Mackenzie Theory - Out of the Blue. 1973 Australia
CD reissues: 1993 Mushroom; 2009 Aztec
Packaging: Originals come in a fine gatefold, and can still be sourced for a reasonable $40 to $60 depending on condition and weekly economics. My first exposure to the album goes back to the first CD pressed over 20 years ago. The original label was still around at that point (ultimately being rolled up into the Festival brand and is now defunct), and this was sold as a "budget CD". So it's a straight transfer, right off the masters, but has little else to offer. As is often the case for me, I waited too long to replace it with the Aztec reissue, and then when the company was announced to have gone kaput, I knew I missed my chance. But recently the company has resurfaced (as announced on the CDRWL), and Greg Walker was able to score a variety of titles (which was no easy feat believe me). I encourage all of you to follow my lead here and not wait too long to buy what you want/need from this label. This CD, like all of Aztec's reissues, is magnificent. Comes in their usual tri-fold digipak complete with copious/insightful liner notes, photos, a much improved sound, and one smoking hot bonus live track. I'd like to eventually pick up the original at some point, but it's not a top priority. I'm keeping the Mushroom CD for now, but I'm sure it will be on an early bus out of here whenever I get around to selling again (update: and that time came and went. Sold). By that time, the Aztec CD will be long gone, and this is a great album worthy of having on CD - so even the Mushroom reissue will suffice for those who waited too long (cough)...
Notes: I think the best way to describe Mackenzie Theory's debut is that of a laid back Mahavishnu Orchestra. Which sounds like an oxymoron, but when you hear "Out of the Blue" it will make sense. Electric guitar and electric viola are the main protagonists here, and both put in a splendid performance. Not only do they possess the necessary chops, but also achieve the most wonderful psychedelic tones. The music is clearly composed, and offers far more than the usual three note backdrop while throwing endless boring jams on top. The tight ensemble work is really where the Mahavishnu Orchestra comparison comes in, especially at the time of "Inner Mounting Flame". Another element that Mackenzie Theory excels at is pacing - that is to say, their ability to slow a song down and suddenly propel it back to a blistering speed. It adds a level of unexpected excitement, and it's just these kind of surprises that make "Out of the Blue" a truly progressive jazz rock album. And don't miss the live version of 'New Song' as presented on the Aztec CD, as it will leave your speakers smoldering for a few hours afterward. This is a must own album for early instrumental fusion fans.