THE GROOVE/EUREKA STOCKADE, REISSUED AND DISCOVERED (2023): Stop me if you've never heard this one

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I'll Be Home (by Eureka Stockade)
THE GROOVE/EUREKA STOCKADE, REISSUED AND DISCOVERED (2023): Stop me if you've never heard this one

Even diligent scholars of Aotearoa New Zealand's pop and rock artists would be forgiven for not having heard of this Australasian band of the late Sixties which had a strong Kiwi component.

Which is why we need the work and research of enthusiast and archivist Grant Gillanders who here not only delivers the Groove's sole album and singles from '68 but their unreleased collection as Eureka Stockade of the following year, recorded in Abbey Road and intended as a follow-up.

But the band, having “run our race” according to singer Peter Williams, broke up in mid 1970, despite Chas Chandler (Jimi Hendrix's manager) being enthusiastic about them.

The Kiwi connection came through frontman Williams (formerly of Max Merritt and the Meteors) and guitarist Rod Stone (formerly of the Librettos), both of whom had separately moved to Australia.

Teamed up by manager-cum-opportunist Garry Spry (Twilights) with Australian keyboard player Tweed Harris, drummer Geoff Bridgford and bassist Jamie Byrne (all of whom had time in other bands), the Groove formed in Melbourne and started playing almost immediately.

Through their brief story run the names of admirers like Molly Meldrum (then writing reviews) and fine Australian bands like the Twilights and Masters Apprentices with whom they shared bills.

337264178_594847955890575_1010422927729916312_nTheir soulful pop-rock – with vibrant organ – won them space and praise in magazines like Go Set (they came third behind the Twilights and Masters Apprentices in their readers' poll), recording singles, appearing at various pop festivals, winning a Battle of the Sounds competition, recording a Coke ad then moving to London after a farewell tour.

They recorded at EMI's studio on Abbey Road, their single The Wind had the young Alan Parsons engineering and deployed the mellotron the Beatles used and the Procol Harum keyboard set-up.

But a brace of singles failed to chart and soon enough they had run their race.

It's a good story and their Groove material is impressive in the manner of the Small Faces/Spencer Davis Group with tough-edged and soulful pop-rock takes on covers (Isley Brothers, Sam Cooke, Sly Stone's Dance to the Music, Allen Toussaint, Stubborn Kind of Fellow, Cool Jerk -- which was a bit out of step with 1968 -- and Neil Diamond).

But their originals by Stone and Williams fit right in with the popular sound of the period: they are a bit ambitious in their arrangements (The Wind in the style of Aphrodite's Child-meets-Procol Harum), Goin' Back could have been a hit for a black soul group and there's the slinky mainstream Relax Me.

groove1Bridgman and Byrne seems to favour a more rock style on Play the Song.

They certainly nailed down the styles of the times: the Isley's dance soul Simon Says and an upbeat With This Ring (the Platters' song of the previous year), there's an unusually effective, slow and soulful treatment of Diamond's Boat That I Row (known for Lulu's chipper version) and Ben E King's What is Soul is right in their horn-driven style.

The Groove were mostly a soul-pop band and could have had some appeal in Britain at the time.

But by the time they got there and settled in, the mood had shifted even more.

By 1969 the landscape of music was changing rapidly: it was the era of the supergroup, heavy and psychedelic sounds and a schism between pop radio and the underground. The Groove – on the evidence here – were somewhere in the middle but erring more towards pop.

As Eureka Stockade - recording their album at Olympic Studios, much favoured by the Stones, Hendrix, Led Zeppelin and other legends -- they had the chance to reinvent themselves but start at the bottom again.

Screen_Shot_2023_04_02_at_6.03.22_PMMaybe songs like We're Going to Drink Some Booze wasn't the way to do it in the era of marijuana and LSD? And maybe a song about the Eureka Stockade and Murrumbidgee wouldn't be understood by an international audience?

But rather than try to keep up with the times Eureka Stockade kept with the formula of pop – toughened up however – which had been so successful in Australia and it seemed the well had almost dried up. Songs like Just Me and You are flat, although there's some interesting country-funk on God Made His Children (by Harris), throat-searing soul-rock on I Ain't Comin' Back, Easy Street by Bridgford eases towards The Band.

Williams was certainly a singer who deserved more than he got – comparisons with Stevie Marriott aren't too far off – and their best songwriting was accomplished. There was just not enough of it.

Screen_Shot_2023_04_02_at_6.04.46_PMThis stacked full collection – 40 songs across two discs – is well annotated and also tells of lost opportunities and what happened to the musicians after the band broke up: pretty decent careers for most of them with namechecks of Blue Mink, Olivia Newton-John, Cliff Richard, Renee Geyer, the Bee Gees and Goanna.

Frankly we had never heard of either The Groove or Eureka Stockade – no reason we should have, their careers were in Australia and England – but we are very glad we now have.

.

This well annotated double disc collection is available run all decent record shops. It is released through Frenzy.


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