Cold Chisel – Besides

Obscure Chisel b-sides reissued at last

Besides is an iTunes only release and a disappointing one at that. Not because of its musical content, far from it, but due to the music being in MP4 format only, something which makes for a far inferior listening experience than say CD, or vinyl even. Anyone who owns the original 45s will already be familiar with much of the band’s earlier material presented here, however the concept of collecting all their non-LP tracks onto one compilation does make sense, at least from an archives perspective.

As most Cold Chisel fans will know, “Knocking On Heaven’s Door” was first issued as a bonus 7” single with the original East LP in 1980, thus making it a prized collector’s item, so its inclusion here is most welcome. It is also one of the finest covers the band ever did, to the extent that it’s a shame they never recorded a studio version.

Now I’m not sure whether Don Walker was inspired by David Williamson’s play (and subsequent film) Don’s Party, but the song “The Party’s Over” does have a sense of hangover written all over it, thanks to some jazzy, languid guitar by Ian Moss, who also does a wonderful job on lead vocals, and Walker’s post-midnight piano playing. The track was first recorded during sessions for their first album, and remained a live staple right up to The Last Stand Tour in 1983.

“Goodbye (Astrid Goodbye)” stems from Chisel’s second LP Breakfast At Sweethearts, and is probably about the closest the band came to in terms of punk-rock, thanks to a stinging guitar riff by Ian Moss and some invective vocals by Barnes. This version is slightly different from the one that appeared on the LP, having been recorded while the band were still demoing tunes for their second album in 1978.

Jim Barnes night have been the front man, but Ian Moss was no slouch either when it came to singing, whose often smooth-as-velvet delivery was the yin to Barnes’ sandpapery yang. And on “Georgia On My Mind,” Moss proves that he could have made a career as a jazz singer.

“Conversations” and “Khe Sanh” were both issued as flip sides on the “Choir Girl” 7” and 12” singles respectively. The latter is especially sought after due to the beautiful art deco cover, a popular art form in the ‘70s. Live versions from this period are extremely rare, and afford the listener an opportunity to hear Chisel when they were still plying their trade in pubs and small venues.

“Misfits” first appeared as the b-side to “My Baby,” and contains some superb guitar work by Moss, as does the outstanding 1978 outtake “The Dummy,” which first saw the light of day on Moss’ “Mr Rain” single back in 1989. Next we have several tracks from Chisel’s excellent come-back LP The Last Wave Of Summer, all of which can be heard on the special edition version released in 2004. Yet it will probably be the band’s early material that shall likely garner the most attention, namely “H-Hour Hotel” (1976) and “On The Road” (1977), an outtake from their first record, both of which represent Chisel at their rawest, pub-rock best.

Besides is good enough to deserve a CD (or vinyl) pressing of its own, as each track is capable of standing on its own terms alongside anything else in the band’s canon. But until that day, this official release will have to do.