13-Nov-2019 | Colour Nolan

Whatever It's Worth



Pacific Theatre Encore debuts with a breakbeat laden holy grail from the all-star inhouse band of the legendary nightclub Whiskey A Go Go in Kings Cross’ swinging sixties heyday, long before its current lock out law induced coma.

Having long contributed to the evolution of contemporary Australian Soul, Funk and Jazz as founder and leader of The Bamboos (alongside other projects such as LanuMenagerie and his time in Cookin’ On 3 Burners), Lance Ferguson now aims to revive its history with a new reissue offshoot of his Pacific Theatre Records label. The first release on the label is one of Australia’s rarest and funkiest jazz albums, ‘Whatever It’s Worth’ by Col Nolan & The Soul Syndicate, released in 1968 and is right up there with any of the soul jazz releases of the era on labels like Prestige or Blue Note. The band consists of some of the country’s greatest ever players and was recorded in Sydney while they were the inhouse band at the most one of the famous night spots in the country at the time, Whiskey A Go Go, on William St in Kings Cross.
“Pacific Theatre Encore will be reissuing music from across the globe, but it was important to me for the first release to shine a light on the important legacy of our own scene”, Ferguson states. “Australia has a rich history of recorded Jazz, Funk and Soul music which deserves much wider recognition. ‘Whatever It’s Worth’ is as good as any Soul-Jazz album that was coming out of U.S and U.K in the late 60’s - the musicianship and production are absolutely top-shelf.” Ferguson meticulously restored the audio, taken from a vinyl copy of the album, which was then remastered by Steve Smith at Studio 301.
Lead by Col Nolan on Hammond organ, the band consisted of drummer / percussionist John Sangster, Col Loughnan on sax and flute, John Allan on bass and “Diamond” Jimmy Doyle on guitar. Influenced by U.S artists like Jimmy Smith and Jimmy McGriff, by the late ‘60s Nolan had already established himself as Australia’s pre-eminent champion of his instrument. The 1968 line-up of The Soul Syndicate would prove to be an Australian Jazz super-band while Loughnan and Doyle went on to form ‘70s jazz rock giants, Ayers Rock, who released two albums on Mushroom Records.   Early ‘70s Soul Syndicate tunes have become highly-sought after vinyl artefacts for DJs, record diggers and collectors alike, but this album is their rarest, with collectors paying close to four figure sums on the rare occasion that a copy surfaces.
The breakbeat laden ten track album holds its own as not only an incredible document of a truly great band, but also a rollicking taste of what it may have felt like to be in attendance at Whisky A Go Go over half a century ago, when it entertained not only Sydney’s who’s who of the late ‘60s but also thousands of U.S servicemen on R&R (Rest & Recreation) from the Vietnam war, whose ships had docked just down the hill. That party ‘til dawn hedonism is a far cry from the Kings Cross of today, where nightlife and live music is now near non-existent due the lock out laws imposed on licensed premises across much of inner Sydney in 2015.
The album is lead by some cracking originals written by Nolan, Loughnan and Sangster, two of which, “Shades Of McSoul” and the album’s title, track are available on a limited 7” single. Their versions of popular songs of the time are more re-inventions, such as the drum heavy, low slung take on Bobbie Gentry’s “Ode To Billie Joe” and a superlative rendition of Jimmy Webb’s much-loved “By The Time I Get To Phoenix”, where Col Loughnan steps up to deliver a tender vocal take, before the whole thing builds to a frantic, swirling, psychedelic crescendo that closes the record.
Sadly, Col Nolan passed away only a few months before this album’s re-release, but he was overjoyed when he was aware this album was going to be widely available. Col Loughnan is the sole surviving player on the album, and gave invaluable insights to the reissue’s liner notes, and it’s the first time he’s had a chance to hear the album since misplacing his only copy decades ago. “With the fusion of Jazz, Rock, R&B and Soul music becoming a trend in Australia in the late 60’s” he recalls, “Sydney’s Kings Cross was alive with numerous music venues, featuring great bands playing seven nights a week into the early hours of the morning. The Whiskey A Go Go was one of the busiest clubs of that time and was a residency for Col Nolan’s group The Soul Syndicate. It was also a great opportunity for the band to break in new material night after night, much of it was recorded on the album ‘Whatever It’s Worth’