August 31, 2010

Little River Band

With their country-rock influences and tight vocal harmonies I've long referred to Little River Band as the Australian Eagles.  While they never achieved quite the level of success as the Eagles, the talent was certainly there and I'd argue at least as far as the vocals were concerned Little River Band was superior to the Eagles-- their vocal harmonies often so tight they sounded like one voice.

And while not as well known, I'd argue the guitar solo on It's a Long Way There is just as good as the guitar solo on Hotel California.

Apparently, I'm not the only one who heard the similiarities between the two groups.  On their 2CD Reminiscing set they included a live performance featuring Glenn Frey singing a medley of Lyin' Eyes/Take It Easy with LRB acting as his back-up band.  The vocal harmonies give me chills just thinking about them.

Perhaps LRB's legacy isn't as firmly entrenched in the collective musical psyche due to their rotating personnel issues.  As it is, the band that currently tours under the Little River Band moniker features no original members.  The band is fronted by long time bass player/vocalist, Wayne Nelson, who replaced original bass player, David Briggs, back in the early eighties (Nelson is best known for his vocals on The Night Owls).  With the Eagles there was at least the stability of Frey and Henley and a rotating cast of equally (and at times superior) talented peers like Joe Walsh and Timothy B. Schmit...  Heck they even poached 2 band members out of fellow country-rock band, Poco.

The nucleus of the Little River Band sound was lead vocalist Glenn Shorrock, rhythm guitarist/vocalist Beeb Birtles, and keyboardist/vocalist Graeham Goble.  Their harmonies were augmented on their first few albums by bass player David Briggs and later Wayne Nelson.  The turning point, or when Little River Band "jumped the shark" was when lead vocalist Glenn Shorrock was forced out and replaced by John Farnham.

The problem was Farnham's voice was a force unto itself.  Where Shorrrock's voice had blended beautifully with his bandmates, Farnham's voice soared above the vocals of his bandmates.  The band no longer sounded like Little River Band, they suddenly sounded like JOHN FARNHAM featuring Little River Band the chemistry had been irrevocably altered.  And, while some of the material he recorded with the band was certainly enjoyable (The Other Guy was a particularly enjoyable song) it just wasn't the same.  It was good music, but it just didn't sound or "feel" like LRB any more.

After three albums (The Net, Playing to Win, and No Reins) both the band and Farnham realized it had been a bad fit.  Farnham left before No Reins was even released.  Despite convincing Glenn Shorrock to return, the damage had been done.  Farnham's stint in the band had killed the momentum they'd had with their string of hits in the late seventies and into the early eighties.

With Shorrock back in the band they released a couple more respectable albums-- Monsoon and Get Lucky and continued touring throughout the 90s.  Beeb Birtles left during Farnham's tenure in the band, followed by Graeham Goble shortly after Glenn Shorrock's return and eventually even Shorrock departed the band leaving it in the hands of then guitarist, Stephen Housden and long time bass player/vocalist, Wayne Nelson and a rotating cast of supporting musicians. 

In the mid 'aughts Shorrock reunited with Graeham Goble and Beeb Birtles to form "Birtles, Goble, & Shorrock" as they'd lost the rights to the name of the band they had founded.  They released a live DVD and an accompanying CD showing they still had it-- the talent, the voices, and the chemistry that had made them so popular in the late seventies and early eighties. 

7 comments:

Charlie said...

I believe the problem LRB had when compared to The Eagles was the fact was they never had the "edge" the Eagles had. Also, the Eagles sphere of musical influence was the entire SoCal rock scene which at the time included some of the most famous and outstanding names in the business.

LRB appeared to be musical loners. They had no one championing their music like the Eagles had. Being Australian didn't help either. They also never made headlines outside of their music.

VaTAga said...

This australian group is my favourit. "The Net" was very good song. Great late album "Get Lucky" (1990) is the gem in my collection. I have information their contemporary name is BSG (Bertles, Shorrock and Goble) because the original name`s owner is Steve Housden. Thanks for the post.

iStores said...

Love the Farnham - 'we're not going to sit in silence, wahhh-oohh-ahh-ohhhh!'

Mike aka MonolithTMA said...

All these years and I never had a clue they were from Australia. Cool Change pops into my head rather frequently, much more frequently than any Eagles song. Anytime anyone celebrates an anniversary I think of their song by of the same name. I also remember not being able to listen to The Night Owls enough. ;-)

Perplexio said...

LRB is very underrated, imho. The trouble is their later material kind of tarnished their legacy. But I'd say everything from their debut from 1975 up until Time Exposure (released in 1981) still holds up really well.

Barbara said...

Hey Perplex, this was a great band to write about! I liked all the comments and think Charlie is right about the Eagles having the SoCal scene behind them. Plus, they were just damn good.

I disagree when Charlie said being Aussie didn't help them - it does in my book! I LOVE Australian music (and men!)

Electric Bass said...

I am interested to check out this band, thanks to this post you have written. I wanna check out if they have good electric bass skills.

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