Thursday, 19 June 2014

Nature Songs - Queensland National Parks and Wildlife Service (1978)

 Although I was brought up in Victoria - Australia's southernmost mainland state and a long way from tropical Queensland - this record of environmentally themed children's tunes reminds me of my childhood. My family's particular jam was the classic Feathers, Fur or Fin by Don Spencer, but there must be a whole world of Australian ecological kid's music out there to discover. Due to the incredible natural heritage we've inherited, environmental education is often given a high priority in Australian schools, even at the earliest levels. And as all educators know, there's no more effective route to data retention than singing along to a catchy, upbeat tune strummed on a guitar.

Although a lot of these tracks are folky, three chord guitar-based numbers, there is plenty of inventiveness in the execution of these Nature Songs. I'm The Spider is rendered as a weird, glammy stomp with a delay pedal guitar solo. Marsupial's instructive lyrics about our unique native mammals are delivered via kind-of-rapping backed by indigenous didgeridoo and rhythm sticks.

The lyrical content is occasionally a little ham-fisted, but overall fun and informative and not afraid to touch on environmental issues that might seem too obscure for kids. What songwriter today would have the balls to write an entire song about decomposition for a children's audience with lines like:
I decided to look closer, I bent down on my knee, I saw some fruiting bodies of the bracket fungi. Looking even closer, I saw some fibrous threads, fungi have no roots so use hyphae instead? Or an entire song about coral polyps or epiphytes?

The record is divided by the two sides; side one is the dry side featuring songs about life on land, side two is the wet side (from The Polyp Song onward), featuring songs about life in the water.

Label: Private
Released: 1978
Players: Brian Mackness - words and music.
Sandy Pollard - lead vocals and harmony, six and twelve string acoustic guitar, electric guitar, bass guitar, flute, descant recorder, alto recorder, sopranino recorder, autoharp, glockenspiel, percussion and sound production.
Laurie Stone - mandolin, technical  advice, sound mixing and production.
Steve Errey - sound recording.
Jacky Nisbet - vocals and harmonies.
Keth Ross - banjo.
Mick Walker - blues harp.
Darryl Boyd, Jason Boyd and Leanne Mash - narration, vocals.
Sam Bun'tarrawuy - didgeridoo.
John Guillot, Robyn Kreis - percussion.
Brian Mackness - sound production.
Peter Ogilvie - bird call recordings.
Amanda Hadley, Melinda (Lindy) Hadley, Gregory Hadley, Gregory Mash, Tony Rasmussen, Stuart Mash, Kathryn Mash - vocals.

Engineered by Laurie Stone at Multi Media Studios, Spring Hill, Brisbane.



  1. radikal share mate. dat don spencer jam is too short, dough !

  2. I am SCRAMBLING to download this as fast as possible. thanks for another amazing rare treasure

  3. Ha! I am amused to see that this particular selection is appealing to you guys. The Don Spencer link is indeed too short, but it's the only one I could find. Looking at the Australian libraries website, it looks like Feathers, Fur or Fin was never released on vinyl; which is a shame; only cassette and CD. I might have to track it down, rip it and share it for the good of humanity.

  4. Thank you for all the sharings!

  5. Thanks for all the comments Muff Diver.

  6. My wife is an ex-pat Aussie and this is now pretty much her favourite record. Thank you! :)

  7. Great review! There is one tiny error in the vocals listing section. My name is Kathryn Mash not Marsh. Same for my brothers. It is a small mistake but this will be the only time my name will ever appear on a record. We were so young. Now my kids love listening and hearing their mum sing Willy the Wombat.

  8. Fixed! Although, I think the typo must have appeared on the record sleeve as I copy these things out very carefully.

    Great to hear from you Kathryn. Do you have any memories of recording these songs? How did you get involved? I'd love to hear any stories you have about this recording.

  9. Hi Rohan - I was only 5 at the time but I have a great black and white photo and a newspaper clipping to remember the event. And the vinyl of course! We were part of the Junior Ranger program at Miala National Park near Brisbane. I remember that my brother and I had to be recorded twice as they were having trouble hearing us. My sister did the speaking vocals. I will ask some of the other people involved to comment as they may remember more!