• The Cream of The Crate - Record #10

      0 Not allowed! Not allowed!
      "Pick Me Up, and Play Me Loud"

      From the Cream of the Crate Collection – An album in my collection that is irreplaceable, and simply a classic!

      This is number ten in the series of albums I’m featuring and while not planned, I’m pleased that the tenth album is credited to not just an Australian artist, but an artist that even though no longer with us, still commands the greatest respect and love, from audiences and musicians alike.

      This album, ‘Time Traveller” by Billy Thorpe and the Aztecs was released in 1980 on the ‘Blue Goose Label’ – MLF 2335. Made in Australia it is an original pressing in a gatefold format.

      Billy Thorpe and The Aztecs - 1964

      Now there is something in the vicinity of twenty seven vinyl and CD albums by Billy & The Aztecs and it could be said it takes a brave (or stupid) person to choose one as a favourite. This album sits as one to be cherished in my collection because in many ways it is a musical anthology of much of Billy’s music up to 1980. Considering there were 25 singles released from his first release in April 1964 - "Blue Day" / "You Don't Love Me" (Linda Lee LL-006), through to November 1975 - "It's Almost Summer" / "Drive My Car" (Infinity K-6202), it is obviously highly desirable that any retro album that is in essence an anthology, should contain some of those classic singles tracks.

      Time Traveller
      does just that. It contains his second single, which incidentally was his first hit – Poison Ivy (Charting at #1 in Sydney, Melbourne & Adelaide in 1964), along with those wonderful historical tracks, Mashed Potato and Sick and Tired.
      Billy with Vince Maloney (2nd from right)

      Now before going any further with the music it is time to reflect upon the fact that when we talk about Billy Thorpe and the Aztecs, we are talking about one of seven, yes seven different line-ups.

      The AZTECS

      #1 Vince Maloney – Lead guitar
      Colin baygent – Drums
      John (Bluey) Watson – Bass
      Tony Barber – Rhythm guitar
      Billy Thorpe – Vocals

      #2 Colin Risby – Lead guitar
      Johnny Dick – Drums
      Teddy Toi – Bass
      Mike Downes – Rhythm guitar
      Billy Thorpe – Vocals

      #3 Lobby Lloyd – Guitar
      Jimmy Thompson – Drums
      Paul Wheeler – Bass
      Billy Thorpe – Vocals, guitar & harp

      #4 Billy Thorpe – Vocals & guitar
      Gil Mathews – Drums
      Paul Wheeler – Bass
      Warren Morgan – Electric piano

      #5 Billy Thorpe – Vocals & guitar
      Gil Mathews – Drums
      Paul Wheeler – Bass
      Bruce Howard – Electric piano

      #6 Billy Thorpe – Vocals & guitar
      Gil Mathews – Drums
      Teddy Toi – Bass
      Warren Morgan – Electric piano

      #7 Derek Griffith – Lead guitar
      Gil Mathews – Drums
      Billy Kristian – Bass
      Billy Thorpe – Vocals & guitar
      John LeVine – Keyboards

      Any one of these line-ups would be considered strong and what they always did, was to provide a solid backing for Billy’s vocals. What becomes obvious is that from around group version #3 (circa 1972), Billy begins to play guitar and by version #4 (also around 1972) Billy had taken over as lead guitarist.

      What I like about the selection of music on this album is that, it represents (as of 1980), the incredible range of styles that Billy and his music went through. There is Billy the ‘pop’ star with Poison Ivy and Sick and Tired. There is Billy the incredible ‘balladeer’ with his timeless version of Over the Rainbow, and there is the well-known boogie player, the hard-nosed rocker and we are treated to a recording (Ooh Poo Pa Doo) from the famous Sunbury Concert in 1972.

      The album contains the track ‘I am the sea with Lobby Lloyd on guitar. Interestingly this track was originally released as a ‘Wild Cherries’ track, but the line-up is obviously a Billy Thorpe and the Aztecs line-up. The album also contains the unreleased studio track, ‘Out in the street again’, which was obtained from Gil Mathews archives. This track is in excess of ten minutes and builds up simply beautifully with some delightful keyboard generated string arrangements and I have included a short section of the track at the end of this review.
      Billy at Sunbury

      Time Traveller - Tracking Listing
      (In alphabetic order)
      "Bassballs" (Billy Kristian - Billy Thorpe)
      "Be-Bop a-Lula" (Vincent - David)
      "Boogie Woogie" (Billy Thorpe)
      "Captain Straightman" (Billy Thorpe -Warren Morgan)
      "Cigarettes & Whisky" (Traditional)
      "Dawn Song" (Billy Thorpe - Warren Morgan)
      "Funny Face" (T Crane)
      "I Am The Sea" (Lobby Loyde)
      "It's Almost Summer" (Billy Thorpe)
      "Love Letters" (Young - Hayman)
      "Mashed Potato" (Rozier)
      "Most People I Know" (Billy Thorpe)
      "Movin' On A Sound" (Billy Thorpe)
      "Ooh Poo Pah Doo" (Jesse Hill)
      "Out in the Street Again" (Lawrence Mekler) *
      "Over the Rainbow" (Arlen - Harburg)
      "Poison Ivy" (Jerry Leiber - Mike Stoller)
      "Sick & Tired" (Kenner - Bartholomew)
      "Time to Live" (Billy Thorpe - Warren Morgan)
      Compiled by Gil "Rathead" Matthews

      Frankly, the album represents Billy Thorpe, entertainer extraordinaire. I guess at this stage it’s probably pertinent to point out the only track I would like to have seen added, as it was in a style of its own, was the ‘space opera’ – Children of the sun. I guess there was a limit to how much you can fit on vinyl, albeit it a double album.

      As history showed, Billy kept playing well after the release of this album in fact right until his most untimely passing on 27th February 2007. Billy always lived for his music.

      His final release, completed after his death, is the extraordinary CD release of Tangier. This is an amazing piece of work that begins to show where Billy Thorpe was evolving with his music.

      This is not meant to be a review on the life of Billy Thorpe, Billy and his wife Lynn have taken care of that in a series of books on Billy’s life. It is a retrospective review of an album that does justice to the music of Billy Thorpe and the Aztecs. I must mention, that the icing on the cake of this album is that the entire inside of the gatefold is taken up with the story of Billy and the various forms of the Aztecs by Gil Mathews, who makes a really good job of mixing facts and story so that it provides and informative and interesting read.

      Oh! and the reference to “Pick me up and play me loud”, that was the original working title to this album. While I believe the title Time Traveller really does sum up the contents of the album, “Pick me up and play me loud”, is a directive that we should follow when we play this, and indeed, any music by this great Australian talent.

      Sick and Tired

      Boogie Woogie

      I Am The Sea

      Out In The Street Again




      MOST PEOPLE I KNOW (Think That I'm Crazy)

      Previous Cream of The Crate Albums
      #1 – Howling Wolf: Real Folk Blues

      #2 – Otis Redding: Otis Blue/ Otis Redding Sings Soul

      #3 – Dr John The Night Tripper: Gris Gris

      #4 – Spectrum: ROYGBIV

      #5 – Son House: The Real Delta Blues

      #6 – Cruisin ‘61

      #7 – Live At The Station Hotel

      #8 – Crosby, Stills Nash & Young: Déjà Vu

      #9 – Moon Mullican – Rock it to the Moon