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Encyclopedia entry for 'Kevin Borich Express' LETTER:

Formed in 1976
StyleHard rock, blues
 Original line-up: Kevin Borich (guitar, vocals; ex-La De Das, John Paul Young and the All Stars), Harry Brus (bass; ex-Amazons, Jeff St John's Copperwine, Blackfeather), Barry Harvey (drums; ex-Thursday's Children, Wild Cherries, Chain)
 Albums: Celebration! (Image, 1977), Lonely One (Image, 1977), No Turning Back (Mercury, 1979), Live! (Avenue/Festival, 1979), Best of Kevin Borich Express (Avenue/Festival, 1980), Angel's Hand (Mushroom/Festival, 1980), Rock Legends (reissue of No Turning Back, Mercury, 1980), Shy Boys/Shy Girls (10-inch mini-album, Mushroom/Festival, 1981), Kevin Borich Collection (Mushroom/Festival, 1993), Live at the Big Kahuna (KB, 1995), Going Down Town (reissue of Celebration and Lonely One, Avenue/EMI, 1996), Heart Starter (KB, 1998), One Night Jamm (KB, 1999); With Renée Geyer: Blues License (RCA, 1979); Borich'n'Tilders album: The Blues Had a Baby (Eureka, 1980).

New Zealand-born Kevin Borich is one of the most celebrated guitar players in the history of Australian rock. He also remains an underrated songwriter, and his live reputation has rarely been reflected in record sales despite producing strong releases down the years. He spent 11 years with La De Das, and a short spell with John Paul Young and the All Stars during 1975 before forming the first version of his Kevin Borich Express in early 1976. The original line-up listed above was short-lived. The only recording that line-up put down, `The End of Me', later turned up on the Various Artists compilation Australian Guitar Album (Razzle/Festival, 1979), which also featured Lobby Loyde, Mario Millo, Ian Moss, Phil Manning, Rockwell T. James, Chris Turner, Mick Elliott, Russell Smith, Ian Miller and Harvey James.

Reuben San Fiansco (bass) and Gil Matthews (drums; ex-Billy Thorpe and the Aztecs) then replaced Harry Brus and Barry Harvey. Matthews stayed for only a handful of gigs before returning to The Aztecs, so in July 1976 John Annas (drums; ex-Atlas, Wendy Saddington Band) joined. The Express issued its scorching debut single, `Goin' Somewhere'/`Scene from Starcrossed Lovers', on Image in October 1976. Tim Partridge (ex-Clockwork Oringe, Island, Mighty Kong, Johnny Rocco Band) took over from San Fiansco and the new line-up completed the debut album, Celebration! Issued in March 1977, the album produced a second single, `Goin' Down Town' (single edit)/`Going Down Town' (May).

Celebration! peaked at #28 on the national chart, and was the perfect showcase for Borich's exceptional blues-based heavy rock technique. It contained the seven-minute, guitar tour-de-force `Celebration' which boasted some of the most dazzling fretwork Borich has ever committed to vinyl. Borich earned further accolades when he jammed with international visitors like Carlos Santana and Ritchie Blackmore. Kevin Borich Express also supported UK guitar legend Jeff Beck in early 1977, and took part in the ambitious Rockarena tour (October 1977) supporting Fleetwood Mac, Santana and the Little River Band.

Lonely One (November 1977) and the singles `Tango Queen'/`I Just Wanna Love You' (also November) and `Tell Me Why'/`White Ship' (February 1978) were less supercharged affairs. By that stage, Borich had set his sights on the USA and the album featured a very polished production sound which tended to gloss over his guitar playing. By the time the album came out, Partridge had been replaced by American Tim Ayers and then Bob Jackson. Before Kevin Borich Express left for the USA in May 1978, Paul Christie (ex-Loose Booty) had replaced Jackson.

In the USA, the band toured (including an opening spot for AC/DC), added American keyboard player Tim Schafer (ex-Gary Wright Band) to the line-up and recorded a new album, No Turning Back, at Cherokee Studios, Los Angeles. No Turning Back (March 1979) included the singles `No Turning Back'/`I Can't Wait' (November 1978), `Mama is a Jazza'/`Social Disease' (March 1979) and `Silver Dime'/`Caught in the Middle' (June 1979). In April 1979, Schafer and Christie left. Lindsay Osbourne came in temporarily until Tim Partridge rejoined on bass. The Borich/Partridge/Annas line-up recorded Live!, appeared on Renée Geyer's album Blues License (July 1979) and toured Europe. A compilation album of tracks from Lonely One and No Turning Back came out in Germany, and the Express appeared on Munich television. Following the overseas tour, Annas left to be replaced by John Watson. The Express line-up of Borich, Partridge and Watson recorded a new album, Angel's Hand, in London with English producer Chris Tsangarides during November 1979. Partridge left in April 1980 and Michael Deep joined.

Angel's Hand (November 1980) and the single `One More Dream'/`Angel's Hand' (also November) featured a tough rock sound, and were the first Express records for the Mushroom label. The Express line-up of Borich, Watson and Deep collaborated with bluesman Dutch Tilders on the album The Blues Had a Baby (issued November 1980) and single `Bad Books'/`The Blues Had a Baby' (April 1981). For the 10-inch mini-album Shy Boys/Shy Girls (November 1981) and the singles `Shy Boys, Shy Girls'/`Going Fishing' (also November) and `Getting So Excited'/`Theme X' (February 1982), ex-Dragon drummer Kerry Jacobson had replaced Watson.

John Annas returned to the fold in mid-1982. Steve Balbi (ex-Rupert B.) replaced Deep on bass, and Andy Cowan (keyboards; ex-Madder Lake, Ayers Rock) also joined. By mid-1984, the line-up was back to a trio of Borich, Balbi and Adrian Cannon (drums; ex-Full Circle). That line-up recorded three songs, `Fever', `World's on Fire' and `Slinky'. Borich issued `World's on Fire/`Slinky' as a solo single in October 1986. `Fever' remained unissued until it and `World's on Fire' were included on the 1993 compilation album Kevin Borich Collection. Borich put the Express on hold in 1985. He did not stop touring, however, and spent most of the 1980s in Paul Christie's band The Party Boys. He joined the Jimmy Barnes Band for the 1990 Two Fires tour of Australia and New Zealand.

Borich has reactivated the Express on several occasions throughout the 1990s. John Annas and Ian Lees (bass; ex-Moving Pictures) have been members, but the strongest line-up featured John Watson and Harry Brus. Although Borich has not had a solo record deal since his days with Mushroom, he remains one of the most accomplished guitar players in the country. He issued the independent, mail-order album Live at the Big Kahuna in 1995.

Kevin Borich continued to tour and record with his band The Express, issuing a new album of funky, rocking blues, Heart Starter, in late 1998. With the album out, Borich toured Melbourne with the then current Express line-up that comprised his son Lucius on drums, plus Ben Rosen (bass). The band recorded a gig at the Continental Hotel, Prahran, which came out as the live album, One Night Jamm, in November 1999. Featuring the band in blistering form, the highlight was undoubtedly an astonishing, 12-minute rendition of the blues classic ‘Rollin’ and Tumblin’’. The night (and CD) also featured guests Wendy Saddington (who sang a number of jazzy, free-form blues tunes) and Ross Wilson on vocals and harmonica.

Encyclopedia of Australian Rock and Pop / Ian McFarlane 1999
under licence from Allen & Unwin Pty Ltd


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