Monday, 9 May 2011

Affecting Albums - Endangered Species - Galapagos Duck

Galapagos Duck would be counted as one of Australia's best-known jazz bands (which may not be saying that much, in truth). With a constantly changing personnel, they have been in existence since 1969, when the original members got together to play some gigs in the NSW snowfields during ski season.

Since then the band has travelled a long musical road through most spectra of the jazz idiom, owing to the eclectic strengths of various members of the band. Their sound is unique, partly owing to their wide-ranging use of idiom, and the fact that over time most members of the band have been multi-instrumentalists, which means that in any one night or recording the line-up of instruments can change from tune to tune.

Endangered Species was released in 1985, in aid of the World Wildlife Fund. I suppose in some ways it could be termed a concept album, in that the songs are about specific endangered species, or wildlife in general, with one song about the Greenpeace organisation.

As with most albums created around a concept, there are high points and low points in this recording. In fact quite often it is the grooves that stand out, rather than the tunes as a whole. The riff in Hindsight is very catchy, the groove in China Bear is good, (the lyrics aren't!), Living Planet has a great funk feel, and Grizzly Bear is a classic R'n'B type groove.

There are also some tunes here that hark back to traditional jazz, Wombat Walk being one of them. All the instrumentalists are top notch, with especially good trombone playing - in fact a few of the tunes feature a frontline of trombone and tenor sax, which perhaps shouldn't work as well as it does, given they are playing in the same voice.

The album is let down by it's lyrics - four tunes are sung, and the lyrics are trite, which is a shame, as they make this album less than the sum of it's parts.

The reason I've included this album is here is that it is a great introduction to jazz - many styles are here, the improvisation is good and easy to follow, and the grooves get into your head.

Unfortunately at the time of writing this post Endangered Species is not available except on the second-hand market, which is a shame, as it is an interesting document of Australian Jazz.

Cheers for now, from
A View Over the Bell

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