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Follow The Sun (Anthology/Rocket)

Confession up front: I was prepared to like this compilation of mostly beyond obscure Australian folk, psych folk and mellow rock, simply for its inclusion of a track from Autumn.

While now one of my favourite Australian acts, like most people I knew nothing of Autumn at the time of their one album in 1971 - Comes …. Autumn - though they’d had a minor hit in Sydney a few years earlier.

The song included here, Kill My World is typical of that album in that it is not typical of anything on that album, (nor is it even its best track). That record’s styles are wide and disparate but retain a strong sense of both songcraft and pop music as it was felt by musicians being inspired by the Beatles, the Band, nascent West Coast rock and Led Zeppelin.

It starts and ends with a sharp brass fanfare that might in pretentious hands had been a cue for prog exploration and feels transposed from another song altogether. In between is awfully attractive musical drift that has the tempo of a boat gently bobbing on almost still waters, vocals that suggest a lightly stoned Neil Young, guitar which evokes a Hollywood hills community of nut-munching artists, muted brass and a hazy shade of love.

Anyone who has heard Autumn's 2nd LP, 1971's "Comes Autumn" will know it's one of the lost treasures of Australian music. Entirely self written, and covering musical ...

There’s something of this feel too in Knowing That You’re There by Australia and released five years after Autumn, which is gentle, cushioned by lush vocals and soulful in the manner of the smooth Philly soul groups such as the Delfonics. Maybe that’s why it didn’t catch on in what was then a country quite phobic when it came to soul/black music.

Soul underpins, and jazz intersects with, the measured Am I Really Here which suggests a touch of Steely Dan and Joni Mitchell on the turntables of Moonlight, who issued this as a b-side in 1977. And Gary Shearston, who was not an obscure figure at the time thanks to his lingering “Australian Dylan” moniker, works some similar ground with the electric piano taking centre stage in another b-side, Witnessing.

Those are song choices which also serve to suggest the men behind this compilation - Mikey Young, producer at large and key man of Melbourne’s punkish rockers Eddy Current Suppression Ring, and Anthology and Mexican Summer label bloke Keith Abrahmsson – have sharp ears and good foraging in bargain bins skills.

Not sure how far they had to dig to find Marian Henderson’s album Cameo, from which springs a slowly mesmerising cover of the Incredible String Band’s First Boy I Loved, but it was worth it.

As was the effort to go past the tendency of such archival searches to ignore women, who were far smaller in numbers but were just as compelling whenever given the chance.

Cathie O’Sullivan’s traditional folk approach – dulcimer, I think, and vocal trills balancing drama-free singing – on The Orange Tree, and the tension-sprinkled San Francisco psych of Megan Sue Hicks’ Hey, Can You Come Out And Play, are among the best moments of Follow The Sun.

It’s not all winners. Shepherd’s acknowledgement of the modern impetus for the early ‘70s back-to-basics scene, via their cover of The Band’s Whispering Pines, may work mostly as homage rather than genuinely interesting. And Country Corn by Trevor McNamara doesn’t quite reach its dark psych-folk target, but neither song would cause you to hit FF on this disc.

But perfection isn’t the point in any case. It took a great reissue of Comes … Autumn by Aztec Music in 2010 to turn me on to them and it would be great to think there are choice discoveries awaiting people with this set.

Even if you never want to smell patchouli oil ever again.

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