Original Album Tapestry Designed & Woven by Rachael R Slattery.
"This is a collection of rare and live recordings, which was borne out of my desire to give a historical lineage to fans of the music, who had only limited ideas of what I wrote or performed, according to their experience. Whether that was people in Australia, or in Europe, there were always gaps in my musical journey, where I felt I wanted to illustrate the many and varied line-ups and influences and experiences that happened along the way for all audiences to see the whole picture. This is a musical flashback to my earliest recordings with Wet Taxis, and No Dance, through to the bigger band line-ups of the Ego Trippers from Hell, and The Aspersion Caste, and the very rare recordings I made with Paris Green." Louis Tillett
C'mon. Written by The Atlantics. Performed here by Wet Taxis, featuring Louis Tillett.
The Latest Album of Louis Tillett, 20 Years in the making, and covering more than 3 decades.
A Rare and Unusual Collection of Recordings of Significance to Louis' personal Journey. Never heard together before. Some tracks never heard before.
"A Short Musical History of Louis Tillett, according to Louis Tillett"
Notes about each track, in order (For full context - see Liner Notes)
C'Mon. This is the A side of the first Wet Taxis single. It took Wet Taxis from being a pub band to being played on the Radio.
Clock on the Wall. This is the B side of the first Wet Taxis single, that got as much airplay as the A side, and kept this single at the Top of the Independent Music Charts for 6 months.
Swimming in the MIrror. The first song I ever wrote and recorded. Also the first sing outside of a band format. A decade before MTV's Unplugged. This was 3 people from 3 different Guitar Rock Bands, who each wrote a song and played acoustic instruments. The birth of Anti-Rock, appropriately named No Dance (Carnival of Souls).
Sailor's Dream. With the new Line-up of Wet Taxis featuring the new all female horn section, and the first original song of mine recorded by Wet Taxis..introducing the new lineup to a Radio audience, and met with some success, staying on the top of Indie Charts for months.
Baby Please Don't Go. Buzzard Luck. I Can Only Give You Everything. One Kind Favor. These 4 songs are the only serious Live recordings of Paris Green (the band destined never to be recorded) that took a Rock format and used the Blues and Jazz Improvisation tradition of having people sitting in, at no notice. Recorded Live at The Sandringham Hotel.
Carousel. Off the second album that I recorded under my own name (A Cast of Aspersions), with this version recorded at the old ABC Orchestral Studio in William Street Sydney, and was broadcast, literally, Live to Air on Triple J. No second chances, no second takes. Broadcast with no delay time.
From Me To You. From the same sessions on Triple J. as presented by Tim Ritchie.
Liferaft. The Triple J Live at The Wireless session again, which were sessions, not albums, featuring The Aspersion Caste.
Condemned to Live. The Triple J Live at The Wireless session again, which were sessions, not albums, featuring The Aspersion Caste. There was also a Studio version of this song released, as my only "Solo" single, in White Vinyl.
Around You. From the only Live album I have ever recorded, called, Life at The Basement. Released only in Limited Edition on Return to Sender label in Germany, and also featured on the Documentary "A Night at Sea with Louis Tillett", as originally aired on ABC TV in Australia.
On Your Way Down. Off the first Solo album, aptly named "Ego Tripping At The Gates of Hell" 1987 - not to be confused with the album of the same name, released more than 20 years later by The Flaming Lips as a genuine homage. This was a first attempt at playing in a truly minimalist fashion with Guitar, Piano and Vocals. This is the only track that has been lifted directly off one of my Studio Albums.
The (Comprehensive) Liner Notes
NB: This account by John McPharlin was written in 2003. The release date of this album had been postponed til now, and has undergone a remastering session in the interim, with added artwork created in 2009.
This is not a "greatest hits" collection. Innovative artists recording for small, independent record companies do not have conventional hits and even if they did, Louis Tillett does not think of his music in those terms. This is instead an accumulation of milestones along the path of Louis Tillett's personal musical pilgrimage. It has been a twenty year odyssey that has seen Louis wind up with not one but two musical careers. In Europe he is now recognized as a significant singer/song writer, capable of rendering audiences spellbound in rapt attention with just his piano and his voice, while in Australia he has an enviable reputation as a bandleader and catalyst of a succession of inventive and uninhibited groups, equally capable of driving audiences into frenzies of excitement.
Louis Tillett at the Civic Hotel, Newtown in 1979. Photo by Michael Waite.
A divergence that began by sheer accident of circumstance now seems to be cemented into place by the harsh realities of economics. The logistics of taking a large band through Europe do not lend themselves to the sort of gruelling tours Louis regularly undertakes there these days as a solo artist, while in Australia the venues open to artists not making regular appearances in the pop charts tend to be restricted mostly to pubs and licensed clubs, where the most desirable audience is not one that listens quietly and politely, but one that goes off its collective brain and hopefully works up a considerable thirst in the process. However it has never been Louis's intention to segregate and pigeonhole his music in this way. Variety and diversity, not conformity and uniformity, have been his guiding principles and it is no accident that most of these tracks are live recordings and stray singles, scattered artifacts of the passing moment, which exist because the opportunity to create new and interesting music presented itself, not as a premeditated self-advancement in accord with some long term career plan or in response to carefully considered requests from the boys down in marketing. Louis first came to notice around Sydney in the Wet Taxis, a band that had started out life performing a variety of avant garde music as notorious for its ability to clear venues with breathtaking speed as for the uncompromising originality of its musical invention. Gradually the Taxis' interest turned to 60s garage music, which at the time was even less fashionable than the experimental music that they had been playing until then. However there was no denying its power when Louis's resonant voice wrapped itself around songs drawn from guitarist Peter Watt's collection of 60s garage records and the band was soon filling venues with the same swiftness it used to empty them.
Wet Taxis Phase I. Photo by Hugh Hamilton
These two songs, produced by the Celibate Rifles' Kent Steedman, were the band's first single in 1984. While not a major commercial hit, it did extremely well on the alternative charts and cemented the band's garage reputation around town. The line up consisted of the Knuckey brothers, Tim on bass and the late and much missed Simon on lead guitar, Penny Ikinger (who had replaced Peter Watt) on rhythm guitar and Nick Fisher on the drums, while Louis restricted himself just to vocals as he had not yet started playing piano in public. Despite their communal interest in American garage music, "C'mon" is actually a punked up cover of a song by Australian sixties surf band the Atlantics. Both it and its flipside, "Clock On the Wall" by the Guess Who's Randy Bachman, still make regular appearances in Louis's live set.
Around this time the Wet Taxis also issued their only album, "From the Archives", which was a diverse assortment of the earlier avant garde experiments (originally available on the cassette-only "Taxidermy") and more recent raucous live and "live in the studio" recordings. Unfortunately the quality of the recordings was highly variable and the album never received anything like the distribution it deserved, but at its best it captured the rawness of the band's unrestrained live performance more faithfully than the comparatively mannered sounds of the single (for starters, treat yourself to an earful of "I Wanna Come Back" if you ever get the chance).
The third song on this compilation is actually Louis's first song: it was his first original composition to be played with other musicians, the first time he appeared on record and the first time he'd played piano in a band (in fact it was the first time he'd played piano since leaving school). Its origin also clearly illuminates Louis's attitude, though some might prefer to call it his indifference, to the music business. When it was recorded Louis was already well established with the Wet Taxis, while Damien Lovelock and Brett Myers were equally identified with the Celibate Rifles and Died Pretty respectively. All three of these bands were guitar based groups that would help to define the eighties "Oz Rock" sound, but the "Carnival Of Souls" EP was designed as an acoustic set (a decade before the "unplugged" notion came into favour) by an ad hoc gathering of musicians who all knew each other simply through sharing the bills at a variety of inner city Sydney pubs and clubs. It was merely a chance for each of the three of them to record one of their own songs and at the same time step outside the boundaries and expectations which were already accreting around their existing bands. As the "artist" behind the record had to have a name, they called themselves No Dance.
Brett Myers, Damien Lovelock and Louis Tillett (No Dance/Carnival of Souls)
There was never any intention for No Dance to have a life of its own outside the initial studio recordings, but they were persuaded to perform together in public on one occasion. Whether or not the world was ready for non-folk, acoustic rock at that stage, certainly one music reviewer was not, giving them a write up so hostile and vitriolic that it has become the stuff of rock folklore and remains to this day the worst review that any of these artists has ever received; a review so harsh and fiercely aggressive that, as Louis himself says with a wry smile, while you're reading it you can't help but feel the reviewer's typewriter shuddering under the hammer blows from pounding fists of uncontrolled fury. By the mid eighties, Sydney's music scene was one of the most diverse and vibrant in the world and like many bands at that time, the Wet Taxis were gigging constantly. While it was reassuring to have steady work, Louis became frustrated at receiving regular glowing reports of other musicians whom he could never get to see or hear due to his own commitments. Eventually he found a kindred soul in Jeffrey Wegener, original drummer for the Saints and at that time working again with Ed Kuepper in the Laughing Clowns. Between them they came up with the idea of Paris Green.
As with No Dance, Paris Green was never expected to have an existence beyond its original objective of spur of the moment live performance, but it quickly became an institution, occasionally changing venues and members but with an ever expanding audience following. There were several attempts to capture the Paris Green sound, including the recording of several entire nights at the Sandringham Hotel where Paris Green eventually established its quintessential residency, and at least one studio session, which tellingly included an early version of Louis's own "Persephone's Dance". During this time the Wet Taxis had fallen by the wayside due to Louis's increasing involvement with Paris Green, but he was starting to write much more original material. While he was still enjoying the stimulation of playing with a wide ranging cross section of musicians from different disciplines (and those contacts led to him making guest appearances on a variety of records by other bands and solo artists), it became increasingly clear that Paris Green was not going to be the right setting for presenting his own songs. This led him to revive the Wet Taxis, with Rodney Howard and Jason Kain replacing the Knuckey brothers on bass and guitar respectively and occasionally Dr Bronstantine Karlarka (a.k.a. Greg Donovan) participating on keyboards.
Wet Taxis Phase II
Paris Green commenced its existence at the Pilsener Inn in Sydney's King's Cross, playing literally from midnight to dawn. Like the legendary late night jazz sessions in New York, it was intended to be a vehicle for musicians to get together on an ad hoc basis. As there was no scope for any rehearsal, the repertoire was centred around well known R&B, jazz and blues songs that everyone would already be familiar with. Thus musicians who had finished their own gigs elsewhere but were still keen to play could drop by and sit in with the band, knowing that there would always be at least a core of musicians to play with, while there was no limit to who might also turn up on any given night.
Watch some genuinely raw, grainy original Video Footage of the gritty Paris Green.
When it all clicked, the music was sublime and a fondly remembered night or two with Paris Green will regularly turn up in the conversation of many musicians when it comes to citing career highlights. Even when the interplay of styles and improvisations didn't click, the interaction between the different musicians usually made for a fascinating spectacle. Truly just about everybody who mattered in Sydney eventually played in Paris Green at least once (turning that "six degrees of separation" game into a real no brainer as far as the Sydney music scene is concerned), but the musicians most identified with Paris Green remain Louis, Jeffrey Wegener (unfortunately not present in these recordings), Raoul Hawking on bass, Jaime Fielding on piano/keyboards (sadly no longer with us, but still warmly remembered by all who played with him), Charlie Owen on guitar, often as not Dianne Spence on saxophone and Louis Burdett, who was probably the combo's longest serving drummer all told.
The Wet Taxis continued to play the covers for which they were popular (two representative tracks, "Bury Me Dead" and "Hellfire", appeared on the compilation "A Minute To Midnight" in 1987), but Louis's own songs soon became an equally important part of the band's repertoire, so it was not surprising that when the opportunity came to record another single, this time for Citadel Records, the "A" side was "Sailor's Dream", a Tillett original. This was a major undertaking with Citadel's "house" producer, the former Radio Birdman frontman and New Christs founder Rob Younger producing, highly respected engineer Alan Thorne at the controls and the addition of a horn section consisting of Dianne Spence (tenor sax), Kathy Wemyss (trumpet) and Glad Reed (trombone). This also sparked some involvement with the New Christs. Louis subsequently played organ on the single "I Swear" and the horn section appeared on "Headin' South" (they all played on Meera Atkinson's "This Is The Planet" album, which Younger also produced and which had led in turn to Charlie Owen being offered permanent membership of the New Christs). "Sailor's Dream" is instantly recognisable as the Louis Tillett band sound, his interests in jazz, rock and soul fused into a distinctive personal style that soars above the boundaries of the individual musical categories from which it has drawn its initial inspiration. An album was slated to follow, but drummer Nick Fisher couldn't resist an offer to tour Europe with the New Christs instead when their current drummer, Louis Burdett (small world isn't it?), dropped out at the last minute.
Faced with the prospect of finding a new drummer for the Wet Taxis, Louis instead realised that this was a serendipitous opportunity to break free of all band restrictions (and consequent audience preconceptions) once and for all by going solo. As a solo artist, he could have a different line up of musicians on every song if he felt the need to and Louis had no trouble recruiting musicians from the large pool surrounding Paris Green, including drummer Louis Burdett. After all, he was still around town since he hadn't gone to Europe with the New Christs and to show there were no hard feelings, when the New Christs returned from Europe Louis even played organ on "The Burning of Rome" single and piano on "Love's Underground" on the "Distemper" album which followed it. Fortunately Citadel was still keen to have Louis on the roster and in place of the now shelved Wet Taxis album cheerfully accepted "Ego Tripping at the Gates of Hell", Louis's stunning solo debut.
For the next few years session work had to take a backseat however, as first "Ego Tripping At The Gates Of Hell" and then the subsequent "A Cast Of Aspersions" album met with considerable success (mainly critical success at home, but more popular success overseas). To promote each album, Louis formed large temporary bands (first the Ego Trippers and then the Aspersion Caste, though only the latter toured outside Australia). The Aspersion Caste songs included here were recorded as part of an on going "live to air" programme begun by then local Sydney radio station 2JJ and continued when the station went national as 2JJJ (or more popularly "Triple J"). They make for an interesting comparison with the recent "Live At The Basement" album, released in Germany and only available in Australia on import, despite having been recorded here...
The final track with Charlie Owen predates these Aspersion Caste recordings, but is the foundation stone for what came after them: a lengthy partnership that turned into a virtual nightly two man Paris Green, as Louis and Charlie took both standards and originals, stripped them all back to the bare boards (or bare chords) and then built them up again with layers of improvisation in a process that reached its apotheosis with their reworking of "Headin' South" for the "Storming The Citadel" tribute to Citadel Records in 1998.
Louis at the Stadium in Mt Lycabettus, Athens, Greece
As we come up to the twentieth anniversary of Louis's first record, this retrospective is timely (long overdue some would say). However Louis's journey is far from over. As these notes are being written, he is busy in the studio putting the finishing touches to a new album, recorded in Thailand and scheduled for release first in Greece and then later in Germany. It is a solo album, so we can only hold our breath and hope that it will see a release here too eventually. In an ideal world, Louis would have had a single, cohesive international career, rather than two separate ones, domestic and foreign, but then he has always embraced diversity as a source of fresh opportunity rather than protesting it as an obstruction, so the issue may be moot. Whether performing solo, in duets with Charlie Owen, or in group configurations ranging from tight trios all the way up to expansive ten and twelve piece big bands, he has always put his music first and never let the considerations of crass commercialism divert his progress. At a time when many pundits consider that those in the independent music scene are just flogging a dead horse, Louis Tillett is a long way from the end of the trail yet, but when he finally does get there he'll be able to ride his dead pony proudly into the sunset, where all the heroes go. Written by John McPharlin - written in 2003
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