Although Tully was the house band for the Australian rendition of the
then-controversial rock musical Hair, this did not mean that their music was bound to resonate beyond the confines of generic folk-psych rock. But it did...somehow. Tully formed in 1968 and quickly established themselves as a permanent fixture in Sydney’s underground music scene. By 1971, the band had released two albums, improvised on ABC-TV’s “Fusions” series and performed with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra.
Chapter Music’s “Live at Sydney Town Hall 1969-70” documents this particular period of Tully’s history. This CD release contains two rare live recordings that predate the band’s transition toward softer forms of prog-folk.
“Love 200” was commissioned by the ABC for its Sydney Symphony Orchestra Promenade series. This twenty-minute rock opera begins with an orchestrated section drenched in the contemporary avant-garde. Unfortunately, the piece quickly digresses into a conventional rock-infused movement that brings to mind British rock bands such as Procol Harum and Deep Purple. What follows is an uncertain back and forth between the orchestra and Tully. In “Love 200,” the composer and the musicians abstain from juxtaposing musical genres. Instead, the sections and movements are kept safely apart, making this whole exercise much less innovative than what was probably initially intended. There is no real synergy here despite a few (too few) brilliant musical exchanges between the performers.
“Sights & Sounds of 69” is equally disappointing. This thirty-some minute improvised piece hides quite a few inspired moments but it lacks overall coherence. It sounds more like a dated “exercise de style” than a “phantasmagorical musical journey.” Tully, despite their efforts to transgress genres, succumb to musical clichés and formulas.
“Live at Sydney Town Hall 1969-70” is not an essential record. It will, however, provide Tully fans with an unprecedented insight into the band’s early years. Chapter Music’s new release will also appeal to prog historians eager to investigate the psych and folk boundaries of progressive rock. 5/10 -- Eric Fillion (4 August, 2010)