including many tracks recorded live. A rarity to meet and fall in love……~


Credits 
Bass – Bruce Howe 
Drums – Tony Buettel 
Guitar – Mick Jurd 
Organ – John Bisset (2) 
Vocals – Barrie McAskill


Tracklist 
A1 Relief From A Lighted Doorway 6:42 
A2 Shotgun 5:08 
A3 You Can’t Do That 11:37 
B1 Lisa 3:31 
B2 The Hunter 2:39 
B3 Shake & Finger Pop 6:51 
B4 Who Is It That Shall Come 3:32 
B5 Empty Monkey 3:26 









Tracks: 

CD 1 
«Empty Monkey», 1970 
01. Relief From A Lighted Doorway — 6:42 
02. Shotgun — 5:08 
03. You Can’t Do That — 11:37 
04. Lisa — 3:31 
05. The Hunter — 2:39 
06. Shake And Finger Pop — 6:51 
07. Who Is It That Shall Come — 3:32 
08. Empty Monkey — 3:26 

Singles 
09. I Can Only Give You Everything — 2:47 
10. Roberta — 2:22 
11. A Boy Like Me — 2:20 
12. Bring It To Jerome — 2:32 
Live In The Studio, 1969 
13. Hey Jude — 4:18 
McAskill’s Marauders, Live In The Studio, 1971 
14. Bye Bye Blackbird — 4:22 

CD 2 
The First Session, 1969 
01. Shake And Finger Pop — 11:26 
02. Road Runner — 2:40 
03. Empty Monkey — 4:10 
04. Cool Spot — 3:20 
05. The Hunter — 2:36 
06. You Can’t Do That — 12:14 
07. The Weight — 5:01 
08. Lisa — 3:54 
09. Relief From A Lighted Doorway — 7:43 
The Best of Whisky A Go Go EP, 1971 
10. Down In The Valley — 3:31 
11. Lawdy Miss Clawdy — 3:33 

Singles 1970-1971 
12. Love Like A Man — 3:20 
13. Piece Of My Heart — 3:01 
14. Dancing And Drinking — 3:13 
15. Gonna Get A Seizure — 2:20 
McAskill’s Marauders, Live In The Studio, 1971 
16. Lawdy Miss Clawdy — 3:57 

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