Arkansas Grass (B Cadd/D Mudie) – 1969 and A Little Ray of Sunshine (B Cadd/D Mudie) and My Baby’s Gone (B Cadd/D Mudie) – Axiom1970
With Glen Shorrock (lead vocals) from the Twilights, Brian Cadd (keyboards/vocals) and Don Mudie (bass) from the Groop, Chris Stockleigh (guitar/vocals) from Cam-pact and Don Lebler (drums) from the Avengers, Axiom was fairly hailed as Australia’s first “supergroup”, although this was a label that the band never sought.
In Brian Cadd and Don Mudie, they possessed two talented songwriters and Glen Shorrock was a commanding presence as front- man. Their music was influenced by the US country crossover rock group the Band, whose album Music from Big Pink was setting new musical directions with a more grounded, tangible and earthy approach to songs after the excesses of the psychedelia of the 60’s.
In October 1969 the band scored their first top 10 entry with Arkansas Grass, lyrically it was very focused on potential US market exposure, heavily-influenced by the Band and sprinkling references to the American Civil War and US place names throughout the song.
Some local DJs, Melbourne’s Stan Rofe in particular, were unhappy about a high- profile local group like Axiom pandering so openly to a foreign market, to the exclusion of Australian place names, history, and culture. The record reflected the evolving production and arranging skills of individual band members, particularly Brian Cadd, who effectively blended brass, flute and strings to capture the ambience of a song which was a pointed reflection of Vietnam War-era sensibilities, and a genuine coded anti-war protest song, despite being interpreted by some as simply a song about smoking marijuana.
The band made top 5 in April 1970 with A Little Ray of Sunshine, a tender and reflective composition by Brian Cadd and Don Mudie, a piano-based hymn to a friend’s newborn-daughter, which coaxed a nuanced vocal rendering of the song from Glenn Shorrock, although in his recent memoir Now Where Was I? 2018, he claims that his delivery was flat in parts.
“Her father says, she has to have a name/Not the same, as her mom’s, but a name just the same/ A little ray of sunshine has come into the world/ A little ray of sunshine in the shape of a girl.”
There is a note of pathos associated with this blessed event and the euphoric song which heralds the arrival of the bundle of joy, as the child’s parents had acrimoniously split before the baby was born, but Cadd deemed the event to be one requiring celebration, and in so doing, he created one of the Australia’s most enduring and beloved ballads.
Other artists would dedicate songs to their daughters in the future, most notably Stevie Wonder’s Isn’t She Lovely for his little daughter Aisha, Billy Joel’s tribute to his little girl Alexa Ray in Lullabye (Goodnight My Love), and the beautiful Gracie by Ben Folds, but Brian Cadd’s touching ballad has certainly stood the test of time in this esteemed company.
The band’s debut album, Fool’s Gold, issued in May 1970 was recorded at Armstrong’s new eight-track recording studio in South Melbourne, it was a landmark production and one of the best Australian albums of the era, reflecting the places and indigenous music of Australia and shimmering with glossy production techniques and a canny country rock sensibility.
That said, the album cover which featured the band members wearing jaunty commodore caps clustered around a ship’s wheel on the deck of the Castel Felice, was a cringeworthy image from the period, looking for all the world like Captain Pugwash and the crew in a cheesy cruise ship souvenir photo, to promote Sitmar Lines, in return for free passage to the UK. The band were touring overseas when the album charted at #9, and the lack of promotion caused it to falter, and disappear from the charts after only nine weeks.
Having departed overseas to London the band inked a contract with Warner Reprise to record their second album If Only… with producer Shel Talmy, well known to Australian groups since his work with the Easybeats, the Kinks, the Who and Manfred Mann in the 60’s.
If Only … was recorded at the famous Olympic Studios in London, it was a more polished affair, and the single released from the album, My Baby’s Gone, was another Cadd/Mudie composition, an up- tempo outing , with a driving beat, great hooks and riffs, and convincing vocals from front-man Shorrock, no surprises then that it had an early Little River Band ambience about it. Having just finished their magnum opus album the group would disband after two years, the name of their final album was prophetic, If Only…
Brian Cadd would go on to a celebrated solo career and have hits as the leader of the Bootleg Family Band as well, Glenn Shorrock would conquer the world with the mega-selling Little River Band, Don Lebler joined the Mixtures and Chris Stockley the Dingoes.