Julian Cope presents Head Heritage

Lobby Loyde
Beyond Morgia - The Labyrinths of Klimster

Released 2007 on Aztec
Reviewed by achuma, 24/05/2007ce

Here we have one of those uncommon unsung classics – an album recorded during an artist’s creative peak that not only went unreleased and forgotten for 30 years, but the very existence of which was unknown to all but the people directly involved and some of their close friends. You get pretty much the full story in the booklet accompanying the CD, but I’ll give the gist of it anyway, with my own interpretations.
Hopefully the alert reader will remember Lobby, if not from their own listening experience, then from the reviews I posted here earlier of his first solo album, as well as his Coloured Balls stuff. From where we left off, the Balls had broken up and Lobby was feeling around for what to do next. After assembling a band dubbed Southern Electric – which included Balls bassist Janis Miglans, guitarist Andrew Fordham [also an early Balls member, briefly], drummer James D. Thompson, saxophonist Paul Dixon, singer Mandu and whiz blind keyboardist John Dey – they headed to the studio in 1975 to record an album, which would be Lobby’s second solo LP, ‘Obsecration’. Mostly a far cry from the raw rock of a few years back, it’s a progressive blues rock opus, which Lobby had been conceiving in part since 1968. The album covers a range of different territory, and is hard to pigeonhole – even though they don’t sound much alike, you could say it’s comparable in scope and uniqueness to Gary Moore’s first solo album ‘Grinding Stone’ from 1973. The first few times I heard it I wasn’t too impressed, but over time it’s grown on me, except for much of side two which I still can’t get into – namely, the near-15 minute ‘Dreamtide’ which gets off to a nice start, but then gets too sickly-sweet and cheesy for my liking when the sax gets involved; and the near-8 minute ‘Goin’ to Louisianna’ [sic.], which to my ears is a pretty dull and over-long blues. The rest is pretty good though, and the unfortunately brief [0:47] closer even throws a bone to those hoping for a rough’n’tumble Balls-alike fix. Many folks regard this album as a masterpiece, some even pointing to ‘Dreamtide’ as a highlight, but I can’t entirely concur. I don’t mean to detract from what others think of the album as a whole, but for my tastes it’s not 100% satisfying – more like 60%. To my ears, the true masterpieces from this period were those that went unreleased, and mostly unheard until very recently, thanks to Vicious Sloth Collectables and Aztec Music. I think they’re far superior. The first is ‘Beyond Morgia’, to which we now turn, and the second is the EP ‘Too Poor To Die’, which I’ll briefly review at the end of this review, seeing as you can only get it as a bonus to the reissue of ‘Obsecration’, which I’ve kinda just reviewed above.

In 1975 Lobby had written a sci-fi novel called ‘Beyond Morgia – The Labyrinths of Klimster’, which he showed to friends, who thought it was brilliant. Unfortunately, Lobby may have been having second thoughts about his skills as an author, and he threw the only copy of the manuscript into a fire one day, so all that’s left is some recollections of the basic story, related by Lobby in the liner notes to this CD. I won’t do it injustice by trying to summarise it myself, but suffice to say it sounds like there might have been a Michael Moorcock influence, and funnily there was even a Wizard of Oz influence, namely the evil flying monkeys inspiring some of the bad guys! Somewhere around this time – presumably before the unfortunate book-burning – Lobby also decided he wanted to make a concept album based on the novel, to be a soundtrack for a dreamed-of film adaptation that was never made. In June of 1976 he secretly went into the studio one weekend – secretly because he didn’t have any session time paid for, and suspected the studio wouldn’t be happy for him to use their facilities for a non-commercial record – with his Southern Electric mates for backing on some tracks, minus Dixon and Mandu. They had the illicit aid of engineer Tony Cohen, who worked at the studio and not only arranged for them to sneak in and record when no one was around, but to let them use all the expensive master tape they needed.
The thing is, after that, the tapes somehow vanished for years and were forgotten about, strangely ending up discovered at the local rubbish tip by someone who deserves a medal for not just leaving them there; he then handed them on to someone else who stored them safely until recently, when he approached Vicious Sloth Collectables and asked if they were interested in using them.
So here comes a brief review of the music that resulted – brief, because I feel this is one of those records where going into it blind, or more or less so, is quite probably a good thing. Through the months I waited for the availability of this album, I constantly wondered what it would actually sound like. I’d had knowing smiles and assurances from those who’d heard it – people who I trust to know quality – that it was special stuff, but I mean, space rock is a pretty broad field, and I was really curious how Lobby chose to tackle it. Some of his earlier stuff had moments that leaned towards space rock, but in different – and fairly unique – ways. I’d heard the previously-unreleased space rock track ‘Desperate For A Quid’ recorded shortly after this, from the ‘Obsecration’ reissue bonus tracks [see below], but when I asked one of the guys at Vicious Sloth if it took a similar route I was told “no”; he kinda smiled, and added “just listen to it, I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised”. And I was. Mind you I was pretty ripped at the time on some fine herbal goodness, but I think even if that weren’t so, it wouldn’t have mattered. So, if you’re similarly inclined to wait and see, skip the next chunk of text and jump to the last bits below.

And the mystery begins to reveal itself with ‘Adrift In Ether’ [4:51], which flows with a sudden fade-in as though at the end of a cosmic jam that had been going on for ages [in fact on second thoughts, it may well be faded in from near the end of the last track, making this whole album a never-ending cycle if you choose to play it that way], then as quickly as arriving the guitar and bass almost totally disappear amidst a steady, slow drum beat and pulsing string synthesizer like floating cylinders of light sent one by one on a desolate journey through endless space, made colourful by further subtle keyboard wizardry. The occasional subtle guitar line can be heard weaving through the understated majesty of it all, and like me you’d probably be thinking “fuck me, this is hardly what you’d expect from Lobby Loyde, Aussie guitar hero and bringer of the rock”, but it’s now blindingly obvious there was a lot more to the gent than most of us ever knew. As this track comes to a thundering – but entirely non-rock – finish I can’t help but be reminded of mid/late 70’s Tangerine Dream, and this general vibe continues over what can be thought of as the first half of the album, even though it’s less than half the album in length.
‘Relgon Hall (Home of Lord Nezim)’ [4:21] is entirely synths/keyboards, a mellow and slightly dark winding walk through the bottomless void, followed by the more foreboding cosmic synth cyphers of ‘Entry Into Relgon’ [1:39] and ‘Threatened In Simia’ [1:36].
The second half consists of two long tracks, ‘Hymenoptera’s Revenge’ [15:18] [with parts a) March of the Arzogs, b) Collapse of Reason, and c) Hymenoptera’s Revenge] and ‘Return To Ether’ [14:54]. ‘Hymenoptera’s Revenge’ sees the re-entry of guitars, bass and drums. After a gentle opening, we’re briefly tricked into thinking this is going down a Hawkwind-like road - we’re mistaken, as a cosmic jam coalesces but goes sideways from the expected, with more of a downer West Coast acid rock meets early 70’s Pink Floyd thing going on. As it builds and the guitars get spikier, I’m reminded of the classic first track of My Solid Ground’s album, until the reins are pulled back a little for a space glide, before swelling once more into a building, plodding caravan to the other side of the soul, crying towards the light and fragmenting as it gets closer. Suddenly there’s nothing but a single-note organ drone piercing the heart and Lobby coming down to earth picking some hard’n’happy rock riffs out of the sunglow, and before you can crack open a beer and light the bong they’re all off, rocking to the ends of the earth, Lobby soon cooking up one of his note-dense guitar frenzies that he keeps for special occasions. Not that it’s a total Ash Ra Tempel ‘Amboss’-style burnup - with the band surging forward and pulling back like the flow of the tides it’s more disciplined, less experimental and less extreme, but still pretty damn good.
‘Return To Ether’ again has all the instruments, but is less rocked-up, beginning as a cruisy, stoned jam perhaps reminiscent some of the jazzier but still spaced post-‘Last’ Agitation Free. As swells of string synthesizer build, the music is lifted gradually to more cosmic planes and becomes more Floydian. For a while, anyway. This music is always changing and seems determined to avoid copying anyone’s style, morphing again whenever it might appear to be doing so. Around the 9-minute mark the rising riff from ‘G.O.D.’ can be heard through the dense tapestry of sound – if Lobby’s going to rip off anyone on purpose it’ll be himself! This resolves itself quickly though, with the pace dropping considerably as if having reached a golden plateau, and the photon pulse hypno-groove from the start of the album re-enters, the other instruments winding melodically with grand melancholy towards a reverent climax. It has to be said (and I wasn’t sure at what point to say it) that overall, although sounding quite different, this album has a similar feel to Bobby Beausoleil’s ‘Lucifer Rising’ soundtrack, which of course also went unreleased at the time [recorded ’77-‘79] and was only heard recently.
The CD also comes with a bonus track, the ‘Saturday Night version’ of ‘Return To Ether’, which is a rough mix of the track that Lobby took home on the Saturday night to listen to after the session, and is without the synth that was added for the final mix.

More or less straight after this, Lobby left to go to the UK for a while, as mentioned in the Coloured Balls – Heavy Metal Kid review. While there he straddled the prog and punk camps by doing live mixing for punk groups and playing his older proto-punk stuff to an impressed Stiff Records crew, who wanted him to re-form the Balls (but Lobby had been there, done that already and had other plans than re-living his past); and at the same time getting Virgin’s Richard Branson interested in releasing ‘Obsecration’ on his label, for European distribution. This latter avenue was scuttled when Lobby discovered that in his absence, Rainbird (the independent that released the album in Australia) had gone out of business, and he couldn’t get his hands on the master tapes because they’d been taken by the receivers along with everything else. It was here that Lobby pulled off the other unreleased gem I mentioned before, the EP ‘Too Poor To Die’, which he recorded in England’s Surrey Sound Studios in late 1976/early 1977, accompanied by his Southern Electric band, minus Mandu and Fordham, and plus local guests Art Redbourne [guitar, vocals] and Cypra Helmer [vocals]. The result was largely music so far unheard of from Lobby, though it takes a while to get into the really good stuff. First track ‘Gypsy In My Soul’ would reappear in a different version on ‘Live With Dubs’, but this version is superior, I reckon; although the first part sounds to me like some lame Cold Chisel [never a band that did anything for me], near the end it takes an unexpected turn into some wicked prog before coming to a close, something the later version doesn’t do. Next up, ‘Too Poor To Die’ is a punk-edged hard rocker with blurting sax, very satisfying, and then it’s a complete change of tack for ‘Desperate For A Quid’, a couple of minutes of dusty swirling Hawkwindian cosmic caravanning, followed by the near 10 minute ‘Fist Of Is’, which is pure prog rock, ranging from good to great, and comparable to the likes of King Crimson, Lift and PFM. So, a little patchy perhaps, but worthy of being called a classic partly for the great moments, and partly for how it demonstrates what a man of varied tastes and talents Lobby was, bless his soul. For those who associate him only with blues, hard rock and a bit of psych, these recordings will come as a great surprise.
And he had a few surprises left for his last solo album, 1980’s ‘Live With Dubs’, recorded back in Australia in 1979 at a gig that was broadcast on radio, then later overdubbed with extra guitar and vocals, the latter having not worked out on the live recording. At this point Lobby was toying with a new guitar synthesiser, and he’s one of the few people I’ve heard to use one of these things and actually make it sound good. ‘Live With Dubs’ may not be classic enough to review here, in my opinion, but it’s still a very worthwhile album for Lobby addicts to check out, and like the others, has been lovingly reissued on CD by Aztec, so it’s now a lot easier to get. The music is by and large a return to rockin’, but much less straightforward than his early 70’s stuff – here, punky rock rubs shoulders with a blend of unique hard prog [of a totally different kind to that heard on ‘Too Poor To Die’ or ‘Obsecration’] and fast’n’furious jazz rock licks, as well as a bit of blues-derived stuff. A couple of songs have bits that don’t do it for me and others that leave me slack-jawed, but others – particularly the two 13-minute plus tracks, one of which is a less driving, more cyberdelic reworking of ‘G.O.D’, with vocals and under a new name – are more consistent. One track stands out from the rest as, to my ears, not being of the same calibre, the final version of the aforementioned ‘Gypsy In My Soul’, here with vocals by Angry Anderson. The CD reissue comes with some live tracks recorded in 2000 by Lobby Loyde & Ball Power, doing some old Balls classics plus a totally unrecognisable heavy rock version of ‘Heartbreak Hotel’ – these cuts are also great and sound pretty similar to the old Coloured Balls. Lobby rocked hard as a motherfucker right up to the end, totally defying the idea of old rockers growing tame.
As many of you will know, Lobby sadly passed away in April 2007 after battling lung cancer. It goes without saying that he is sorely missed by many, many people who love him even if they hardly knew him – his genuine nature and kindness were great enough to leave an impact on people like myself who only met him once, briefly (and in a loud pub where we had to shout in each other’s ears, no less), but wished they’d had more time to know him. I think ‘Beyond Morgia’, for the quality and nature of its music and for being released for the first time just before he left this mortal coil, is a fitting epitaph to a great and varied talent, and a wonderful Human Being. It will be hard for any fan of his to listen to this album without it feeling like a cosmic caravan of souls soundtrack for Lobby’s passing to, I hope, a better world beyond.

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