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Short lived Australian rock band Fraternity were active for the first part of the '70s, exploring various stylistic trends of the day with then-unknown lead vocalist Bon Scott fronting the band. Fraternity started out with a dusty, country-friend rock sound not unlike The Band, but also delved into psychedelia, blues rock, and moments of both progressive rock and Sabbath-esque proto metal over the course of their very short run. They released just two albums before splintering into new projects (as Scott went down in rock and roll history when he became the lead singer for AC/DC in 1974) and their material lingered in obscurity until the retrospective collection Seasons of Change was released in 2021. Fraternity was formed in 1970 by bassist and de facto bandleader Bruce Howe, guitarist Mick Jurd, keyboardist John Bisset, and drummer Tony Buettel, all of the recently disbanded Levi Smith's Clefs. The band hadn't yet even enlisted a proper lead singer when they cut their first single "Why Did It Have to Be Me?," but jumped at a chance to bring in Ronald Belford "Bon" Scott when he became available after the demise of his popular bubblegum group, the Valentines. Interestingly, although their lineup was just coalescing, Fraternity were already seen as a hot commodity based solely on the reputation and experience of the bandmembers, and as they shifted out of blues-rock into art rock, under the influence of groundbreaking foreign bands like King Crimson, the Moody Blues, and Deep Purple, their shows began drawing rave reviews from the excitable Aussie press. The band soon recorded their debut album, Livestock, and though the Sweet Peach label wouldn't get around to releasing it until nearly a year after it was tracked, the hype surrounding Fraternity continued to grow unabated as they scored repeat TV appearances throughout late '70, and even toured the country behind American rock & roll godfather Jerry Lee Lewis. That tour took them through the south central town of Adelaide, where they were welcomed like returning prodigal sons by fans and press alike, and quickly taken under the wing of one Hamish Henry. The scion of a well-to-do local family and a self-appointed patron of the arts, Henry offered Fraternity unqualified financial support if they only agreed to set down roots in Adelaide permanently, and local boys Howe and Freeman, at least, were more than happy to oblige. This decision altered the course of Fraternity's career forever and for the worse, unfortunately, as they would become increasingly isolated from the music business hotbeds of Melbourne and Sydney in what was then still a pretty sleepy and geographically remote outpost. Nevertheless, after performing at Sydney's Odyssey and Adelaide's own Myponga festivals (two of the largest Australian festivals in the post-Woodstock era), the members of Fraternity settled into a sheltered property outside of Adelaide named Hemmings Farm. The group recorded new single "Seasons of Change" in April of 1971, then welcomed harmonica player "Uncle" John Ayers, who, in the true spirit of the Age of Aquarius, stopped by for a visit and simply never left. Their long-awaited first album, the aforementioned Livestock, would finally emerge that June but impressed few with its art rock meanderings -- even after Fraternity hit the road for a series of gigs across Australia. In the end, all this was more peace and quiet than even Bon, Howe, and Bisset could stand, and they duly vacated the farm for downtown Adelaide in late 1971, where they attempted to rekindle Fraternity's fires after being dropped by Sweet Peach. Naturally, it was Hamish Henry who would come to the rescue, dipping once again into his bottomless pockets to finance the recording of a second Fraternity album, named Flaming Galah (that being the aboriginal name for the rose-breasted cockatoo), eventually released through RCA in April of 1972. Now mostly moving past their prog leanings, the band seemed bent on exploring a bluesier, more boogie-oriented direction, but many of the songs featured were re-recorded fare, leaving room for just a handful of new compositions. The band briefly relocated to England in an attempt to renew their flailing career, but failed to make waves there and band members returned to Australia one by one as Fraternity slowly unraveled. Shortly after his return in early 1974, Bon Scott miraculously survived a motorcycle accident and then expeditiously joined AC/DC, while Fraternity was on life support, going through a series of name changes and reunion bids. Vocalist Jimmy Barnes replaced Scott, but made no recordings with Fraternity before joining Cold Chisel. By 1976, Fraternity had changed their name to Some Dream, then morphed into Mickey Finn between 1978 and 1981, at which time they released a pair of singles before vanishing for good. Scott's brief tenure with AC/DC before his death in 1980 produced enough legendary rock and roll to make anything he'd been involved with beforehand worthy of at least footnote status. Fraternity's mythos was kept alive as time went on through their affiliation with Scott, and their hard-to-find albums were bootleged often. In 2021, Cherry Red reissued both Livestock and Flaming Galah, as well as an album's worth of unreleased material, single versions and other ephemera as Seasons of Change, The Complete Recordings 1970-1974. This compilation highlighted not just Scott's signature voice in a less familiar setting, but also how much Fraternity's little-known music shifted in just four short years.
© Eduardo Rivadavia & Fred Thomas /TiVo


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