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Salient. Victoria University Students Newspaper. Vol. 38, No. 2. March 11, 1975

Feeble Spirit

Feeble Spirit

Last week I heard a local band at a dance in Northland. The night was foul: it had been raining the whole day and outside the hall it was cold and miserable. Inside, Saxonhair were playing to a small crowd; around us one or two danced, while others stretched out along the walls. Semi-darkness. The band was decidedly cool. After a while I thought they were excellent.

At the centre, Chris: playing guitar with real grace: leading the band, the crowd into rock and roll; Greg pointing his trumpet somewhere between the ceiling and a lowered microphone and blowing on top of the drummer, bass and second guitarist. Best of all were the singers, Kate and Kelly. With her hands thrust into the pockets of her jeans, Kate is the group's indifferent star. In the wooden confines of St Anne's Hall her voice assails, commands; with the addition of Kelly's harmonies she sounds like my old favourite, Grace Slick. The fat sound ("Get off My Cloud', 'Satisfaction', 'It's alright Mama') warmed the hall with good spirit, moving the crowd, which was getting bigger, to leaping, jumping, rocking freedoms. It was alive all right: like the concerts we've seen at the Town Hall in the last two years. It was rock music.

So after this discovery I listened to Free Spirit, the new release from Hudson/Ford, and ask: what does this album contribute to the greater pantheon of rock music? Of course I'm disappointed: maybe these standards are too limiting, even too high ( I don't really think so), but this album doesn't rate.

First track, 'Take A Little Word', is six and a half minutes long. Here:

I had to run away
To find a hideaway
So all I've got to say
It would only take a little word ...
To come back to you, to come back to you.'

Like most of the music on this album, the arrangement is pointed and smooth, the production slick. Yet, except for the production, this album has nothing to with the seventies, and even less to do with rock.

So I'd have to call it pop-or British folk/rock, which is much the same thing. The simple melodies and romanticism are reminiscent of early Strawbs, the band which spawned Richard Hudson and John Ford. Strangely enough the music is much closer to American pop, circa 1967/8: the Monkees, Every Mother's Son, Dino, Desi and Billy were playing music like this when I was in the fourth form at college. It was music that we all grew out of.

I know: the electronic wizardry gives the music the validity of say, the Moody Blues; but lacking the saving grace of obscurity it is finally only trite. Again, take these lines:

No I don't want adulation
Give me appreciation
Cause I'll be high as a steeple
When I can play to the people.
(I don't Want to be a Star)

They could have come from 'Tommy' or 'Quadrophenia'. Daltrey could have screamed these lines; they could be dramatic. Instead they are delivered without any attention to dramatics and lack conviction. As I say, preseventies; pre-consciousness.

Finally, the back cover shows the boys leaning on an old Ford with California plates: they resemble British gangsters, the ones you see in Michael Caine films. Two have receding hairlines, and one looks overdressed (like an aging rock star). It's competent cover art, and the anachronisms and incongruities it points up are a statement of where the band is at musically. None of the songs are as strong as last year's single, 'Pick Up the Pieces', and this album doesn't fulfil the promise of 'Nickelodeon', their first album.