Dick’s Picks: Not one, not two but three slices of quality ’70s vintage Australian prog rarities from Spectrum ….
Spectrum were one of the key players in the Australian prog rock scene of the late ‘60s/early ‘70s, largely the brainchild of Mike Rudd, a native New Zealander who had previous form fronting the Chants R&B. After Chants disbanded he stayed on in Melbourne and formed a new band with singer/songwriter Ross Wilson and guitarist Ross Hannaford. Hip to what was going on in the UK/US underground music scenes this new venture would be a departure from ’60s style amped up, pill fuelled R&B and off into the uncharted backwaters of this new fangled progressive rock thang….
Spectrum really kicked off when Bill Putt, formerly of Melbourne bands Gallery and The Lost Souls; formed a lasting friendship and musical partnership with Rudd, and have continued to work together ever since. A prolonged bout at the dawn of the ’70s of serious gigging in and around Melbourne at local head venues ‘TF Much Ballroom’, ‘Garrison’ and ‘Sebastian’s’ alongside other Aussie proto-progsters Tully, Tamam Shud and the wonderfully named Sons Of The Vegetal Mother saw the band develop a sound not unlike Traffic and Soft Machine with a dash of Pink Floyd thrown in for good measure.
Check debut album opener ‘Make That Stash’, an ever-so-slightly paranoid rant about hiding your stash from the Man “they’ve got dogs that can smell right through plastic bags”, contained within its modest 4.12 running time is a demonic intro of clanging chords, scary dissonance and rumbling organ (ooo-err), an atmospheric section of bells and guitar before the vocal starts around the 1.19 mark, throw in some double-time action at the end and it makes for quite a trip!
The band’s second album ‘Milesago’ was something of a development and is also claim to a couple of Aussie rock firsts; the very first Australian rock music double album and also the first to be recorded at a 16-track facility.
A quick shimmy through the album reveals a band that had not only learnt their prog chops but had also learnt to remove some of the earnestness of their debut see ‘What The World Needs Now (Is A New Pair Of Socks) if you don’t believe me! There’s some great playing throughout, no flashy histrionics, but some rock solid guitar work that’s not frightened to take a swift sonic detour when you’re least expecting it…
…and for album number three? Credited to both Spectrum and their slightly jollier alter ego the Indelible Murtceps their final studio album was released just as the band imploded, drummer Lee Neale was the first to jump ship followed soon after by Ray Arnott leaving Mike Rudd and Bill Putt no option but to disband both Spectrum and spin-off the Indelible Murtceps – leaving behind a small, but perfectly formed, musical legacy. Recent years have seen interest in the band, and the Australian underground scene in general, soar with prices of their recorded output rising steadily…..
PS…..you can earn bonus Aussie prog reward points if you can tell me what a ‘Murtcep’ is, no googling now…..