Monday, November 30, 2009

Little River Band - Time Exposure (1981)

My road to discovering Little River Band was a rather unusual and somewhat circuitous one involving a cop in Boston who shared many of the same musical tastes that I had. In one of our many email exchanges he recommended that I check out Australian vocalist, John Farnham and his work with Little River Band. I didn't act on his recommendation initially. But I tucked away his advice in the cobwebby filing cabinet of my mind.

A year or so later, I finally got around to picking up their greatest hits album. Other than It's a Long Way There, Night Owls, and Lady it didn't really grab me at first. But I listened to that CD again and again. Eventually I was hooked.

I've often thought of Little River Band as an Australian answer to the Eagles. Their country-rock stylings and tight vocal harmonies bore more than a passing resemblence to their more successful American counterparts.

That being said, Little River Band, were an excellent band in their own right. They spawned a string of hits including It's a Long Way There, Happy Anniversary (peaked @ #16 in 1977), Help Is On Its Way (peaked @ #14 in 1977), Lady (peaked @ #10 in 1979), Cool Change (peaked @ #10 in 1979), and Reminiscing (peaked @ #3 in 1978) which even John Lennon commented was one of his favorites.

Time Exposure was the last album recorded with lead singer Glenn Shorrock before he was replaced with John Farnham. Incidentally, Shorrock would later return and record a few more albums with LRB. But Time Exposure marks the end of an era.

The album opens with the Wayne Nelson sung Night Owls (peaked @ #6 in 1981) and follows with two more hit singles-- Man On Your Mind (peaked @ #14 in 1982), and Take It Easy On Me (peaked @ #10 in 1981). And while none of the other songs on the album were released as singles, many of them including Full Circle and Just Say That You Love Me easily could have been released as singles. In addition to Shorrock's lead vocals the vocal tandem of David Briggs, Beeb Birtles, and Graeham Goble provide harmonies so tight they sing as one. Where the Eagles were likely better musicians, I'd argue that Little River Band's vocal harmonies were superior to those of the Eagles. There was a tightness, a cohesiveness that was pure vocal magic.

What likely prevented this album from matching the success of the 2 previous LRB albums (1978's Sleeper Catcher and 1979's First Under the Wire both went platinum) was the disparity between the stronger and weaker songs on this album. While the strong material is as good as their best tracks on their previous albums, their weaker material on Time Exposure feels uninspired and some might argue "phoned in."

Over twenty-five years after its release, the stronger material still holds up as well as any of Little River Band's other material (not to mention their better material holds up as well as some of the better material of the Eagles as well). The weaker material sounds sadly dated.

A 1996 re-issue featured the John Farnham sung The Other Guy (peaked @ #11 in 1982) as a bonus track. An enjoyable yet curious inclusion considering that song was recorded after Time Exposure was released.

All in all, while not essential this album is certainly a worthy inclusion into any classic rock collection. If you're new to Little River Band, I'd start with either their greatest hits album, Sleeper Catcher or First Under the Wire before picking up Time Exposure.

Related Links
The Night Owls

Man On Your Mind

Take It Easy On Me
The Other Guy (live 1983)
Little River Band (official site)*
Birtles Shorrock Goble (official site)*
Little River Band (wikipedia)
Birtles Shorrock Goble (wikipedia)
Time Exposure (wikipedia)
Glenn Shorrock (wikipedia)
Beeb Birtles (official site)
Beeb Birtles (wikipedia)
Graeham Goble (official site)
Graeham Goble (wikipedia)
Wayne Nelson (wikipedia)
David Briggs (wikipedia)**
John Farnham (official site)***
John Farnham (wikipedia entry)***
Other Little River Band related reviews on The Review Revue

*The founding members of Little River Band lost the rights to use the Little River Band name. The current band is comprised of no original members. As a result Beeb Birtles, Glenn Shorrock, and Graeham Goble briefly toured as Birtles Shorrock Goble from 2006 to 2008.

**While Beeb Birtles, Glenn Shorrock, and Graeham Goble are barred from discussing their time in Little River Band, apparently David Briggs is not. He recently wrote The Diary of the Loneseome Loser about his time in the band (1976-1981).

***I only included the Farnham links due to the inclusion of The Other Guy on the 1996 CD release of this album. Farnham was not in the band at the time of the recording or release of Time Exposure.


drewzepmeister said...

I'd admit that I'm not die hard fan of LRB. I do have a few of their albums in my collection, including this one. (I really liked Night Owls) I recently threw in my "Reminiscing:The Twentieth Anniversary Collection" CD and gave it a spin for sentimental reasons. Good review, Perplexo!

bearockr said...

I too hadn't heard more than one or two songs of this band, but I really liked the ones you posted above... And yes, you have done quite an expected comparison with the Eagles too, and I mostly agree with what you said above... Good thinking Perplexio ...

Perplexio said...

Drew: I've got the 2CD Reminiscing set as well. I especially like the 2 rarities that were included on that-- LRB's cover of When Will I Be Loved and the live performance with Glenn Frey doing a medley of Lyin' Eyes/Take It Easy.

bearockr: I think the Eagles are/were (both past & present members of the band) better overall musicians. But I think the guys in Little River Band were better singers or at least better with vocal harmonizing than the Eagles were. I plan on reviewing more of their material over time as I do have most of their albums either in mp3
or on CD.

Charlie said...

My favorite LRB albums are the eponymous American debut, Diamantina Cocktail, and Sleeper Catacher. Those 3 records are great. After that they were still good but their albums slipped a little.

bearockr said...

I heard some more songs from this band, and its definitely a great band, and I'm still craving for more too ! Just loved this band! Thanks for referring it here Perpexio ! Looking forward to more reviews of their albums too !

Perplexio said...

Charlie: I recommend checking out their Monsoon and Get Lucky albums from the late 80s/early 90s. They were recorded after Glenn Shorrock returned to the band after John Farnham's 3 album stint as LRB's lead singer. There's some good stuff on both of those CDs.

bearockr: I'm glad you like them. I don't know which of their other songs you've listened to or if you've discovered that while their 70s stuff is similar to the Eagles, their 80s material is closer to the music Chicago and REO Speedwagon were putting out in the early 80s. Not necessarily a bad thing, but certainly different than their earlier material. I plan on eventually reviewing the 3 albums they recorded with John Farnham as their lead singer (The Net, Playing to Win, and No Reins).

tad said...

Nice 2 C somebody's got enuf nerve 2 admit in public that they like the LRB. (At my blog in the past wk I've come outta the closet about ABBA & The Carpenters.) Does the soul good 2 confess 2 these Guilty Pleasures, doesn't it? Hope U don't mind if I join U....
Liked mosta LRB's stuff when I was growing up, tho not all. Couldn't get in2 "Reminiscing," mayB cos there weren't enuf group vocals? (I love group vocals, & these guys blend their harmonies 2gether a lot.) But some of the other hits still sound great: "Lonesome Loser," "Cool Change," "Help is on its Way," "Happy Anniversary," "The Other Guy," "Lady" ... & "It's a Long Way There" could almost B prog-rock.
Still hava copy of TIME EXPOSURE, mainly 4 "Take it Easy on Me." These guys sure took a beating 4 Bing "so MOR" back in the day, but even their live album sounded pretty good....
Also liked yr Dtailed comments on Chicago's box set. Tho summa the hits grabbed me when I was younger, a lotta Chicago's minor-hits & album trax R pretty great 2: "In Terms of Two," "Critic's Choice," "Questions 67 & 68" (a classic!), "Lowdown," "Free," "Dialogue," "A Hit by Varese," lots of the suites they liked 2 do in their younger days, etc.
Thanx, & I'll B watching 4 more off-the-wall stuff....--TAD.

Sue said...

My Mum was so much into LRB. I used to call them Little River Shit just to annoy her (I was a horrible child).

But now I think they're sort of cool in a geeky retro daggy kind of way.

I love Man on your Mind. Great song. And Emma. I like Glen Shorrock era better than the John Farnham stuff. The Other Guy makes me want to go and shoot someone in a post office environment. But that's just me.

Perplexio said...

tad: I love the cover they did of When Will I Be Loved which I believe was recorded around the same time as their debut album and appears on the Reminiscing 2CD set. I tend to agree with you about their group vocals. Of their hits, I've never really cared for Reminiscing or for Happy Anniversary (the former for the lack of group vocals and the latter because I find the lyrics to be a bit hokey).

Sue: The guy who recommended them to me (as I was born a bit too late to get into them when they were first popular) was actually a huge John Farnham fan. But when I got into them, much like you I prefer the Glenn Shorrock era material. I don't dislike John Farnham I just thought he was too powerful a singer for LRB. The strength of LRB was in how well their vocals blended. Where Shorrock's vocals complemented Birtles, Goble, & Briggs; Farnham's vocals overpowered them. With Shorrock they were Little River Band, with Farnham they were Little River Band FEATURING JOHN FARNHAM. Subtraction by addition, if you will.

Sue said...

Good summations :)

Barely Awake In Frog Pajamas said...

I don't think I've ever listened to a Little River Band album start to finish, but they certainly had a lengthy string of hits in the late '70s/early '80s. Great singles band.

Steve said...

I understand "Ballerina" was released as a single but didn't chart.