The Black Sorrows
|The Black Sorrows|
|Origin||Melbourne, Victoria, Australia|
|Genres||Blues, rock, R&B, soul, zydeco|
|Labels||Spirit, Camel, CBS, Mushroom, Epic, Liberation Blue, Rajon, ABC/Warner|
|Associated acts||Jo Jo Zep & The Falcons, Daddy Cool, The Delta Revelators/The Revelators, Vika and Linda, Bakelite Radio|
|Past members||see Members list below|
The Black Sorrows are an Australian blues rock band formed in 1983 by mainstay vocalist Joe Camilleri (ex-Jo Jo Zep & The Falcons), who also plays saxophone and guitar. Camilleri has used various line-ups to record 17 albums, with six reaching the top 20 on the ARIA Albums Charts: Hold on to Me (September 1988), Harley & Rose (August 1990), Better Times (September 1992), Better Times / Amazing Stories (March 1993), The Chosen Ones – Greatest Hits (November 1993) and Lucky Charm (November 1994). Their top 40 singles are "Hold on to Me" (August 1988), "Chained to the Wheel" (February 1989), "Harley and Rose" (August 1990) and "Snake Skin Shoes" (July 1994).
Formation and early years: 1983–85
The Black Sorrows began as a loose pick-up band in Melbourne in 1983. They played mostly covers of R&B, zydeco, soul and blues music. An early line-up was founding mainstay, Joe Camilleri (aka Joey Vincent) on vocals, saxophone and guitar (ex-The Pelaco Brothers, Jo Jo Zep & The Falcons); with Jeff Burstin on guitar (ex-Company Caine, Jo Jo Zep & The Falcons), Wayne Burt on guitar and vocals (ex-Jo Jo Zep & The Falcons); George Butrumlis on piano accordion; Wayne Duncan on bass guitar (ex-Daddy Cool, Living Legends); Steve McTaggart on violin; Paul Williamson on clarinet and saxophone; and Gary Young on drums (ex-Daddy Cool, Jo Jo Zep & The Falcons).
Initially Camilleri used the group to play gigs in local cafes on after the dissolution of his previous band, Jo Jo Zep & The Falcons. From 1983 to 1988 he used the name Joey Vincent for his work with the band. Membership in the band has been loose and fluid. Most of The Falcons, at one point or another, have been members; numerous other Australian musicians have drifted in and out of the line-ups. Aside from zydeco, their early style included cajun music.
Their first two albums, Sonola (June 1984) and Rockin' Zydeco (March 1985), were each recorded live-in-the-studio, in one day, with Camilleri producing. They consisted almost entirely of R&B covers of material from Chuck Berry, Fats Domino, Arthur Alexander, Don Covay, and John Lee Hooker.
A Place in the World followed in November 1985, again produced by Camilleri, it only had one cover track, the rest co-written by Camilleri with Nick Smith (ex-Millionaires, The Kevins, Stephen Cummings Band), who was also on guitar and backing vocals. Camilleri told Catherine Cook of The Canberra Times that they "had to exist on their own merit". She noted the songwriter was "taking all the best from the music he was playing and adding experiences and ideas". Also joining the group, just before recording, was Peter Luscombe (ex-Tinsley Waterhouse Band, Stephen Cummings Band) on drums and percussion.
Camilleri, Burstin, Burt, Butrumlis, Luscombe, McTaggart, and Smith were joined in the studio by sessions musicians including Ed Bates (ex-The Sports) on guitar; Joe Creighton (ex-Billy T) on bass guitar; Ross Hannaford (ex-Daddy Cool, Billy T) on guitar; Andrew Pendlebury (ex-The Sports) on guitar; and The Blackberries on vocal harmonies. The Canberra Times' Debbie Cameron noted the album was, "a cocktail of styles — from a strong piano accordion and calypso sound in 'A Place in the World', to good dancing in 'Country Girls', through a rocky but unremarkable 'The Final Touch' and to a tragic 'Sons of the Sea'". Although Cameron preferred Sonola, she found A Place in the World had "the action, the beat and the melody of Ry Cooder".
"Classic era": 1986–93
By December 1986 the Black Sorrows line-up was Camilleri, Burstin, Luscombe and Smith; with Johnny Charles on bass guitar. The group were playing mostly original material and their sound had changed: "Gone are the piano accordion, clarinet and violin". Camilleri said that the line-up was "a lot more rockier but it has to be that way because all the gentle side of it has gone — the accordion player has gone. We still do some wonderful ballads but there is a big difference between a nine-piece band [as on the Sorrows' last tour] and a five-piece band, something has to go."
The group's next album, Dear Children (April 1987), which was co-produced by Camilleri and Burstin, appeared on Camel Records. Initially it was issued independently but CBS signed them to a distribution deal. According to Australian musicologist, Ian McFarlane, Dear Children "represented a turning point in the band's career". With CBS promoting, it peaked at No. 22 the Australian Kent Music Report albums chart in June. In May that year the lead single, "Daughters of Glory", had reached the top 50 on the related Kent Music Report singles chart.
Additional session musicians used on Dear Children included: Butrumlis; Tony Faeshe on guitar and viola; Venetta Fields on backing vocals; Mick Girasole on bass guitar; Paul Grabowsky on piano; Sherlie Matthews on backing vocals; Mick O'Connor on keyboards and Hammond organ. The band often made use of session or touring musicians including Sam See on slide guitar, Tony Norris on trumpet, and Kerryn Tolhurst on guitar.
During 1988 Smith left the performance line-up, however he continued writing lyrics for the Black Sorrows over the following two decades. By mid-year Burt had returned on guitar, Charles was replaced by Girasole on bass guitar, and Vika and Linda Bull joined on backing vocals and occasional lead vocals (ex-Sophisticated Boom Boom, The Sacred Hearts of Sweet Temptation, The Honeymooners). Australian journalist Ed Nimmervoll described the "classic line-up" of the group as Camilleri, Linda and Vika Bull, Burstin, Burt, Girasole and Luscombe. The Bull sisters readily identifiable singing style became a big part of The Black Sorrows' sound. At live gigs each had their own "spots" showing different voices: "Vika strong and soulful. Linda soft and gentle."
The group's fifth album, Hold on to Me, was issued in September 1988, which was co-produced by Burstin and Camilleri. As well as the standard version CBS released a limited edition 2× LP in Australia. AllMusic's Rudyard Kennedy felt the lead singer was able to "channel the voice and persona of" Van Morrison and while the group "borrow many of the same ingredients" however "the trick is in mixing those well-worn ingredients together and coming up with something new" such that the album "deserves to be heard and hailed by music fans the world over".
The album peaked at No. 7 on the ARIA Albums Chart in May 1989 and remained in the top 50 for 46 weeks. It provided three top 40 hits on the associated Singles Chart: "Hold on to Me" (October 1988), "Chained to the Wheel" (March 1989 – their highest charting single at No. 9) and "The Crack-Up" (May). At the ARIA Music Awards of 1990 they won Best Group. Internationally Hold on to Me peaked at No. 6 on the Norwegian Albums Chart; No. 18 on the Swedish Albums Chart; and No. 35 on the New Zealand Albums Chart.
Before recording their sixth album, Harley & Rose (August 1990), Jen Anderson was added on violin (ex-Kings of the World); and Richard Sega replaced Girasole on bass guitar. It was co-produced by Camilleri, Burstin and Luscombe; and the CD format has four bonus tracks compared with the LP version. Tom Demalon of AllMusic felt that although "rooted in country, folk, and blues ... the band doesn't allow themselves to be stuck in any one genre and they flirt from one style to another, enthusiastically anchored only by the literate songwriting and tight musicianship displayed throughout". It peaked at No. 3 in Australia and remained in the top 50 for 51 weeks; No. 5 in Norway; and No. 36 in Sweden.
In 1989 Camilleri created a side project originally The Delta Revelators, later trimmed to The Revelators. Its line-up included The Black Sorrows members, Burstin, Luscombe and Smith; and former session member, Creighton on bass guitar and backing vocals; plus James Black on keyboards and guitar (ex-Mondo Rock). The Revelators sound was a return to early The Black Sorrows material: playing largely R&B-oriented cover songs. The side project released their first album, Amazing Stories, in December 1991. Session musicians were the Bull sisters; Anderson; Michael Barker on percussion; Garrett Costigan on pedal steel; and Fields on backing vocals.
Burt left the Black Sorrows before recording for their seventh album, Better Times (September 1992), and Stephen Hadley (ex-Kate Ceberano and the Ministry of Fun) replaced Sega on bass guitar. Also added to the line-up were Barker and Black (on keyboards) of The Relevators. Finally, Laurie Polec took over as the band's primary lyricist, although Smith contributed to this and future releases. Better Times peaked at No. 13 in Australia.
In March 1993 the group re-released Better Times as 2× CD pack with The Revelators' Amazing Stories as a bonus disc. The pack reached No. 14 in Australia. The parent group also released two extended plays, Sweet Inspiration (July) and Stir It Up – including a cover of the Bob Marley-composed track of that name in November. Their first compilation album, The Chosen Ones – Greatest Hits, also appeared in November 1993, which peaked at No. 4.
By the end of that year, however, Camilleri announced that after The Chosen Ones Tour, the current line-up of The Black Sorrows would be dissolved. It became his solo band with "a floating line-up of specially selected musicians". Vika and Linda launched their duo career in March 1994. Luscombe was later a session drummer or band member for various groups including Paul Kelly Band (and associated side projects Professor Ratbaggy and Stardust Five), and as from May 2014 is a member of the SBS-TV quiz show, RocKwiz house band, RocKwiz Orkestra since 2005. Black also worked as a session musician or band member including for Sherine's X Machine, Things of Stone and Wood, Deborah Conway, and with Luscombe on RocKwiz since 2005.
New line-ups: 1994–98
For the new iteration of The Black Sorrows, Camilleri retained only Hadley from the previous line-up. The group's next album, Lucky Charm (November 1994) was recorded in New York with Camilleri co-producing with Kerryn Tolhurst. While the group had no fixed line-up at this juncture, in the studio the group most frequently called on the services of Hadley on bass guitar, Tolhurst on guitar, mandolin, tiple and keyboards, Rob Burke on saxophone, Claude Carranza on guitar, Steve Ferrone on drums, and Andy York on guitar. Lyrics for the album's songs were supplied by James Griffin, Smith or Polec. McFarlane noted that the album was "a more reflective, rootsier collection than previous band efforts". It reached No. 20 in Australia.
The next album, Beat Club (November 1998), used the line-up of Camilleri, Black, Burke, and Creighton; with Nick Haywood on bass guitar and Tony Floyd on drums as the new members. The album was co-produced by Camilleri, Black and Tolhurst. It also used guest musicians including Burstin, Burt and Renée Geyer on vocals. McFarlane described it as containing "R&B-tinged jazz and blues tunes". The lead single, "New Craze" (August 1997), was nominated at the 1998 APRA Awards for Most Performed Jazz Work in Australia for its writers Camilleri, Smith and Black.
In the early 2000s Camelleri founded another side project, Bakelite Radio, which temporarily supplanted his recording activity with The Black Sorrows. As is characteristic of Camilleri's projects, Bakelite Radio started as a loosely organised covers band with a fluid membership. However, the players in Bakelite Radio were generally similar to the membership of the concurrent line-up of The Black Sorrows, with only the repertoire differing.
Return from hiatus: 2004–08
The Black Sorrows returned from hiatus and released an acoustic album, One Mo' Time, in 2004 with returning members Camilleri, Black, Burstin, Floyd and Hadley. The band's follow-up album was Roarin Town, released in October 2006. For this release, The Black Sorrows were Camilleri, Black, Floyd, Hadley, and the returning Carranza. Carranza and Black had also played with Camilleri in Bakelite Radio. As well, Nick Smith, who had been one of several lyricists used by The Black Sorrows in the previous decade, was now once again the band's sole lyricst in terms of the band's new original material.
The 2006 touring line-up of The Black Sorrows consisted of Camilleri, Black, Creighton, Carranza, Floyd, and new recruits Annette Roche and Troy McMillan on backing vocals. When the band resumed touring in 2007, Roche and McMillan had left the group.
A one-time only gig in December 2008 featured a Black Sorrows line-up that traversed different eras of the band. This line-up included Camilleri, Anderson, Bates, Vika and Linda Bull, Butrumlis, Carranza, Creighton and Floyd.
Later activity: 2009–present
Camilleri continued performing with The Black Sorrows, The Revelators and Bakelite Radio at gigs with a changing roster of musicians. In late 2009 The Black Sorrows released a CD/DVD compilation pack, 4 Days in Sing Sing (2009). The DVD chronicles the making of the album, which consists of 17 tracks recorded live-in-the-studio at Sing Sing Studios in Melbourne. All tracks were versions of The Black Sorrows and Bakelite Radio tracks, and were played by the then-current line-up for both bands: Camilleri, Black, Carranza, and Creighton.
The 2010-2012 Black Sorrows line-up consisted of Camilleri, Carranza, Creighton, and the returning Floyd, alongside new vocalist Atlanta Coogan who joined in 2010. In 2012 the line-up released Crooked Little Thoughts, a 72-page hard cover book including 3× CDs, photos, lyrics and the artwork of Victor Rubin.
By 2013 the line-up had shuffled again. Camilleri and Carranza were now joined by Angus Burchall on drums, Mark Gray on bass guitar, and John McAll on keyboards and backing vocals. The group released their 14th album Certified Blue, on April Fool's Day 2014. A pair of follow-up albums, consisting of cover songs recorded during the 'Certified Blue sessions, were released simultaneously the following year. Entitled Endless Sleep, Chapter 46 and Endless Sleep, Chapter 47, these albums were issued on vinyl, with a CD version included as a bonus -- the CDs were not available to purchase separately.
- Joe Camilleri (aka Joey Vincent) – vocals, saxophone, guitar (1983–98, 2004–present)
- Jeff Burstin – guitar, mandolin (1983–93, 2004)
- Wayne Burt – guitar, backing vocals (1983–85, 1988–91, 1998)
- George Butrumlis – piano accordion (1983–86, 1987 sessions)
- Wayne Duncan – bass guitar (1983–84)
- Steve McTaggart – violin (1983–85)
- Paul Williamson – clarinet, saxophone (1983–84)
- Gary Young – drums (1983–84)
- Peter Luscombe – drums, percussion (1985–93)
- Nick Smith – backing vocals (1985–88), lyricist (1985–present)
- Ed Bates – guitar (1985 sessions)
- Joe Creighton – bass guitar, backing vocals (1985 sessions, 1998, 2004–12)
- Ross Hannaford – guitar (1985 sessions)
- Andrew Pendlebury – guitar (1985 sessions)
- The Blackberries – backing vocals (1985 sessions)
- Johnny Charles – bass guitar (1986–88)
- Venetta Fields – backing vocals (1987 sessions)
- Mick Girasole – bass guitar (1987 sessions, 1988–89)
- Linda Bull – backing vocals, lead vocals (1988–93)
- Vika Bull – backing vocals, lead vocals (1988–93)
- Jen Anderson – violin (1989–93)
- Richard Sega – bass guitar (1989–91)
- Michael Barker – percussion (1991–93)
- James Black – keyboards, organ, piano (1991–93, 1998, 2004–09)
- Stephen Hadley – bass guitar (1991–94, 2004)
- Laurie Polec – lyrics (1991–94, 1998)
- Rob Burke – saxophone (1991 - 1998)
- Claude Carranza – guitar (1994, 2004–present)
- Steve Ferrone – drums (1994)
- Kerryn Tolhurst – guitar, mandolin, tiple, keyboards (1994)
- Andy York – guitar (1994)
- Tony Floyd – drums (1998, 2004–06)
- Nick Haywood – bass guitar (1998)
- Troy McMillan – backing vocals (2006–07)
- Annette Roche – backing vocals (2006–07)
- Atlanta Coogan – vocals (2010)
- Angus Burchall – drums (2013–present)
- Mark Gray – bass guitar (2013–present)
- John McAll – keyboards, backing vocals (2013–present)
- Sonola (June 1984) AUS #50
- Rockin' Zydeco (March 1985)
- A Place in the World (November 1985)
- Dear Children (April 1987) AUS #22
- Hold on to Me (September 1988) AUS #7, NOR #6, NZL #35, SWE #18
- Harley and Rose (August 1990) AUS #3, NOR #5, SWE #36
- Better Times (September 1992) AUS #13
- Lucky Charm (November 1994) AUS #20
- Beat Club (1998)
- One Mo' Time (2004)
- Roarin' Town (2006)
- 4 Days in Sing Sing (2009, CD/DVD set)
- Crooked Little Thoughts (2012, 3 CD/hardcover book)
- Certified Blue (April 2014) AUS #73
- Endless Sleep, Chapter 46 (April 2015)
- Endless Sleep, Chapter 47 (April 2015)
- Radio Waves (1996, 3-CD set)
- Better Times (by The Black Sorrows) / Amazing Stories (by The Revelators) (March 1993, 2-CD set) AUS #14
- The Chosen Ones — Greatest Hits (1994) AUS #4, NZL #23
- The Very Best Of The Black Sorrows (1997)
- The Essential Black Sorrows (2007)
- McFarlane, Ian (1999). "Whammo Homepage". Encyclopedia of Australian Rock and Pop. St Leonards, NSW: Allen & Unwin. ISBN 1-86508-072-1. Archived from the original on 5 April 2004. Retrieved 17 May 2014. Note: Archived [on-line] copy has limited functionality.
- McFarlane. "'The Black Sorrows' entry". Archived from the original on 20 April 2004. Retrieved 17 May 2014.
- Cook, Virginia (13 March 1986). "Zydeco/Cajun Specialists a twist of Rhythm and Blues". The Canberra Times (ACT : 1926 - 1995) (National Library of Australia). p. 5. Retrieved 17 May 2014.
- Holmgren, Magnus; O'Shea, David. "The Black Sorrows". Passagen.se. Australian Rock Database (Magnus Holmgren). Archived from the original on 27 November 2013. Retrieved 16 May 2014.
- McFarlane. "'Jo Jo Zep and the Falcons' entry". Archived from the original on 13 August 2004. Retrieved 17 May 2014.
- Nimmervoll, Ed. "The Black Sorrows". HowlSpace – The Living History of Our Music. Archived from the original on 27 July 2012. Retrieved 2 February 2014.
- Cameron, Debbie (9 December 1985). "A Cocktail of Styles". The Canberra Times (ACT : 1926 - 1995) (National Library of Australia). p. 15. Retrieved 17 May 2014.
- Ferrington, Andrew (11 December 1986). "Joe Camilleri Sweet Sorrows". The Canberra Times (ACT : 1926 - 1995) (National Library of Australia). p. 13. Retrieved 17 May 2014.
- Australian chart peaks:
- Top 100 (Kent Music Report) peaks to 19 June 1988 plus "The Chosen Ones" and "Fire Down Below": Kent, David (1993). Australian Chart Book 1970–1992 (Illustrated ed.). St. Ives, N.S.W.: Australian Chart Book. pp. 36–37. ISBN 0-646-11917-6. N.B. the Kent Report chart was licensed by ARIA between mid 1983 and 19 June 1988.
- Top 50 (ARIA Chart) peaks from 26 June 1988: "australian-charts.com > Discography The Black Sorrows". Hung Medien. Retrieved 18 February 2016.
- Top 100 (ARIA Chart) peaks from January 1990 to December 2010: Ryan, Gavin (2011). Australia's Music Charts 1988-2010. Mt. Martha, VIC, Australia: Moonlight Publishing.
- "Certified Blue" (ARIA Chart) peak: "The ARIA Report Week Commencing 2 June 2014 - Issue #1266" (PDF). ARIA. Retrieved 18 February 2016.
- Nimmervoll, Ed. "The Black Sorrows: More". HowlSpace – The Living History of Our Music. Archived from the original on 27 July 2012. Retrieved 17 May 2014.
- Nimmervoll, Ed (15 December 2000). "Album of the Week: Vika and Linda – Live and Acoustic". Howlspace. White Room Electronic Publishing Pty Ltd. Archived from the original on 29 September 2001. Retrieved 17 May 2014.
- Kennedy, Rudyard. "Hold on to Me – Black Sorrows". AllMusic. Retrieved 17 May 2014.
- ARIA Music Awards for The Black Sorrows:
- Search Results 'Black Sorrows': "Winners by Year: Search Results for 'Black Sorrows'". Australian Recording Industry Association (ARIA). Retrieved 17 May 2014.
- 1992 winners and nominees: "Winners by Year 1992". Australian Recording Industry Association (ARIA). Retrieved 17 May 2014.
- 1993 winners and nominees: "Winners by Year 1993". Australian Recording Industry Association (ARIA). Archived from the original on 14 December 2007. Retrieved 17 May 2014.
- 1995 winners and nominees: "Winners by Year 1995". Australian Recording Industry Association (ARIA). Archived from the original on 26 September 2007. Retrieved 17 May 2014.
- 1997 winners and nominees: "Winners by Year 1997". Australian Recording Industry Association (ARIA). Archived from the original on 26 September 2007. Retrieved 17 May 2014.
- 1999 winners and nominees: "Winners by Year 1999". Australian Recording Industry Association (ARIA). Archived from the original on 3 October 2008. Retrieved 17 May 2014.
- Hung, Steffen. "Discography The Black Sorrows". VG-Lista. Hung Medien (Steffen Hung). Retrieved 17 May 2014.
- Hung, Steffen. "Discography The Black Sorrows". Swedish Charts Portal. Hung Medien (Steffen Hung). Retrieved 17 May 2014.
- "charts.org.nz > Discography The Black Sorrows". Hung Medien. Retrieved 18 February 2016.
- Demalon, Tom. "Harley & Rose – Black Sorrows". AllMusic. Retrieved 17 May 2014.
- Holmgren, Magnus. "The Delta Revelators/The Revelators". Passagen.se. Australian Rock Database (Magnus Holmgren). Archived from the original on 27 March 2013. Retrieved 17 May 2014.
- Leedham, Nicole (10 February 1994). "Backstage a concert tour of the better times". The Canberra Times (ACT : 1926 - 1995) (National Library of Australia). p. 30. Retrieved 14 April 2014.
- "Canberra Festival '94". The Canberra Times (ACT : 1926 - 1995) (National Library of Australia). 10 March 1994. p. 23. Retrieved 15 April 2014.
- Holmgren, Magnus; Baird, Paul; Janovskis, Paul. "Vika and Linda Bull". Passagen.se. Australian Rock Database (Magnus Holmgren). Archived from the original on 28 March 2013. Retrieved 17 May 2014.
- Holmgren, Magnus. "Peter Luscombe". Passagen.se. Australian Rock Database (Magnus Holmgren). Archived from the original on 27 March 2013. Retrieved 17 May 2014.
- Holmgren, Magnus. "James Black". Passagen.se. Australian Rock Database (Magnus Holmgren). Archived from the original on 28 March 2013. Retrieved 17 May 2014.
- "APRA|AMCOS: Nominations – 1998". Australasian Performing Right Association (APRA)|Australasian Mechanical Copyright Owners Society (AMCOS). Retrieved 17 May 2014.
- Cashmere, Paul (8 April 2014). "The Black Sorrows 17th Album Marks Joe Camilleri's 50th Year in the Biz". Noise11 (Paul Cashmere, Ros O'Gorman). Retrieved 17 May 2014.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to The Black Sorrows.|
- Official website
- Liner notes to the following Black Sorrows releases: Sonola, Dear Children, Hold on to Me, Harley and Rose, Better Times, Lucky Charm, One Mo' Time.