Julian Laxton

Band members                             Related acts

  line up 1 (1977)

- Neil Cloud - drums

- Crash Flash - drums, percussion

- Eugene Havenga - vocals

- Julian Laxton - guitar, bass

- Trevor Rabin - bass, keyboards

- Arthur Stead - keyboards



- The Buggles (Trevor Rabin)

- Freedom's Children

- Hawk

- Mel, Mel and Julian

- Yes (Trevor Rabin)




Genre: rock

Rating: *** (3 stars)

Title:  Celebration

Company: Jo'Burg

Catalog: TJL-13015

Year: 1977

Country/State: South Africa

Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+

Comments: gatefold sleeve; original inner sleeve

Available: 1

Catalog ID: 4453

Price: $60.00

Cost: $66.00


I'll have to admit that my knowledge of South African music is largely limited to the likes of Johnny Clegg and Ladysmith Black Mombasa.  I was more than willing to explore South African rock, but Julian Laxton was an unknown entity to me.


Turns out that though he's virtually unknown outside of his native South Africa, Laxton is quite an accomplished guy.  As a guitarist, his resume includes stints with such South African bands as Freedom's Children, Hawk, and Mel, Mel and Julian.  He's also worked as a producer, written commercial jingles and scored movies.


So what's 1977's "Celebration" sound like?   Co-produced by Laxton and Patric van Blerk (who co-wrote most of the six tracks), the predominant sound was conventional 70s-styled rock, complete with synthesizers and way too many nods to disco ('Man to Man').  As a non-singer, Laxton was a decent guitarist, though there weren't many solo spots which left him largely relegated to the background.  Eugene Havenga was a competent singer, but he had one of those falsetto's that stood as an acquired taste.  Imagine Yes' Jon Anderson or perhaps Barry Gibb deciding to rock out and you'll get a feel for tracks such as ''Blue Water' and 'Man To Man'.  At least to my ears, the set was somewhat saved by the fact it incorporates some distinctly South African twists including interesting tribal percussion moves ('Celebrate') and subtle touches such as the vocal grunts that pepper tracks like 'Johannesburg'.  It probably won't change your life drastically, but  was worth a spin (if you can find it at a reasonable price).


"Celebtration" track listing:

(side 1)

1.) Blue Water   (Patric van Blerk - Julian Laxton) - 7:17   rating: *** stars

As mentioned, Eugene Havenga's high pitched falsetto wasn't going to appeal to everyone.  As if that wasn't enough, the song was build on a disco-rhythm.  To make it even worse, the stupid thing was quite catchy.  An abbreviated version was tapped as a South African single:





- 1976's '(Take Me Back To) Blue Water' b/w '(Take Me Back To) Blue Water' (disco version) (Jo'Berg catalog number TSJ 50)





2.) Johannesburg   (Patric vvan Blerk - Julian Laxton) - 5:00   rating: *** stars

Geez, a love song to a city most people have never heard of ...  Imagine Uriah Heep  waking up and deciding they wanted to become The Bee Gees ...   Really the only thing interesting on this one were the occasional "African" musical touches.  For hardcore fans, the track reappeared as the "B" side to Laxton's cover of Elvin Bishop's 'Fooled Around and Fell In Love' single (Jo'Burg catalog number TJS 68)

3.) I Get High   (Patric van Blerk - Julian Laxton) - 4:08   rating: *** stars

Not exactly a subject you would have expected to hear from a South African band.  By the same token, the song's country-dance edge came as a surprise.  Not necessarily a good surprise.


(side 2)

1.) Celebrate   (Patric vvan Blerk - Julian Laxton - Trevor Rabin) - 5:56

Almost a full two minutes of the song was taken over by "approaching rainstorm" sound effects.  Another track that was mildly entertaining for the strange mixture of African musical cues, Laxton's bell-like lead guitar, a disco-ish flavor, and Havenga's shrill voice.  An edited version of the song was released as a single prior to the parent album's release.

- 1976's 'Celebrate' b/w 'Children of the Sunshine' (Jo'Burg catalog number TJS-32)

2.) All I Need is You   (Patric vvan Blerk - Julian Laxton) - 5:20   rating: ** stars

I can't explain it, but for some reason 'All I Need is You ' has always reminded me on a commercial that somehow got misplaced on the album.  Curiously, Laxton went on to a career that included writing advertising jingles.  

3.) Man to Man   (Patric vvan Blerk - Julian Laxton) - 8:40   rating: ** stars

Opening up with some Arthur Stead synthesizer washes, 'Man To Ma' was the album's most progressive-oriented tune.  Shame Havenga's voice continually interrupted the proceedings threatening to turn it into another dance tune.


 Laxton's still active.  He went into the production side of the business, working with a wide variety of South African artists.  He also wrote commercial jingles and scored music for television and films.  And to top it off, for at least a couple of years he owned and operated a restaurant/club - Julian's Bistro and Music Theatre.