MILESAGO - Recommended Listening
|THE DU MONDE YEARS
Du Monde Records
4 disc set [DMY1- 4]
Limited edition of 500
DISC I -
20 Originals: songs performed by the people who did them first
Music retailer, self-taught producer-engineer and songwriter Martin Erdman is one of the unsung heroes of 60s-70s Oz rock, and his name and contributions are still not as widely properly recognised and appreciated as they should be, but hopefully this superb limited-edition 4-CD collector's set will do a great deal to firmly establish his place of honour in the Australian music industry.
The Sydney-based Du Monde label, which Martin founded in the late Sixties, grew (literally) out of his World of Sound record shop, and although it was a classic home-grown operation, it produced a huge variety of quality pop, rock, country and other recordings, including some of the most interesting independent music to come out of Sydney in that period. Some of these recordings have been included on other compilations, but Martin himself has compiled, remastered and produced this definitive overview of Du Monde's remarkable output over its brief five-year lifespan.
The Du Monde catalogue includes well-known hits and tasty obscurities -- King Fox's classic Unforgotten Dreams (featuring a very young Billy Field on keys), albums and singles by sought-after turn-of-the-decade proggers such as Flake, Galadriel and McPhee, those cheeky good-time boys The 69-ers, Abigail's breathy, one-hit-wonder version of Je T'Aime, and the very first recordings by John Paul Young, who was then the lead singer of a little-known Sydney band called Elm Tree. There's even an amazing previously-unreleased track by Sister Janet Mead, singing a remarkable pop-reggae take on the 23rd Psalm, which is a real ear-opener!
The Du Monde Years is not only an essential document of an important independent label, it's also an outstanding example of what digital technology can provide to assist with the preservation of our recent popular culture. The first three CDs are regular audio discs, containing 66 choice tracks recorded mainly during the years 1969-73, plus a few songs recorded in later years. Martin has personally restored and digitised these tracks from the original analog master tapes.
The fourth disc is a terrific CD-ROM (for Windows) which includes photographs of the artists, scans of original record labels and LP covers, information about the history of the label, Top 40 charts and newspaper clippings, lots of trivia and information from the era, a crossword quiz, and with a typical Martin Erdman touch there's even a printable colouring-in picture for the kids!
In recent years collectors and fans of Australian popular music have been fortunate to have many important recordings reissued on CD, and we can look forward to more Du Monde gems in the near future. But we've also had to confront the heartbreaking realisation of how much of our recent musical heritage has been carelessly lost or even wantonly destroyed. Although there have been some thrilling rediscoveries (like the recent news that at least 70% of GTK has survived) many original tapes of albums and singles by important Australian groups no longer exist.
For this reason alone, Martin's heroic efforts in restoring and preserving the recordings he made for Du Monde are deserving of a medal. And, at a time when we are being swamped as never before by an flood of overseas entertainment, it's more vital than ever to take stock of what we've achieved as a culture over the last 50 years, to look back to see how we got to where we are today, appreciate it, learn from it and treasure it.
Du Monde played a small but significant part in that process, but the label's importance goes well beyond the records it released and the hits it scored. It's impossible to underestimate the influence that people like Martin have had, through the recording of local acts and their encouragement of local musicians and the local music scene.
The considerable skills and experience he built up with Du Monde led him to great successes in the Seventies, after he scored a job as a house producer for Festival Records -- a position he had originally applied for in 1964!! Martin's best-known production is undoubtedly Sister Janet Mead's million-selling musical setting of The Lord's Prayer, which was a Top 5 hit in Australia, the USA and Canada and earned a place in the history books as the first Australian-made record to sell more than 1 million copies in the USA, where it is still rated as one of the biggest-selling records of the 70s.
Everything about this set is a five-star effort. Some might question awarding this a "5" for packaging, and admittedly it's not your conventional boxed-set presentation -- but it's worth noting that, in spite of recent ill-health, Martin has produced, compiled, remastered and digitised all 66 tracks as well as authoring the CD-ROM himself. The discs are accompanied by an A4 booklet of liner notes written by Martin, with contributions from Glenn A Baker and Ian McFarlane, and the whole shebang comes in a special see-through plastic zip-lock wallet with a numbered card (I've got #63). The only way this marvellous collection could be improved would be to give it the full professional packaging job that Festival Mushroom denied it -- but frankly I like it the way it is -- it has the same honest, homespun quality that makes so much of the music so appealing. And after all, it's the music that really counts and there's plenty of that on offer here. And at a mere $60 for four custom-made CDs, you could scarcely ask for better value for money in any record store.
If you have any serious interest in Australian music of the Sixties and Seventies, The Du Monde Years is an absolute must-have collection. There are dozens of great tracks, and while some of course haven't stood the test of time as well as others, it's remarkable how honest, strong and authentic-sounding all these recordings are, and it's also a testament to what a fine producer Martin was, and what splendid results he could achieve with the limited means at his disposal.
Martin Erdman may not be one of the most famous producers of his day (not yet, anyway) but he was certainly one of the best, and those lucky 500 who purchase a copy can look forward to hours of happy listening, tons of fun exploring the CD-ROM and the added cachet of knowing that you have a precious artefact of a unique period in Australian music. Rush out and get yours now!
The Du Monde Years is available at selected record stores or by mail order. For more information, visit Martin's website:
or email him at:
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