05.05.2019

Archie Roach’s upcoming release is a celebration of his three-decade legacy

Words by Augustus Welby

The Concert Collection 2012-2018 is jam-packed full of live recordings.

Archie Roach is one of the standout performers on board for Low Light, Queenscliff, an eclectic arts programme happening across May and June. Ahead of his visit to the Bellarine Peninsula, Roach will release The Concert Collection 2012-2018.

Roach’s most expansive release to date, the three-disc set features live concert recordings of his last three LPs: 2012’s Into the Bloodstream, 2016’s Let Love Rule and last year’s Dancing With My Spirit.

“I’ve been around for 30 years or so and we haven’t released any live recordings as yet,” Roach says. “All of the shows were recorded and they’re special shows, starting with Into the Bloodstream. It was a big production with an orchestra and a ten-piece choir, which grew to about a 20-piece choir. The others weren’t quite as big, but it was good that we had a chance to record those live shows and release them.”

Dancing With My Spirit was recorded in the 1990s, but not released until 2018. The tone differs from Roach’s 1990 debut, Charcoal Lane, which takes a sobering look at the experiences of Indigenous people from the stolen generations. Dancing With My Spirit is a comparatively lighter journey of self-discovery, boosted by vocal harmonies from Tiddas.

“They just started out as pre-production demos for another album called Looking For Butter Boy,” Roach says. “So it was great to be able to get those songs off the shelf and sing them live. It was a different production, different interpretation of the songs that made it on other albums, but it was great.”

Into the Bloodstream was recorded in the wake of some weighty experiences in Roach’s personal life. He lost his wife, songwriter, performer and activist Ruby Hunter, to a heart attack in 2010. Later that year he suffered a stroke, and in 2011 Roach underwent major surgery for his lung cancer. But despite the preceding events, Roach describes Into the Bloodstream as an uplifting album.

“I remember when we recorded it at Craig Pilkington’s studio, I’d just recovered from a lobectomy where they removed half my lung for lung cancer,” he says. “I had a few breathing problems,  so I had this oxygen tank in the recording booth when I was singing. After each take I’d have a whack of oxygen. We had the band in the studio and I just sang to the band. By the time we’d finished it, I felt myself getting stronger and getting better just through that process.”   

Let Love Rule is one of the strongest albums in Roach’s catalogue. It examines the nature of love and promotes showing love for every individual and the natural world. It’s a principle Roach tries to live by.

“Love encompasses so many things,” he says. “Inclusiveness is an aspect of love. It’s something I’ve always felt since I was a kid. It can be hard at times, but most of the time it’s OK. If you show love and a bit of consideration and respect towards others, you should receive that back.”

Indigenous performer Jessica Hitchcock features on the live recording of the title track, along with the amazing Dunghala Children’s Choir. “That was amazing to be able to get the Dunghala Children’s Choir involved,” Roach says. “As soon as they started singing, it just felt right.”

A number of other guest performers appear on The Concert Collection, including Emma Donovan, Vika and Linda Bull, Dan Sultan, Uncle Jack Charles and Roach’s old mate Paul Kelly.

“Paul’s been a friend for a long time, since Charcoal Lane. I’ve known Emma since she was a little girl and seen her grow into a beautiful woman and this amazing, amazing singer. What can you say about Vika and Linda that hasn’t already been said? It’s like a sixth sense they have when they sing together. It’s so good that they’re all ready and willing to sing these songs with me.”

Archie Roach performs at Queenscliff Town Hall on Saturday June 22 as part of Low Light, Queenscliff. Low Light goes down from Friday May 3 -– Sunday June 30 bringing arts, music, literature, film and culinary events to various venues in Queenscliff and Point Lonsdale.