Before achieving international fame as the high-powered vocalist of AC/DC, Bon Scott earned his bona fides in his native Australia – first with The Valentines and then with Fraternity. A few years back, Cherry Red’s RPM imprint traced Scott’s journey with the pop-oriented Valentines. Now, the Lemon imprint has collected his work with Fraternity in a new 3-CD box set Season of Change: The Complete Recordings 1970-1974 which includes an entire disc of never-before-released recordings.
Fraternity formed in Sydney in 1970 from the ashes of Levi Smith’s Clefs, an R&B outfit with a name inspired by Four Tops’ Levi Stubbs. John Bisset (keyboard/vocals), Tony Buettel (drums), Bruce Howe (bass), and Mick Jurd (lead guitar) recorded a single on the Sweet Peach label before enlisting the services of a new lead vocalist: Bon Scott, late of the recently-disbanded Valentines. With Scott in place, one more change occurred when John Freeman replaced Buettel on drums, just as he had in the Clefs. Further personnel (harmonica man “Uncle” John Eyers and singer/multi-instrumentalist Sam See) would later join the group, but the core of Fraternity was set.
While still steeped in the soul and R&B of the Clefs, Fraternity would embrace the new sound of progressive rock. Their sound was eclectic enough to allow for opening spots with artists from the 1910 Fruitgum Company to Black Sabbath. The first disc of the box set comprises Fraternity’s 1971 debut LP, Livestock, plus six bonus singles originally released on Sweet Peach including the pre-Bon Scott 45, “Why Did It Have to Be Me” b/w “Question.” Livestock was almost entirely self-composed by the band members, allowing them to flex their muscles on prog (“Raglan’s Folly”), funky workouts (“Somerville,” usually spelled “Summerville” but corrected here per co-writer Sam See), lean, groove-based rock (“Cool Spot”), evocative ballads (“Jupiter Landscape”), and beyond. One can hear hints of The Band, The Doors, and CSNY as well as classical and jazz in Fraternity’s debut record, and Scott was developing his recognizable vocal style throughout.
By then ensconced in Adelaide, Fraternity making a lot of noise; the liner notes here quote a newspaper’s proclamation in November 1970 that “There is no doubt Fraternity are the most-talked about group in Australia at the moment. Fraternity stole the Jerry Lee Lewis concert from the highly-rated American.” What The Killer thought of that assessment remains unknown, but the band’s popularity in Adelaide wasn’t up for debate. They moved there in January 1971, setting the stage for their sophomore album Flaming Galah. It appears on the second disc here. The album included “Seasons of Change” which was first released as a single-only side in May 1971. Written by John Robinson and Neale Johns of the group Blackfeather, it augured for a darker, heavier sound, and reached No. 1 in Adelaide. But Fraternity’s ambitions for greater success with the song were thwarted when Blackfeather went ahead and released their own competing version after reportedly having promised Fraternity they would not. The rootsy “If You Got It” (featuring Eyers’ harmonica) peaked at No. 2 in Adelaide in the autumn of 1971, just months after Fraternity parted ways with Sweet Peach.
That breakup lead to Flaming Galah arriving on the major RCA label. The LP was cut in Melbourne and featured re-recordings of numerous Sweet Peach songs including “Seasons of Change,” “If You Got It,” and four tracks from Livestock (“Raglan’s Folly,” “Somerville,” “You Have a God,” and “Grand Canyon Suites”). “Annabelle” was a reimagined and rearranged “Cool Spot” reflecting Fraternity’s move to a heavier style. Flaming Galah was rounded out by a trio of new compositions: “Welfare Boogie,” “Hemmings Farm,” and “Getting Off.” CD 2 here is completed by a handful of tracks recorded between the Sweet Peach and RCA periods including a cover of The Band’s “The Shape I’m In.” Most of these were originally released on the Raven label as a contractual obligation following Fraternity’s win at Australia’s Battle of the Sounds.
The third disc of Seasons of Change debuts previously unreleased studio and live performances from 1972-1974 unearthed by manager Hamish Henry. Six of the studio cuts were recorded in England in 1972 before the band began to fragment; Sam See left Fraternity in February 1973 and John Bisset and Mick Jurd were next to go. After a brief period in which they were known as Fang, the bandmates ended up taking day jobs; Bon Scott became a dockworker and recorded on the side with Mount Lofty Rangers. Following a motorcycle accident, he would join the nascent AC/DC. Fraternity would reform with Howe, Eyers, and Freeman. Versions of the group would exist until 1981, though no further recordings as Fraternity were undertaken. The recordings on CD 3 reveal a still-vibrant group during their period of struggle; in addition to their original songs, the disc presents more covers of The Band (“Chest Fever” and “Just Another Whistle Stop”) as well as Chuck Berry (“No Particular Place to Go” and “Little Queenie”) and Arthur “Big Boy” Crudup (“That’s Alright, Momma” [sic]).
Seasons of Change: The Complete Recordings 1970-1974 is noted as “the only release to have the support and cooperation of the band since the release of Flaming Galah in 1972.” As such, it’s a lavish affair. Within the clamshell case are the three mini-LP sleeves (the first two in gatefolds with spines) plus a thick 48-page color booklet boasting photos and memorabilia as well as essays by Fraternity historian and the set’s co-producer Victor Marshall and Denis Whitburn. Warren Barnett has remastered both albums and most of the bonus disc from the original master tapes.
With this release, Fraternity can finally be known as more than just a footnote in the Bon Scott story. They didn’t last long enough to establish a sound all their own, but the music still packs a powerful punch nonetheless.
CD 1: Livestock (Sweet Peach LP 12005, 1971) plus bonus tracks
- Raglan’s Folly
- Cool Spot
- Grand Canyon Suites
- Jupiter Landscape
- You Have a God
- Why Did It Have to Be Me? (Sweet Peach 105, 1970)
- Question (Sweet Peach 105, 1970)
- Seasons of Change (Single Version) (Sweet Peach 113, 1971)
- Somerville (Single Version) (Sweet Peach 113, 1971)
- The Race Part 1 (Sweet Peach 116, 1971)
- The Race Part 2 (Sweet Peach 116, 1971)
CD 2: Flaming Galah (RCA LP SL 102038, 1972) plus bonus tracks
- Welfare Boogie
- Seasons of Change
- If You Got It
- You Have a God
- Hemming’s Farm
- Raglan’s Folly
- Getting Off
- Somerville R.I.P.
- Canyon Suite
- The Shape I’m In (first released on Complete Sessions 1971-72, Raven RVCD-56, 1996)
- If You Got It (from Raven maxi-single NSP-060, 1971)
- Raglan’s Folly (from Raven maxi-single NSP-060, 1971)
- You Have a God (from Raven maxi-single NSP-060, 1971)
- Seasons of Change/If You Got It (Hoadley’s Battle of the Sounds, 1971) (first released on Complete Sessions 1971-72, Raven RVCD-56, 1996)
CD 3: Second Chance (previously unreleased)
- Second Chance
- Going Down
- Patch of Land
- Cool Spot (Alternative Version)
- Chest Fever
- Little Queenie
- The Memory
- Just Another Whistle Stop
- No Particular Place to Go
- Rented Room Blues
- Get Myself Out of This Place (Getting Off)
- That’s Alright, Momma