“Listen to their bite, for you won’t hear their bark.”
By Ian McFarlane.
Five Times the Sun was The Dingoes’ first, US-recorded album, issued in October 1977. It was a robust rock album with a prominent American production sound, although the band retained its earthy Australian roots.
They’d left Australia in July 1976, initially with help from Rod Stewart’s road manager, Australian Billy McCartney who’d put them on to New Yorker Peter Rudge (then tour manager for the Rolling Stones and Lynyrd Skynyrd) who took over their management for the northern hemisphere.
With sights set on broader and fresher pastures, they’d already been through the tour grind ad nauseam throughout Australia, having formed in April 1973 and delivered one of the greatest debut albums in the annals of Aussie rock, their eponymously titled set issued on Mushroom in 1974. Virtually from the moment they formed The Dingoes were hailed as one of the most important new bands in the country.
They certainly had an impressive pedigree: singer Broderick Smith (ex-Adderley Smith Blues Band, Sundown, Carson), guitarists Kerryn Tolhurst (ex-Adderley Smith Blues Band, Country Radio) and Chris Stockley (ex-Cam-Pact, Axiom), bassist John Bois (ex-Country Radio) and drummer John Lee (ex-Blackfeather).
Right from the outset the band’s spirited blend of R&B, country-rock and red-hot rock ‘n’ roll was imbued with a delightful sense of time and place. Indeed, Tolhurst, Stockley and Smith were not afraid to infuse their songs with uniquely Australian themes and imagery.
The American flavour of their music, in combination with that Australianness, meant that the States was the obvious destination. They were clearly an ambitious bunch but in the long run their dreams of success and recognition on the international stage were never realised. Despite their best efforts, too many things seemed to conspire against them (planned tour supports never eventuating; members leaving; records not selling). It’s a tough gig to maintain a presence on that international stage and it just wasn’t to be for The Dingoes.
Of course, 30 years after their 1979 break-up, The Dingoes got back together and sounded better than ever. Their 2010 album Tracks really was a superb release, and when I saw them during their national tour I was so captivated by their stage presence and song craft that I’d nominate them as one of the best Aussie bands I’ve ever seen.
Song-for-song I’d have to say that The Dingoes is a better album than Five Times the Sun, yet this record retains a certain purity of essence that brings me back to it time and time again. Even the fact they re-recorded three songs from the debut doesn’t detract from the integrity as a whole. The three songs were programmed for maximum impact, being positioned as tracks 1-3 on Side 2 of the original vinyl album.
‘Come on Down’ was always one of their hardest rockers, and here it’s delivered in an even more fevered rendition, slashing guitar chords and Smith’s raspy voice well to the fore. ‘Smooth Sailing’, which wasn’t on the debut but issued as a stand-alone single in 1974 likewise gets a rocking make-over.
In contrast, both ‘Way out West’ and ‘Boy on the Run’ were more laid-back than their predecessors. ‘Boy on the Run’ sounds masterful in this gentle acoustic rendition, with restrained vocals and harmonica, sweet mandolin and soft percussion sitting in the mix rather than leading the way.
‘Way out West’ benefitted most of all from bass player John Bois’ accordion accompaniment and some rather fab barrel-house piano from UK session master Nicky Hopkins.(Here’s the original version).
Hopkins turned up on a couple of other tracks, terrific new songs from Tolhurst, ‘Singing Your Song’ and the chiming folk rocker ‘Starting Today’. Of the new songs, the highlights were probably Stockley’s uplifting ‘Shine a Light’ and the rather more melancholy ‘Waiting for the Tide to Turn’ from the pen of Tolhurst. The Band’s Garth Hudson contributed his patented carnival-like organ work to this brooding, heart-breaking rumination on pinning one’s hopes on a better future. It ended up being more prophetic than anyone had a right to expect. And to my mind, it’s the single greatest moment in The Dingoes’ extensive recorded canon.
The whole thing was produced by famed studio veteran Elliot Mazer who had worked with great names such as Neil Young, Linda Ronstadt, Janis Joplin and The Band. He was totally sympathetic to the cause, allowing the band to rock hard when necessary and to lie back effectively. Musically, there were many detectable reference points present in the music, from The Band, Neil Young and The Byrds to Ronnie Lane’s Slim Chance and even early (rootsy) Humble Pie. But in the end it only ever came out sounding like The Dingoes.
For all the great music, I always thought the album cover really didn’t do the band any favours. With the band members’ darkened figures silhouetted against a sunset sky, only Smith’s grinning mug clearly evident, it makes them seem rather faceless. Maybe that was the intention, you know, letting the music speak for itself without the personalities getting in the way but the effect never had the right impact.
The Dingoes went on to record one last, excellent album, Orphans of the Storm before calling it quits. Five Times the Sun isn’t a collectable album by any means, yet it’s a quality release from start to finish.
Further reading: The Dingoes Lament by John Bois (Melbourne Books, 2012)
THE DINGOES – Five Times the Sun (A&M L-36237) issued in 1977
1. SMOOTH SAILING (K. Tolhurst)
2. SHINE A LIGHT (C. Stockley)
3. SINGING YOUR SONG (K. Tolhurst)
4. STARTING TODAY (K. Tolhurst)
1. COME ON DOWN (C. Stockley)
2. WAY OUT WEST (The Dingoes)
3. BOY ON THE RUN (C. Stockley/B. Smith)
4. WAITING FOR THE TIDE TO TURN (K. Tolhurst)
Produced by Elliot F. Mazer
BRODERICK SMITH: Vocals, harmonica
KERRYN TOLHURST: Acoustic & electric guitars, mandolin, steel guitar, vocals
CHRIS STOCKLEY: Acoustic & electric guitars, vocals
JOHN BOIS: Bass, accordion, vocals
JOHN LEE: Drums, percussion
GARTH HUDSON: Organ,
NICKY HOPKINS: Piano