Few people who grew up outside of Australia, and in particular Melbourne's expansive suburban sprawl in the 1970s, are likely to remember the social phenomenon known as the Sharpies. Easily recognised by their distinctive skinhead-with-tails haircuts, colourful knitted tops, tight jeans and cuban-heeled shoes, the Sharpies represented a distinctively Melburnian take on the disaffected and bored urban youth looking to make a mark on their world, or at least have a good time drinking, dancing, fighting and shagging (not necessarily in that order). And yet the band most often associated with the Sharpies - and at the time, often accused of inciting the violence surrounding the Sharpie subculture - were a group of musicians who were ardent and avowed pacifists.
Singer and lead guitarist Lobby Loyde had long been a veteran of the Aussie music scene when he joined forces with guitarist Bobsy Millar, bass player John Miglans and drummer Trevor Young to form the Coloured Balls. Mixing the classic rock and roll and R&B they had grown up on with the more progressive musical elements of the early-70s, the Coloured Balls created a unique, often ferocious sound that belied their peaceful personalities. "The Coloured Balls were the greatest bunch of hippies that ever crawled", Loyde states in his notes. "They were really gentle guys, but on stage we let it go and spat out all the venom we had... that was our release."
With the help of producer Ian Miller, Ball Power captured the band's musical force without sacrificing its commercial potential, reaching the Top 20 in the national charts. Opening track 'Flash' is a perfect taste of what is to come, its hard driving riffs and shout-along chorus serving notice that the group intended to pull no sonic punches. The raw rush of 'Mama Don't You Get Me Wrong' and 'Won't You Make Up Your Mind' follow in quick succession, the latter a frenetic sub-two-minute explosion of proto-punk that deserves much wider acclaim. The dirty blues of 'Something New' and 'B.P.R.' showcase the band's road-honed tightness, while the first half of 'Human Being' features a monstrous riff that eventually gives way to some more meditative guitar work that highlights both Loyde's virtuosity as well as his growing songwriting sophistication. This is made even clearer on Side B of the original album, where the crowd-pleasing rock of 'Whole Lotta Shakin'' and 'Hey! What's Your Name' give way to the epic 'That's What Mama Said', a 10-minute, pounding slab of rock and roll featuring Loyde using a foot-powered Theremin to wonderfully freaked-out effect.
The Aztec reissue also adds a clutch of rare and revealing singles the band released before going into the studio to work on Ball Power, displaying all the elements that would crystallize so fully on their debut LP. The inspired inclusion of the live track 'GOD' (short for Guitar Overdose) from the band's legendary appearance at the Sunbury Festival in early '73 rounds out a stunning portrait of a band which, while little known outside the Antipodes, has left a legacy to Australian music which is still keenly felt today.