Sun

Sun was an Australian jazz-rock-soul band from Sydney that released the album Sun 1972 on RCA Victor. Singer Renée Geyer launched a long-lasting solo career.

Members: Renée Geyer (vocals, 1972), Keith Shadwick (saxophone, flute, clarinet, vocals), Chris Sonnenberg (guitar), George Almanza (piano), Henry Correy (bass), Garry Norwell (drums), Richard Clapton (vocals, 1972-73), Starlee Ford (vocals, 1973-74)


Background

Sun appeared in 1971 as an outgrowth of King Biscuit, a Wollongong blues-rock band formed in August 1968 (as Spoonful of Soul) by bassist Henry Correy, drummer Gary Norwell, and teenage reedist Keith Shadwick. They played at local universities and cut two demos at World of Sound studios.

In January 1971, they adopted the name Sun with singer Ian Smith and keyboardist George Almanza, who joined as a “replacement” for King Biscuit’s guitarist, Alan vander Linden. Sun established a residency at Geoff Cantor’s Arts Factory and performed at the Fairlight Music Festival. With Smith, they recorded seven tracks at their Bondi rehearsal space, including Shadwick’s “Tomorrow Has Gone” and songs by Alice Coltrane (“Turiya and Ramakrishna”), John Coltrane (“Reverend King”), Nat Adderley (“Little Boy With the Sad Eyes”), and Pharoah Sanders (“Upper and Lower Egypt”).

Smith played his last show with Sun on March 14 at the Arts Factory, where guitarist Steve Phillipson entered the fold. Phillipson earned a gonzo reputation from his time as the self-immolating frontman of Newcastle, NSW, soul-rockers The Velvet Underground (no relation to the namesake NYC band). Two weeks later, Phillipson fronted Sun on a double-bill with Tully at Paddington Town Hall. With percussionist Asko, Sun played the Arcadia Free Festival with solo star Russell Morris. The Phillipson lineup cut three songs: Shadwick’s “Not the Time Now” the group-written “I Thought I Knew My Mind,” and the Max Roach piece “Man From South Africa.”

In late August, Phillipson cleared for singer Renée Geyer, an eighteen-year-old rebel from a first-generation Hungarian-Jewish family. She got her recent start in Dry Red, a Bondi blues-rock band with (future Mondo Rock) guitarist Eric McCusker. The Sun lineup of Almanza, Correy, Geyer, Norwell, and Shadwick became six with guitarist Chris Sonnenberg, a US exchange student at NSW University.

Sun held rehearsals at Sydney Town Hall, where they taped eight numbers, including songs by Almanza (“Silver Dollar Rag”), Sonnenberg (“The Message”), and four group-written songs: “When I Reach Out for Your Hand,” “Sea of Tranquility,” “Mindless Persuasion,” and the eighteen-minute “Blue Sun.” On October 8, Sun performed with Sydney Dance Company dancers at the Cremorne Orpheum, where they improvised to “Love 201” by Aussie composer Peter Sculthorpe.

On February 5, 1972, Sun and The La De Das supported Max Merritt & The Meteors at Sydney Town Hall. As the closing date loomed on Cantor’s Arts Factory, Sun dropped in and taped further material, including two group-written numbers (“You Are Only a Shadow,” “The Sun”) and Shadwick’s “Three 1/2,” plus songs that Keith co-wrote with Sonnenberg (“S.S.”) and Almanza and Correy (“Largesse”). They secured a contract with RCA and recorded their first album.

Sun twice performed on the Australian Broadcasting Corp.’s music program GTK with performances of “Message” (aired April 20), “Silver Dollar Rag” and “Try (I and II)” (May 1). They held a May–June residency at the Star Park Theatre on 321 Pitt St., where Sun provided musical backing for Peter Gynt, an environmental play by Peter Thin.


Sun 1972

Sun released their sole studio album, Sun 1972, in October on RCA Victor. It features the group-written epic “No Cherries for Henry” and two songs (“Silver Dollar Rag,” “Vendetta”) by keyboardist George Almanza, who co-wrote “Largesse” with bassist Henry Correy.

Sun 1972 also contains one song apiece by guitarist Chris Sonnenberg (“Message”) and former frontman Ian Smith (“I Really Want to Know”), plus three tracks (“3 1/2,” “Not the Time Now,” “S.S.”) by Keith Shadwick, who plays flute, clarinet, and multiple sax (alto, tenor, soprano).

A1. “Silver Dollar Rag” (2:04) is an ode to 1920s Tin Pan Alley.
A2. “Message” (6:02)
A3. “No Cherries for Henry” (8:57)
A4. “S.S.” (6:32) instrumental
B1. “I Really Want to Know” (3:59) originates from Smith’s tenure; rearranged to Sun’s current style.
B2. “Largesse” (3:11)
B3. “3 1/2” (6:22)
B4. “Vendetta” (6:08)
B5. “Not the Time Now” (3:29)

Sessions took place in early 1972 at Copperfield Sound Studios, Sydney, with producer and band manager Horst Liepolt, a German-born jazz veteran who worked on subsequent Aussie jazz-funk albums by Galapagos Duck, Jazz Co-Op, and the Col Nolan Soul Syndicate. Sun 1972 was engineered by John J. Francis, a Newcastle singer–songwriter who cut his debut album, Rock n’ Roll Refugee, concurrently at Copperfield.

Sun 1972 sports a simple orange–blue “sun” painting by Aussie abstract artist Peter Upward (1932–1983), whose visual continues on the back cover with liner notes by Liepolt, who calls Sun “Australia’s first and just about only jazz–rock group” and reveals that the album took only “25 hours to record and mix,” making Sun 1972 “the closest you can come to a live recording.”


Later Activity

In the four-month gap between the album’s June completion and October release, Renée Geyer left Sun, which hired Starlee Ford. The late 1972 departure of Almanza trimmed Sun to a quintet of Correy, Ford, Norwell, Shadwick, and Sonnenberg.

In November, Liepolt published a Sydney jazz guide with Chris and Keith on the cover. Meanwhile, Sun taped two covers (“Jailhouse Rock” and Nils Lofgren’s “Try”) at Yellow House, Potts Point, where bassist Justin McCoy deputized Correy.

On Sunday, December 10, Sun played the “C. Moore Kaufman Follies,” billed as a “space oddity” with experimental films and a “reenactment of the moon landing with Harry Flash at the controls.” Sun performed accompanied by “spaced out poet” John Clare. The Kaufman Follies also features jugglers The Raybons, jazz-rockers MacKenzie Theory (tagged as “extra terrestrial boogie”), and headliners the Captain Matchbox Whoopee Band (a retro ragtime comedy act).

Along with Bakery and Madder Lake, Sun were billed for the first day (December 30) of the Bungool Festival. Due to its poor promotion and odd location (the banks of the Hawkesbury River), the event drew a meager 2000 attendees.>

Sonnenberg cleared for guitarist–keyboardist Tony Slavich. The final Sun lineup (Correy, Ford, Norwell, Shadwick, and Slavich) taped eleven songs at Narrabeen Beach, including songs by Shadwick (“Beautiful Sunshine,” “The Duet,” “Tomorrow Has Gone”), Slavich (“Yesterdays Gone,” “Lonely George,” “14th January”), and the group-written numbers “I Had a Dream,” “Everybody Knows,” and “Hush Now, All Is Forgiven,” plus two versions of “After the Storm,” joint-credited to Correy, Shadwick, and Slavich.

Starlee fronted Sun for their last two years, apart from two weeks where singer–songwriter Richard Clapton took the mic-stand (en route to his solo career). Sun continued on the West Coast live circuit until late 1974.


After Sun

Henry Correy fronted blues-rockers The Correydors and played with psych-rockers Hobo on their 1978 Down Under release Child of the Earth.

Keith Shadwick reappeared in the High Rise Bombers, a new wave band with (pre-Sports) guitarist Martin Armiger and (pre-Messengers) Paul Kelly. Shadwick also played on 1978–79 new wave singles by Bleading Hearts, Zero Zero, and The Zoots. Around 1980, he returned to the UK and became a music critic (Wire) and broadcaster (Classic FM). He authored The Guinness Guide to Classical Composers and biographies on Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin, and Bill Evans.

Renée Geyer formed the soul-rock band Mother Earth, then went solo with the 1973–74 RCA titles Renée Geyer and It’s a Man’s Man’s World. She assembled the Renée Geyer Band for the 1975–76 Mushroom releases Ready to Deal and Live at the Dallas Brooks Hall. In 1977, she went to the US and recorded Moving Along, which spawned her biggest Australian hit, “Stares and Whispers.”

Chris Sonnenberg played in a Sydney country band called Asleep At The Wheel (not the American bluegrass group). He later returned to the US and made a 1979 country album with The North Star Band.

George Almanza played on the 1973 Reprise release A Breath of Fresh Air, the singular album by the Tamam Shud spinoff Albatross.

Tony Slavich had stints in Richard Clapton’s band and Ariel, and offshoot of Spectrum.

Starlee Ford joined Harry M. Miller’s Australian production of the counter-culture rock musical Hair, directed by Jim Sharman of Rocky Horror Show fame.

In 2022, Sydney archivists ETT Imprint released The Rehearsal Tapes 1971-1973, a four-disc collection of Sun demos from the tenures of Ian Smith (Bondi), Renée Geyer (Sydney Town Hall and Arts Factory), and Starlee Ford (Narrabeen).


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