Long recognised as Australia's foremost jazz, blues and soul singer, Renee Geyer (b. 1952) has issued 14 albums over the course of a 25-year career. Best known for her rich, soulful, passionate and husky vocal delivery, Geyer has also been in demand as a session singer. She has sung back-up vocals on numerous album sessions, ranging from La De Das, Dragon and Men at Work to Richard Clapton and Jimmy Barnes. Geyer has worked and recorded in the USA, as well as singing back-up vocals for international artists such as Sting, Joe Cocker and Chaka Khan.
Geyer's earliest bands included Sydney-based jazz-blues outfits Dry Red and Sun. Sun comprised Geyer, Keith Shadwick (sax, flute, clarinet, vocals), Chris Sonnenberg (guitar, who replaced original guitarist Steve Phillipson), George Almanza (piano), Henry Correy (bass) and Garry Nowell (drums). The band issued one collectable, progressive jazz-rock album, Sun 1972, on RCA (August 1972) before Geyer moved on. Starlee Ford took her place and the band continued on until late 1974.
In mid-1972, Geyer sang with two short-lived bands, Free Spirit and Nine Stage Horizon, before joining another jazz-blues band, Mother Earth. Mark Punch (guitar, vocals; ex-Nine Stage Horizon), Jim Kelly (guitar; ex-Affair, Levi Smith's Clefs, SCRA), David Lindsay (bass) and John Proud (drums; ex-Nine Stage Horizon) completed the original Mother Earth line-up. By the beginning of 1973, Harry Brus (bass; ex-Amazons, Jeff St John's Copperwine, Third Union Band, Blackfeather, Hunger) and Russell Dunlop (drums; ex-Aesop's Fables, Levi Smith's Clefs, SCRA) had taken over from Lindsay and Proud. As the co-writer of `Heading in the Right Direction' (with Garry Paige), Punch featured prominently in Geyer's subsequent career. Mother Earth backed Geyer on her self-titled debut album (produced by Gus McNeil) and the singles `Space Captain'/`If Only You Believe' (June 1973) and `Oh! Boy'/`No Such Thing as Love' (September). Geyer split from Mother Earth at the end of the year.
Tweed Harris (ex-Groove) produced Geyer's second album, It's a Man's Man's World (#16 in October 1974), which yielded the singles `What Do I Do on Sunday Morning?'/`Scarlet Ribbons' (June), `It's Been a Long Time'/`Take Me Where You Took Me Last Night' (August) and a cover of James Brown's `It's a Man's Man's World'/`Once in a Lifetime Thing' (November). Backing musicians on the album included Tweed Harris (keyboards), Phil Manning, Steve Murphy, Tim Gaze and Tony Naylor (guitars), Barry `Big Goose' Sullivan (bass; Chain) and Geoff Cox (drums; Bootleg Family Band).
Geyer's gorgeous rendering of Brown's `It's a Man's Man's World' became her first charting single when it reached #29 in Melbourne during December 1974. By that time, she had teamed up with jazz-funk band Sanctuary. The original Sanctuary line-up (August 1974) comprised Mal Logan (keyboards; ex-Healing Force, Chain, Dingoes, Silver Sun), Barry Sullivan (bass; ex-Chain, Silver Sun), Barry Harvey (drums; ex-Chain) and Billy Green (guitar; ex-Doug Parkinson In Focus, King Harvest, Friends). As well as Logan and Sullivan, the short-lived Silver Sun (July to August 1974) comprised John Pugh (guitar; ex-Cam-Pact, Healing Force), Sam McNally (keyboards) and Sunil De Silva (drums; ex-Skylight).
There were a number of line-up changes (guitarists Green, John Pugh, Lindsay Wells and Tim Piper came and went) before Sanctuary stabilised with Logan, Sullivan, Mark Punch (guitar; ex-Mother Earth, Johnny Rocco Band) and Greg Tell (bass) in June 1975. When they came to record the Ready to Deal album, Sanctuary became known as the Renée Geyer Band. Ready to Deal (November 1975) was a success, reaching #12 on the Melbourne album chart and #21 nationally in December. It spawned three singles, `(I Give You) Sweet Love'/ `Love's Got a Hold' (issued in October, but then swiftly withdrawn), `Heading in the Right Direction'/`Love's Got a Hold' (#15 in Melbourne during December) and `If Loving You is Wrong' (March 1976). During that period, the Renée Geyer Band supported overseas visitors like Eric Clapton, Freddy King, Sonny Terry and Brownie McGee and Houndog Taylor.
Mick Rogers (ex-Procession, Bulldog, Manfred Mann's Earth Band) replaced Punch in the early months of 1976. The Renée Geyer Band recorded the live album Really . . . Really Love You (issued August 1976) and single `Shaky Ground'/`It Only Happens' (September 1976) before Geyer travelled to the USA to record Moving Along in Los Angeles with Motown producer Frank Wilson and a host of American session players, including members of Stevie Wonder's band. `Stares and Whispers'/`Be There in the Morning' (national #12 in May 1977) and `Tender Hooks'/`We Had It All' (July) were issued as singles. Moving Along peaked at #10 in Melbourne during June 1977, and #11 nationally a month later. Geyer's final single for 1977 was the theme song to the television soapie Restless Years, backed with `Theme from Restless Years' which was by The Mike Perjanik Orchestra. In the meantime, Logan and Sullivan had re-formed Sanctuary to work the Melbourne pub circuit. In late 1977, the band backed Doug Parkinson.
Geyer spent the next decade or so dividing her time between Australia and the USA. She recorded Winner in Los Angeles (again produced by Wilson) with the Renée Geyer Band line-up of Mark Punch, Greg Tell and Tim Partridge (bass), plus session players. `Money (That's What I Want)'/`Moving Along' (April 1978) and `Baby Be Mine'/`Baby I'm the One' (October 1978) were issued as singles. The excellent Blues License album (July 1979) and the single B.B. King's `The Thrill is Gone'/`Bellhop Blues' (June) featured the Kevin Borich Express, augmented by Mal Logan, Tim Piper (ex-Chants R&B, Chain, Blackfeather, Alta Mira, the Ray Burton Band), Mark Punch, Kerrie Biddell and others. In 1980, Geyer signed to Mushroom Records. She recorded with rock band The Ideals, which resulted in the hard-edged `Hot Minutes'/`Tangled Up in Trechery' single (July 1980). Her biggest hits came with the salsa/reggae-styled `Say I Love You'/`Bad Side of the Blues' single (national #5 in July 1981) and the Rob Fraboni/Ricky Fataar-produced So Lucky album (November).
The album produced two further singles, `Do You Know What I Mean?'/`Good Lovin'' (December 1981; #29 in February 1982) and `I Can Feel the Fire'/`Come On' (February 1982). Geyer issued three more singles on Mushroom: the non-album `Love So Sweet'/`I've Got News for You' (July 1982), a cover of Goffin/King's `Goin' Back'/`(We Got the Makings of a) Fever' (shared with Glenn Shorrock; February 1983) and `Trouble in Paradise'/`Life Begins at Thirty' (October). Geyer's last albums on Mushroom were Renée Live (April 1983) and the `Best of' set Faves (December).
In 1984 Geyer recorded a duet with Jon English, `Every Beat of My Heart'. Her first album for WEA, Sing to Me (June 1985), included the singles `Faithful Love'/`Memory' (February), `Every Day of the Week'/`Without Love' (April) and `All My Love'/`Guess Who I Saw Today' (June). Her 1985 touring band comprised Jim Gannon (guitar), Tony Backhouse (guitar), Jamie McKinley (keyboards), Geoff Oakes (sax), Ian Belton (bass; ex-QED) and Mark Kennedy (drums; ex-Spectrum, Ayers Rock, Marcia Hines Band). Live at the Basement (1986) was Geyer's last solo album for the next eight years, during which time she lived in Los Angeles. While in the USA, Geyer joined Californian band Easy Pieces, appearing on the album Easy Pieces (A&M, 1988). Easy Pieces also featured Hamish Stuart (guitar, vocals), Anthony Jackson (bass) and Steve Ferrone (drums).
In 1993, Geyer contributed `Crazy' and `Foggy Highway' to the Martin Armiger-produced sound-track of the ABC-TV drama series Seven Deadly Sins. The Paul Kelly-produced Difficult Woman album came out in late 1994. It featured a strong set of R&B, jazz and soul tunes, including the Kelly-penned `Difficult Woman', `Foggy Highway' and `Sweet Guy'. By that stage, Geyer had resumed touring, and she worked with Paul Kelly throughout 1995 and 1996. Her 1995 solo backing band comprised Paul Berton (guitar), George Powers (keyboards), Hal Tupaea (bass) and Mark Kennedy (drums). Geyer has contributed a great deal to Australian music over the years, and her voice and stage presence remain vibrant and powerful.
Mushroom issued the CD compilation, The Best of Renée Geyer 1973-1998, in May 1998. The first pressing came with a Limited Edition bonus CD, Renéemixed, which featured remixes by local dance producers like Pound System, Dicko & Mastie and Wicked Beat Sound System. The compilation also featured her current CD single, ‘I’m the Woman Who Loves You’ (May), co-written with Ross Wilson, and produced by Paul Kelly and Joe Camilleri. Geyer also enjoyed an international club hit in 1998 as singer of the house tune, ‘I Need Love’, with DJ Paul Maine. The song came out on New York’s trendy Strictly Rhythm label.
Geyer’s first studio album in five years, Sweet Life, came out in March 1999. Co-produced by Paul Kelly and Joe Camilleri, it featured a mature batch of songs, ranging from the Motown soul of The Temptations/Supremes classic ‘I’m Gonna Make You Love Me’ (backed by Melbourne R&B crooners CDB), and the electronic groove of ‘Don’t be so Sad’ to the blues blast ‘Killer Lover’ (featuring Spencer P. Jones on guitar).
The album’s first single was ‘I’m Gonna Make You Love Me’ (June). Geyer announced her departure from Mushroom in September; the departure coincided with the album’s next single, ‘Cake and the Candle’. May 2000 saw the release of Geyer’s warts’n’all autobiography, Confessions of a Difficult Woman The Renée Geyer Story.