21 Songs, 1 Hour, 5 Minutes

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About Python Lee Jackson

Python Lee Jackson's history is confusing on several counts. They're known principally for one big hit that featured a superstar on lead vocals, yet that singer was never even in the band. Not only were Python Lee Jackson a band and not an individual, there was no one actually named Python Lee Jackson in the group. And though they were based in the U.K. when they recorded their hit "In a Broken Dream" with Rod Stewart on vocals as a session singer, they were actually an Australian band.

While the group would undergo a great number of personnel changes in their relatively short existence, a mainstay was singer and keyboardist David Bentley, inspired to form an R&B-oriented rock band in Sydney after hearing the Rolling Stones' "Not Fade Away." Python Lee Jackson had already shuffled their lineup a few times by the time they recorded their debut single, "Emergency Ward," as a backup group for DJ/singer Ward Austin on Parlophone in 1966. They would record a few respectable singles on their own for CBS in 1966-1967, heavily influenced by the R&B-keyboard-oriented British Invasion sounds of acts like Georgie Fame and Manfred Mann. The lineup continued to change during this period, with Bentley even leaving the band he'd founded, though he'd return.

Python Lee Jackson had only moderate national commercial success in Australia, breaking up in early 1968. Yet later that year, one of the many musicians who had inhabited the band's impossibly complicated family tree, guitarist Mick Liber, decided to form a group to play as a "ship band" to pay for sea transportation to England. As part of this, he enlisted a couple members who had already been in Python Lee Jackson, Bentley and drummer David Montgomery (though Bentley ended up flying to England instead of joining the others aboard). The lineup changed yet again by the time everyone reached the U.K., but Liber, Bentley, and Montgomery were in the version that began playing in London with John Helman on bass. They managed to get a deal with CBS, shortly after which Bentley wrote the anguished soul-rock ballad "In a Broken Dream."

Here the story took its oddest twist, with Bentley feeling he wasn't the right vocalist for the number. Thus Rod Stewart -- who had already sung lead with the Jeff Beck Group, but was yet to achieve stardom with the Faces and as a solo artist -- was recruited as a session vocalist for the song, as well as a couple of other tracks. For some reason, despite the undisputed quality of "In a Broken Dream," it wasn't immediately released. In the meantime Stewart got on with his career and Python Lee Jackson's personnel continued to rotate, with ex-Easybeats drummer Tony Cahill joining. Yet even when "In a Broken Dream" was finally issued in October 1970, it didn't chart.

Python Lee Jackson were continuing to struggle onward and record when "In a Broken Dream" broke into the U.S. Top 100 in 1972. Though its chart peak of number 56 was relatively modest, it really took off late that year in the U.K., where it reached number three. By this time, of course, Stewart was a superstar, and the identification of his instantly recognizable vocals no doubt helped land it on the hit parade. An album with all three of the Stewart-sung tracks was also issued in 1972, but by now of course the other material -- which was average British early-'70s rock in a good-time R&B-rock vein -- couldn't help but suffer in comparison due to the absence of Stewart's vocals.

Python Lee Jackson did some more recording in 1973 for an album centered around Bentley, but the LP wasn't finished, and the band finally ground to a halt. Almost all of Python Lee Jackson's material except for the Rod Stewart-sung tracks appears on the 2009 CD compilation Sweet Consolation, along with ten unreleased cuts. The three tracks (especially "In a Broken Dream") featuring Stewart, however, have been issued numerous times and are not all that hard to locate. ~ Richie Unterberger

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