Friday night I was late, I was walking you home, we got down to the gate, and I was dreaming of the night…would it turn out right?
With those conversational lyrics to the song “Reminiscing,” The Little River Band finally saw their commercial breakthrough in 1978. The catchy, soft-rock track came from the Australian group’s fourth album, Sleeper Catcher; largely on the strength of the single, it also became the LRB’s first U.S. platinum selling LP. Cherry Red’s recent Lemon label is hoping that you, too, are ready to start reminiscing about the Little River Band. Lemon has just reissued four early albums on two new 2-CD sets.
After Hours/Diamantina Cocktail brings together two 1976 albums from the LRB. The first featured Beebe Birtles (lead vocals/guitar), Ric Formosa (guitar), Graeham Goble (lead vocals/guitar), Roger McLachlan (bass), Derek Pellicci (drums/percussion) and Glenn Shorrock (lead vocals/guitar). The band’s sound amalgamated numerous influences; Shorrock came from country rockers Axiom, Goble from folk-rockers Allison Gros and Mississippi, the latter of which also featured Birtles and Pellicci. When they formed the Little River Band, it was expressly with the goal of cracking the lucrative American market. Hence, the sound was somewhat reminiscent of The Eagles or Lowell George’s Little Feat, though frequently with more orchestration (brass and strings). You’ll even hear a touch of Eagle Joe Walsh’s delivery in the LRB’s vocals. Back home, The Little River Band also was seen as an antidote to the glam-rock prevailing at the time on the Australian charts.
After Hours followed the 1975 debut Little River Band. The debut had earned the LRB a minor U.S. hit (No. 28) with “It’s a Long Way There” from Little River Band, and a couple more songs charted at home in Australia, but the group clearly had a long way to go. For the band-produced After Hours, songwriting duties were again split among its members. Birtles’ “Every Day of My Life” became an Australian hit, but the album initially wasn’t even released in America. Following the release down under, Formosa and McLachlan departed the band, with David John Briggs (guitar) and George McArdle (bass) replacing them for Diamantina Cocktail. (For those wondering, the album was named after a drink consisting of rum, condensed milk, and the egg of an emu!) Linda Ronstadt’s producer John Boylan joined the team, and the changes apparently paid off. Shorrock’s “Help is on the Way” and Briggs’ “Happy Anniversary” both made an impression in the U.S., going Top 20 and establishing the Little River Band.
Here’s where the story gets complicated: Capitol in the U.S. initially passed on After Hours, and found Diamantina not strong enough. The label’s solution was to take five tracks from the former and four from the latter, and release them under the Diamantina Cocktail name. Of the After Hours tracks, the new band line-up re-recorded “Days on the Road” (in part) and “Take Me Home” (in full) and the other songs were remixed. It wasn’t until 1980, following the success of “Reminiscing,” that the two albums’ remaining tracks were compiled by Capitol under the name…After Hours! Lemon’s new reissue preserves the original Australian versions of these two albums.
After the jump: a look at Sleeper Catcher/First Under the Wire!
John Boylan returned to the producer’s chair for Sleeper Catcher, the 1978 album that included two landmark Graham Goble songs: “Reminiscing” and the Top 10 hit “Lady.” The line-up remained stable for Sleeper, which hit a not-unimpressive berth of No. 16 on the U.S. album chart and fared even better in Australia, at No. 4. Boylan smoothed out the group’s edges even more for this seamless blend of MOR balladry and soft rock with further songwriting contributions from Shorrock and Birtles. It was imperative to follow up on the LP’s success, so Boylan and the LRB regrouped for 1979’s First Under the Wire. The cover photograph reflected the leaner five-person line-up resulting from bassist McArdle’s departure. With two more U.S. Top 10 singles in the form of Briggs’ “Lonesome Loser” and Shorrock’s “Cool Change,” First Under the Wire went Top 10 in the U.S. (the LRB’s only album to do so) and also became its biggest Australian hit, reaching No. 2. Various other musicians played on the LP, including Mike Clarke and Clive Harrison (bass), and Peter Sullivan and Peter Jones (piano).
These four albums collectively represent most of the band’s golden age. 1981’s Time Exposure continued the band’s winning streak, but by 1982, Glenn Shorrock was on the outs with his bandmates. He was replaced by British-born Australian singer John Farnham, whose recording career dated back to his days as Little Johnny Farnham in the 1960s. He remained with the group for three albums through 1986 before heading off for his own solo career. It was a wise decision, as Farnham remains one of the most successful performers ever in Australia. He’s notched No. 1 hits in every decade from the 1960s through the 2000s. As for The Little River Band, the group’s membership continued to fracture. Briggs left in 1981, followed by Birtles in 1983. Pellicci left the ranks briefly in 1984, returning in 1987 for another decade-long stint. Shorrock rejoined from 1998-1996, but Goble was out in 1992; original bassist Roger McLachlan returned for one more short stint in 1998. An all-new line-up continues touring today, but the new iteration has earned the ire of original members Birtles, Shorrock and Gobles as they’ve lost all rights to the group’s name.
Luckily, the original Little River Band’s catalogue can be savored on Lemon’s new reissues. You can order both two-for-one collections below!
Little River Band, After Hours/Diamantina Cocktail (Lemon CD LEMD 212, 2013)
CD 1: After Hours (originally released as EMI (Australia) EMC-2546, 1976)
- Days on the Road
- Everyday of My Life
- Broke Again
- Seine City
- Another Runway
- Bourbon Street
- Sweet Old Fashioned Man
- Take Me Home
- Country Girls
CD 2: Diamantina Cocktail (originally released as EMI (Australia) EMC-2575, 1976)
- Help Is on the Way
- The Drifter
- L.A. in the Sunshine
- The Inner Light
- Home on Monday
- Happy Anniversary
- Raelene, Raelene
- Changed and Different
Little River Band, Sleeper Catcher/First Under the Wire (Lemon CDLEMD213, 2013)
CD 1: Sleeper Catcher (originally released as EMI (Australia) EMC-2660, 1978)
- Shut Down Turn Off
- Red-Headed Wild Flower
- Light of Day
- Fall from Paradise
- Sanity’s Side
- So Many Paths
- One for the Road
CD 2: First Under the Wire (originally released as Capitol (Australia) ST-11954, 1979)
- Lonesome Loser
- The Rumour
- By My Side
- Cool Change
- It’s Not a Wonder
- Hard Life (Prelude)
- Hard Life
- Middle Man
- Man on the Run
- Mistress of Mine
Matt Rowe says
The real coup will be that first album. I love the long album cut of "It's a Long Way There". I remember the FM play of that song. I could never get into a Little River Band album after the promise of that brilliant debut.
I hope the misspelling of Sleeper Catcher as "Sleep Catcher" on the bottom of the album cover is not a sign of a shoddy release.
Rich Dudas says
I brought the "Sleep Catcher" to their attention months back and they fixed it. These CD's are great - nice sound and terrific liner notes with lots of photos of 45 picture sleeves from around the world. Very, very well done !!!!
Rich Dudas says
Actually Derek Pellicci remained with LRB until 1998. Peter Beckett (lead vocalist of "Player") was a member from 1989-1997.
Rich Dudas says
I understand that Cherry Red may put out a few more volumes of these reissues as well !!