JUTE THE OBSCURE

Rare records with eye-watering price tags do not always live up to their reputation nor their scarcity-inflated value. Although Vinyl Connection does not own a vinyl copy of the one and only Kahvas Jute album Wide Open, the excellent Aztec Music re-issue is playing as I write. Thus it can be loudly proclaimed: this is one brilliant, overlooked gem of early seventies rock.

If you are thinking, “How come I’ve never heard of this band?” you are in the majority. Twenty years ago no-one had a clue who Leafhound were either, yet their sole LP is now highly regarded by fans of heavy rock. There were scores of short-lived and under-appreciated bands who produced one or two albums then disappeared. With Kahvas Jute, not only did the record struggle to reach the wider world during the decade of its release, it didn’t exactly set sales records in Australia either. Which is odd, considering the fertile progressive scene Downunder and the high quality of the music.

Cover design and illustration: Robbie (or Robby) Harris

Everything travelled slower back then; the 21st century reality of trends appearing (and disappearing) overnight did not apply in the 1970s. The ‘new’ took months or even years to arrive on other continents. Records arrived by ship. Pop news arrived in magazines that meandered across the world to eager Aussie music fans months after publication. That’s one of the reasons for the tendency to overlook rock music from counties other than the 1960s’ Big Two: often it seems a little ‘after the fact’.

A consequence of this lag is that it took until the early 1970s for Australian musicians to accumulate a cultural bank of experience. It takes time (and gigs) to cut rock ’n’ roll teeth, to gain experience, to fuck things up and try again, slowly working out what you want to do. Dennis Wilson (hailing from Sydney—a beach boy no doubt, though not a Beach Boy) played in a number of bands in the second half of the 1960s before forming Kahvas Jute. As Ian McFarlane notes in his excellent essay (2006 Aztec Music CD re-issue), Bob Daisley had similarly served his time before joining forces with Wilson. The other half of the quartet both came from the mighty psychedelic rock band Tamam Shud. Dannie Davidson was a powerful and accomplished drummer, while teenager Time Gaze was a startlingly accomplished guitarist for one of such tender years.

The twin guitar attack of Wilson and Gaze was a core feature of Kahvas Jute’s music. They certainly shared solos, but more importantly, the playing was frequently harmonised in the way Wishbone Ash became famous for a around this time. It was a powerful front line—Wilson on a 1960 Gibson Les Paul and Gaze with an SG Custom (McFarlane)—but no more important than Khavas Jute’s secret weapon: their rhythm section. I mentioned Davidson’s open, potent drumming, but it is actually the extraordinary bass playing of Bob Daisley that lifts the band to a whole other level. Restless, innovative, simply virtuosic, Daisley leaps up and down the fretboard of his instrument like a dancing arc-welder. When he sinks into a simple pattern, you find yourself expectant; waiting, listening, for the next breakout. It’s fabulous. So there is nothing at all surprising in Mr Daisley’s subsequent career with Ozzy Osbourne, Rainbow, Uriah Heep and many other first division artists from the heavy end of the periodic table.

The Aztec re-issue includes live material from a brief 2005 re-union

None of this would mean a thing if the songs weren’t up to par, and on Wide Open the news is good. There are many highlights… psychedelic Cream influences in “Odyssey”, some deft time signature changes in “Up there”, a Jack Bruce flavour to “Vikings” evoking his classic “Theme for an imaginary Western”. In “She’s so hard to shake” one can hear the powerhouse rock of early Jeff Beck, while “Twenty three” evokes Peter Green era Fleetwood Mac.

Good though this all is, the album places its epic climax at the end. At a smidge over nine minutes, “Parade of fools” is an adventurous rock workout featuring the thrilling guitars of Wilson and Gaze. As you listen, you can’t help wondering what might have happened if the mercurial Gaze had not returned to Tamam Shud and Kahvas Jute had managed to get a foothold in the UK or even the US.

The Kahvas Jute story was short, but their one album—released in January 1971—is a timeless slice of heavy psychedelic rock. Remember that reference to Leafhound? Their much-admired Growers of Mushroom album is terrific; Wide Open is even better.

24 comments

  1. Thanks Bruce, never heard of these guys, obscure for sure, and kind of tough to be “the other” Dennis Wilson. But you do not exaggerate, an amazing band. I like “dancing arc-welder” for the bass player

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Cheers Robert. It’s good that there are still gems to be unearthed, eh? 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. pinklightsabre · · Reply

    “Growers of mushroom,” right. We have a thing called the mad season out here, October or thereabouts when they grow wild; just have to know what to look for. Not my bag, not the mushroom foraging kind. Cool write up Bruce! Golly the cracks and crevices…interesting point about the lag too as you say.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yeah, every era has its hidden delights. The artists in the shadows of the cracks in the paint of the time’s official portrait.

      Eating wild mushrooms is not encouraged in Victoria, residence of the well-named death cap fungus.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. I am a fan of the heavier end of the musical periodic table. Hot damn.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Check it out, dude!

      Like

      1. Added to the list. Thanks!

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Yeah, new to me as well. But have been checking them out on YouTube today, great stuff!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Marvellous, Rick. It’s rather fine that one can so easily taste a ‘new’ old artist!

      Like

  5. Cool – added to the list.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Thanks for this one, Bruce! Found the album on YouTube and I’m on board. Brilliant stuff here.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Super, J. I’m really chuffed a number of folk have checked it out and come back positive. I reckon it really is an under-rated gem.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. It’s great – I thoroughly enjoyed it and I’ll be looking for a copy of the re-issue when I can get back out to a record and CD emporium.

        Liked by 1 person

  7. Jackpot!
    Tuned the tube into Kahvas Jute and directed the sound from a soundbar in the sunroom up the corridor to back the cooking of a sauce for a salmon curry tonight. Z comes in and says ‘Not so bad’. And then ‘Not annoying’. (She’s referring to Journey into Satchidananda, I’m sure).
    A talented band for sure.
    Thanks
    DD

    Liked by 1 person

    1. “Not annoying” is an endorsement we covet ’round here too, DD. 😆

      Like

  8. Said in my faux, xenophobic American voice: “[GASP!] You mean there are other seventies-era Australian bands besides the Little River Band? ” Never heard of Kahvas Jute, but the cool thing is that now I have. Thanks, Bruce! – Marty

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Beware, you mischievous fellow, or I’ll feature 70s Australian bands for the rest of the year. And NONE of them will be LRB or Men At Work. HA!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Oh, dear. And you can deliver on that threat!

        Liked by 1 person

        1. (Fake John Wayne voice, poorly done)
          “Y’better believe it bud, or you’re dead where ya stand”

          Liked by 1 person

  9. Great one. I love Leafhound so ….

    (Checks Discogs) maybe not an original copy then …

    Seriously Bruce, sounds great.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s a good-in, Joe. And a good argument for CD reissues too. 😉

      And I want you to know that the post title was a result of me sitting with a glass of wine, thinking “What would Joe-sus do?”

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Attempting a little mood management here. I was traveling last week and accessing this post and others via smartphone vice computer. I guess I lack phone skills as the long (3-paragraph) astute and highly complimentary comment I sent along apparently did not make it here and is completely unrecoverable on the phone..

    Anyway, I basically crafted something about this being neat Aussie-content, having listened to the album on Spotify after reading, having the thought that the “heavy” music from this era had a quite unique and identifiable vocal style, and finally suggesting that if you really liked “Parade of Fools” then I hoped you would have tried the band Earthless which I imagine you remember reading about in posts by others in this blog circle and which “Parade of Fools” strongly brought to mind for me. (Sigh, I said all this so much more entertainingly before…)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Been there, lost that. Though I’ve rarely mustered the resilience to attempt reconstruction. I’m grateful for your rich second take and can assure you of both its validity and my gratitude for the effort entailed.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Well you now I’ll be off for a listen. Looking forward to it.

    Like

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