What I’ve Been Listening To: Little River Band/Little River Band

A compelling yet underappreciated debut by Australian rock band

From the very first time I heard It’s A Long Way There, I thought the combination of smooth harmonizing vocals, a catchy melody and crunchy rock guitars made for a terrific song. The tune by the Little River Band is from their eponymous debut album.

Not only do they often remind me of the Eagles and the Doobie Brothers on their records released between the mid-70s and early 80s, but I also feel many tracks from that period are on par with music by those two American bands. Yet while the Little River Band (later also called LRB) enjoyed success in their native Australia from the get-go, it took them longer to get attention internationally.

LRB emerged from folk rock group Mississippi and was formed in Melbourne, Australia in March 1975. The band’s initial lineup, which after the first two albums underwent numerous changes over the years, included Glenn Shorrock (lead vocals), Graham Davidge (lead guitar), Beeb Birtles (guitar, vocals), Graham Goble (vocals, guitar), Dave Orams (bass) and Derek Pellicci (drums). LRB’s debut was released in November 1975.

The album opens with the gem It’s A Long Way There. Written By Goble, it clocks in at 8:44 minutes. While this certainly didn’t make it radio-friendly, I think this tune is pretty much as close to rock perfection as its gets for the above mentioned reasons. A shortened version appeared separately as the record’s third single.

Next up is Curiosity Killed The Cat. Funny title. It’s also how I sometimes feel about my cats! The tune, which was written by Birtles, has a nice soft and funky groove. Like the opener, LRB also released in separately in September 1975 as the album’s lead single.

Meanwhile is another nice rocker. The tune was written by Shorrock. I particularly dig the electric guitar harmony parts, especially the extended solo that starts at 1:45 min. Almost reminds me a bit of Thin Lizzy.

I’ll Always Call Your Name is a lovely ballad written by Birtles. One thing that stands out to me is a nice slide guitar solo starting at about 2:00 min. The other thing is the part that immediately follows thereafter, which is more rock-oriented – it’s almost a little song within the song.

The last track I’d like to call out is Emma, another tune written by Shorrock. It has an upbeat, joyous feel to it and also features nice electric guitar harmonies.

Little River Band reached no. 12 on the Australian Kent Music Report Albums chart in 1975, a pretty impressive showing for a debut album. In the U.S., the record fared more moderately, peaking at no. 60 on the Billboard 200 in 1976. Curiosity Killed The Cat was the most successful single in Australia, climbing to no. 15 on the Kent Music Report Singles chart. Interestingly, It’s A Long Way There only reached no. 35 there. In the U.S., on the other hand, the tune climbed to no. 28 on the Billboard Hot 100. Another charting single there was I’ll Always Call Your Name, which reached no. 62.

LRB went on to become one of Australia’s most significant bands that has sold more than 30 million records. A version that doesn’t include any of the founding members continues to perform to this day. Current lead singer and bassist Wayne Nelson first joined LRB in 1980, when original members Shorrock, Birtles, Goble and Pellicci were still part of the lineup. Nelson also sang lead on The Night Owls, which became one of the band’s hit singles. But due to the lack of original members some people regard LRB’s current lineup essentially as a cover band.

Sources: Wikipedia, YouTube

 

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