Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The Black Sorrows

The other day I was commenting on a post by Baino about music I've loved coming out of Australia. It's my considered opinion (this is my blog, after all) that some of the best Australian music was created by Joe Camilleri, both with his earlier band - Jo Jo Zep and the Falcons - and the band he created after that - The Black Sorrows. The Black Sorrows has always basically been Joe and whoever he could cram into the studio or on the stage, usually including one or two Falcons veterans. But for me the classic, the best line-up of The Black Sorrows has to be the one from 1987 to 1993, which featured Vika and Linda Bull as vocalists (and Vika was often given the solo mic). Joe Camilleri's forte has always been R&B, and Vika Bull's voice is the soul of R&B. Camilleri has often been called the Van Morrison of Australia. I can't disagree, but I'd have to add that Vika Bull is the Aretha Franklin of Oz.

Unfortunately, these days Vika and Linda don't perform as much; they have children to raise, and are in the process of developing a gospel act which they tour on a limited basis. Although they did team up with Camilleri and other Black Sorrows vets to do a one-time-only reunion concert a year ago. On the other hand, Joe Camilleri is active, and has kept The Black Sorrows alive, recording, and performing. And of course, there's always YouTube to keep the good old days alive!

I was looking up videos for tomorrow's Theme Thursday post, and I decided to branch off and look for some of my favorite Black Sorrows videos. This first one is "Hold On To Me", the first BS hit to include the Bull sisters; this video has a great "homey" feel to it, and the song itself is probably the most joyful piece of music in the pop market, along with Petr Gabriel's "Solsbury Hill" and Van Halen's "Jump". Bop along, kids!

The next video is "Come On, Come On", a nice, gutsy, hip-swaying piece of R&B, with the Bull sisters taking more of an out-front role.

This next one was another big hit from the band; "Chained to the Wheel", a bluesy Country Rock piece that brings Vika up to the center mic with Joe for a little head-to-head duet singing.

And last but certainly not least, "Never Let Me Go", a spotlight feature for Vika's in-your-face gut-bucket R&B and blues shouts. When you hear her sing like this, you have to wonder how many souls she propels to the altar singing gospel music. Tell you what - I'd follow that voice anywhere!

And just to show you exactly what Vika Bull is capable of, here's a sound file of "Home In Your Heart", an Otis Blackwell/Winfield Scott R&B standard that the sisters included in their third solo album, Two Wings. I get the shivers every time I hear that blues shout from Vika on this!

I hope you've enjoyed this little bit of Australian music history that's captured the heart of this particular Yank.

Text © 2009 by A. Roy Hilbinger


  1. absolutly loved the music, and took the time listening to catch up on some earlier posts that i missed...your mallard picture is quite awesome, the finest photograph i have witnessed for some time!

  2. oh roy, i really like this music --thanks for the turn on.

  3. Thank you Roy. Hold onto Me is such a lovely song. And I'll live up to my promise and link you to some others on the weekend. I haven't heard from Linda and Vika bull (who are actually Maori New Zealanders) but their harmonies were simply spellbinding. I think we are underrated in terms of musical talent but for such a small population we have it in spades. Real trip down memory lane for me.

  4. Baino - Vika and Linda were born and raised in Adelaide. Their mother was Tongan and their father was Australian. No Kiwis they!

  5. thanks for the turn on....although they sound familiar, I don't think I've been consciously aware of the black sorrows - the name is definitely a misnomer - their music, albeit bluesy is not at all I'd like to visit that bar in hold on to me, lovely song....

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