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Some Chants' record reviews
These reviews were sent to me by the always-enthusiastic John Baker.

I'm defying my own policy here and reviewing this from an advance cassette, but hopefully it'll exist on vinyl by the time you read this, 'cos you gotta HEAR this for yourselves. It's is one of the WILDEST, most exciting LIVE albums I've ever heard - like Kick Out the Jams, James Brown Live at The Apollo and Five Live Yardbirds rolled into one big, sweaty ball of pure Punk R&B ENERGY. OK, OK, I'm not trying to make a case that this here LP is as SEMINAL as any of those es¬teemed pieces; just that on one hot, muggy night in October 1966 at The Stage Door in Christchurch, New Zealand, a group called Chants R&B tapped into that same power source and by some miracle it was cap¬tured undiluted on tape.
Some of this material was already released on the Stage Door Witchdoctors album of a couple of years back, but most of these 16 tracks appear for the first time (and a couple of the live tracks from Witchdoctors aren't on here). The sound quality is crude, but NOT cruddy, muddy or bloody awful, in fact it probably sounds a lot like it sounded if you were there that night: LOUD, raw and slightly unbalanced.
Their versions of songs like the "Land of 1000 Dances," "1'll Go Crazy" and "Hold On, I'm Coming" are hotwired to crazed extremes, full of screaming, fighting, shouting vocals with instruments wailing and colliding in all directions without ever losing that vital groove.
Like hungry cannibals they savage the Graham Bond Organization's "Train Time" and the Poets' "That's the Way It's Got To Be," and their searing treatment of "Don't Bring Me Down" is the greatest Pretty Things cover version I've ever heard. They even manage to turn the Four Tops' "Baby I Need Your Loving" into a tribal death stomp.
When bassist Martin Correr (sic) ripped into the super¬fast intro to the Artwoods' "I Feel Good" I swore for a second it was the Damned's "Neat Neat Neat" if that gives you any idea of what I'm trying to communicate here in my overamped, inarticulate way.
You probably can't afford to buy everything that gets a positive review in Ugly Things, but make sure you beg, borrow or steal enough loot to bag THIS beauty, y'hear? (MS)


Imagine the scene... Friday night, a packed sweaty, basement club and an air of expectancy as four youths - one blonde, one bearded, one bespectacled, one with the longest tresses imaginable in staid New Zealand - take to the tiny concrete stage. A quick count-in and an insurgent rush of energy, fuelled on youthful joie de vivre surges through the crowd of long-haired 'Mods'. The time is 1966, the place is the Stage Door, in Hereford Lane, Christchurch. The group... the Chants R&B.
The Chants (as they were commonly known) had risen from the swelling ranks of the Flat City's beat bands in 1964 to become Christchurch's premier live attraction. The group were subject to several line-up changes during their turbulent three-year career but the core line-up comprised Mike Rudd (guitar/harp/vocals), an introverted art student who became anything but once he found a stage, Trevor Courtney, an irrespressible, freshly-expelled schoolboy drummer who sang while he bashed, English bassist Martin Forrer, the sandy-haired Entwistle of the group, and the studied, arcane inscrutability of lead guitar playing trainee teacher, Jim Tomlin. Within the relative isolation of Christchurch (the largest city in New Zealand's Southern Island) the Chants procured, studied and digested everything from the folk of Leadbelly, via the urban Chicago blues of Muddy Waters and John Lee Hooker, the gospel of Mahalia Jackson, to the stylish modern jazz of Cannonball Adderley, Wes Montgomery, and Charlie Mingus. But what really made the eclectic Chants was the mutation of these influences into a more abstract form - visceral, abrasive, uncompromising - based on the example set by Anglo R&B bands like Them, The Pretty Things and The Downliners Sect, which makes (along with such other similar worldwide practitioners as Holland's The Outsiders) the Chants so fascinating to today's garage gourmets.
Opened in late 1964, The Stage Door (formerly the King Bee) was home to the city's mass of malcontents. "When I discovered the King Bee (Koffee Kellar)" remembered Mike Rudd, "Steve O' Rourke (now an Australian TV actor) was leading a conga around a dingly looking basement reminiscent of the Cavern. I think I joined them and played a little harp to general acclaim and decided this was the place." While the upstairs cafe served coffee and burgers to the more relaxed patrons, a veritable Sodom and Gomorrah lurked beneath. Or as the Chants' hero Phil May sang: 'I found this pad, just like a cave, and there we had, a little rave, and then I led her underground, my head is spinning round...' The Stage Door functioned as a congregational point for the city's 'Mod' faction (not the short-haired English variety that the word conjures up but a catch-all term applied to anyone with long hair who wasn't a rocker or 'surfie'). Each Friday and Saturday night (along with a Sunday afternoon "dance session") long hairs, students, and those Rudd terms "dissolute kids, schoolgirls, the unemployed and the unemployable" witnessed the Chants' marathon four-hour, no-holds-barred stage sets that frequently involved copious amounts of feedback, distortion and general mayhem. While Rudd and Forrer coaxed the most agonised, disembodied sounds from their instruments, Trevor - a graduate of the Viv Prince School Of Etiquette - would swing from the rafters, occasionally perching upon Rudd's shoulders; the pair collapsing into an undignified heap, at the feet of Tomlin, who in his studied James Dean coolness, impassively played on. A set would climax with instruments being ritually destroyed ala Who as dazed punters were left to prepare for the following night's onslaught.
What you hold is a raw, aural entrapment of such an evening, circa November 1966, when Tomlin had been replaced by Australian army desertee (and The Fastest Guitar In The South) Max Kelly. Don't come expecting the digital multi-tracked clarity of yer bog standard overdub-enhanced live album - this is the Chants caught warts-and-all on a single mono cassette recording, made by ex-lead guitarist and mentor Tomlin, for demo purposes, hence the abrupt edits in parts. A scan of the setlist reveals the Chants' aforementioned R&B leanings as learned through overseas cousins like The Animals, The Yardbirds, and the Spencer Davis Group, with a soupcon of Motown and soul (The Four Tops, Sam & Dave, Wilson Pickett). The fact that many of these songs, such as The Artwoods' cover of Allen Toussaint's 'I Feel Good' (also covered by Kiwi contemporaries Larry's Rebels, and in the 70s, Citizen Band), and The Poets' 'That's The Way It's Got To Be', were not commercially available in New Zealand at the time, provides ample evidence of the Chants' tenacity in tracking down material from obscure sources. Check out Rudd's breathless vocal and harp interjections on 'Train Time' - Jack Bruce's setpiece with the Graham Bond Organisation, and later, Cream. 'I'll Go Crazy', a James Brown showstopper popular with UK groups such as The Moody Blues and The Untamed, becomes a vehicle for the Chants' untrained 'sock it to 'em' approach, 'Dimples' (based on the Spencer Davis Group interpretation rather than the Animals' cover) is roared through with unstoppable gusto, while 'When I Find Out', featuring an intro nicked from Albert King's 'Steppin Out', is a frenzied vehicle for some Clapton-esque soloing. Then there's the rave-up dynamics of Smokestack Lightning', and relentless bashes through punk primers, 'Gloria,' and 'Don't Bring Me Down'. It's the impromptu nature that makes the mood - Trevor's nonchalant 'Rudd ballsed up that one' during the unison vocals on 'That's The Way It's Got To Be', Rudd's almost tongue-in-cheek delivery during a gritty tear-up through Muddy Waters' (Via Manfred Mann) 'Hoochie Coochie Man', and the off-mike chat during the solo in 'Slow Down'.
??? deserves a place alongside such evocative 60s field recordings as Five Live Yardbirds, John Mayall Plays John Mayall, Georgie Fame's R&B At The Flamingo, and the bum note beerfest that are the illicit Beatles' 1962 Hamburg Star Club recordings. Ignore the technical imperfections, and focus on the welcome lack of rehearsed slickness; the impassioned, occasionally wayward vocals, the playing teetering on chaos, and the crackle of youthful electricity dressed in fab English lace shirts and leather waistcoat gear. Oh, and the low ceiling. They're all waiting at the Stage Door...

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