As isolated as the Australian rock scene was from the rest of the world in the 1960s, western Australia was yet more isolated, due both to its remoteness and sparse population. There was, nonetheless, rock being made in the region, and a label, the Perth-based Clarion Records, to record it. This 30-track compilation of 1965-1970 recordings is stuffed with names that'll stump even the relatively knowledgeable connoisseur of '60s Australian rock, though the Valentines are known for including future AC/DC singer Bon Scott, and members of the Easybeats wrote or co-wrote a couple tracks (the Valentines' "She Said" and Johnny Young's "Step Back"). There was a lot of good rock issued in Australia in the '60s, but a lot of it was mediocre and/or heavily derivative of British and American performers as well. Like numerous other anthologies of below-first-division '60s rock from Down Under, this suffers from explicit imitation of '60s U.K. and (less frequently) '60s U.S. sounds and less than outstanding material, though it's OK for what it is. It's wide-ranging, certainly, with cuts clearly inspired by the British Invasion, soul, folk-rock, folk-pop, blues-rock, and psychedelia (the Vegetable Garden's "Hypnotic Suggestion" and "Even Stevens" are particularly contrived pop-psych). Wisely, the focus is not on the well-known American and British cover tunes that comprised a good deal of the release schedule throughout Australia, but on original material and the more obscure or odder covers, which could encompass some surprisingly off the beaten track items. There could have been few other bands, for instance, that covered the Soft Machine's first (non-LP, flop) single, "Love Makes Sweet Music," as the Valentines did. Not much grabs you by the throat here, though it's not bad. But some above-average cuts include Maggie Hammond's 1966 folk-rock take on "Wild Mountain Thyme" (here titled "Go Laddie") and the Spektors' raunchy cover of Mike Berry's "On My Mind." Obsessive AC/DC collectors might want this for the two live cuts by the Spektors (taken from a mid-'60s TV broadcast), with Bon Scott on drums and one lead vocal. Easybeats collectors, meanwhile, should note that Johnny Young's version of the George Young-Stevie Wright-penned "Step Back" on this CD is not the one that became a big Australian hit for Young, but an acoustic demo, performed in a Perth hotel room with backing by the Easybeats' George Young and Harry Vanda.
The Clarion Call: Western Australia's Legendary Clarion Label Review
by Richie Unterberger