Fraternity – Seasons Of Change, The Complete Recordings 1970-1974: Album Review

Fraternity? Bon Scott’s pre-AC/DC band has two albums and a disc of rarities packed up by Grape Organisation.

Release date: 22nd January 2021

Label: Grape Organisation

Format: 3CD box set

Fraternity featuring Bon Scott would be the more likely selling point for this collection (it’s actually on the box) and it’s a fair draw as the set celebrates his time with a band that’s been well overlooked in the light of his career progression. That being an ultimately higher profile outfit that needs no introduction.

The collection runs a gauntlet of styles from Heavy Metal to Progressive and Country and Soft Rock. Even a nod here and there to the fashionable time of Psychedelic music. A band whose history might appear a little chequered and finding their feet and a niche to fill to become household names and secure their fate in the annals of rock history. Non-album singles, A and B sides and EP tracks are presented as well as a record of their triumph at 1971’s Hoadley’s Battle Of The Bands.

So to Livestock from 1971. After setting the tone with a couple of R&B tunes in Somerville and the title track, Cool Spot seems a little incongruous but maybe scratches the itch of wanting to play a calypso Latino number. The instrumental, Grand Canyon Suites suddenly shifts inexplicably (and rather bizarrely) into an experimental psych interlude. On the hymnal and angst-ridden You Have A God, the curtains of sweeping organ and not least the vocal is pure Procol Harum. I’d go so far as to admit that I thought I’d suddenly drifted off and awoken in a different album. With the meandering eight minutes of It (another Prog influenced arrangement) you certainly get to the end of Livestock having had a varied experience and most certainly one that highlights the sounds that soundtracked 1971.

The eight tracks on Livestock are supplemented by six bonus tracks that emphasise the wide sonic palette the band was touting. They include a lively version of the Moody Blues’ Question and along with the single version of Seasons Of Change (which would appear on the follow-up album), you’d get the impression from this first disc that despite the nods to the range of genres on show, Fraternity’s hearts lie with the progressive flag bearers of the UK.

A year later, Flaming Galah came along with ten tracks, plus a further five for the collectors. The band, expanded to a seven piece outfit (check the photo on the box cover) took on new versions of a couple of tracks from Livestock (making use of extra studio time) and for the good, the direction is much tighter. As they do Welfare Boogie, the AC/DCers amongst us might find themselves singing Bad Boy Boogie. As they blast through Hemmings Farm, there are hints that Fraternity would have more in common with the likes of Free and Bad Company.

Honking harp and the added colour and texture of the organ make Flaming Galah a much more satisfying effort. With the inclusion of some tracks from Livestock it feels like a ‘proper’ first album. Like Livestock was an exercise in them finding their feet. Bonus tracks are non essential but for completists, Maxi single versions of songs that are becoming increasingly familiar

A third disc, Second Chance, has been compiled from a long-lost cache of session tapes and also includes live tracks and unheard songs. Some sterling detective work by Victor Marshall in prep for his imminent Fraternity biography resulted in the discovery of original manager Hamish Henry’s treasure trove. It’s fleshed out/helped out by some standards – That’s Alright Mama, Chest Fever and Chuck Berry’s Little Queenie and No Particular Place To Go get their usual pummelling. By its very nature, it’s a bit of a mish-mash of varying degrees of sound quality from different sources but ultimately emphasises that the strength of Fraternity lay in not so much the diversity of styles which they threw into the ring, but in delivering some solid riffing blues and R&B. SOund a familiar story with Bon’s ‘other’ band who barely shifted the goalposts in an ‘if it ain’t broken why fix it?’ defiance.

And yes, it’s great to see Cherry Red taking charge and picking up the slack on setting things to right in telling the Fraternity story accurately. Adding another piece to the outer edges of the AC/DC jigsaw puzzle.

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