Max Merritt and the Meteors: Been Away Too Long (LosTraxx)

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Max Merritt and the Meteors: Gonna Send You Back
Max Merritt and the Meteors: Been Away Too Long (LosTraxx)

The excavation of New Zealand's musical history continues with this album, even though proto-rock'n'roll star Merritt from Christchurch had shifted to Australia and by 1969 -- when this 41 minute set was recorded at a Melbourne "club" -- was powering out r'n'b' touched with some ripping jazz licks (by saxophonist Bob Bertles).

Merritt had been the next major star to emerge after Johnny Devlin but the brighter lights and opportunities in Australia beckoned, and his music inevitably changed.

He also had a tough, soulful voice so the 10 minute Otis Redding medley at the end here -- You Got Me Hummin'/Fa Fa Fa/Try a Little Tenderness and the Stones' Satisfaction -- was certainly within his grasp.

What is most unexpected in a 10 minute workout on Dizzy Gillespie's Kush where Bertles (who became a mainstay of Australian jazz) really brings it home.

So this is rock'n'roll (Larry Williams' Louisiana Ana), rock (his original title track), soul (the Otis, and Western Union Man which became an Australian hit) and jazz-rock stirred into the pot at Ashwood High in Melbourne's south east.

Merritt was coming back after a brutal car accident 18 months previous which cost him an eye and had a small but punchy band with Dave Russell on bass (who later co-produced Split Enz' Mental Notes), drummer Stewie Speer (who died in '86 aged 58) and Bertles (also on flute and vocals).

Material here like Don Covay's r'n'b stomper Gonna Send You Back (who also wrote Chain of Fools) have a raw and earthy feel, but then the supple and slinky Kush pushes into a very different direction (jazz flute, drum solo, out-jazzing Jethro Tull) and you get a whiff of their musical capabilities and curiosity, which may have outstripped that of their audience.

The sound isn't, of course, absolute top quality but what it lacks in breadth it makes up for in sweaty energy. As a snapshot of what this band sounded like in '69, it is quite remarkable.

That it exists all -- a tape in storage for more than 40 years -- is something of a minor miracle.

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Le Rock - Jun 25, 2012

Fantastic to actually still have footage of something very special like Max Merrit in his prime. Great treatment of a great song . . 1969 . . you just had to be there ! Thank you Graham for allowing me to revisit even if it was only for 4 minutes ! Do you have more footage of that night ?

Le Rock.

Brian Lewis - Aug 23, 2012

While the live video and the live CD of Western Union Man are different gigs, we have discovered long lost and the only existing footage of most of the Been Away Too Long CDs numbers, live in 1970 from ABC's Hit Scenes. We are working to gather up the video, get it reprocessed and bring out a double CD/DVD with both Been Away Too Long CD, and Been Away Too Long the DVD. We will keep you posted.

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