Review : Paul Kelly - Greatest Hits, Songs From the South
PopmattersThe Australian rocker Paul Kelly is one of the most popular singer-songwriters of the past four decades Down Under, but he has rarely dented the charts here. That’s somewhat surprising in light of the consistent quality of his music. He writes biting lyrics that comment on current social concerns as well as sentimental ones on the vagaries of love and lust. He can rock out on guitar and harmonica. And he has a strong voice that he modulates with fervent intensity and/or quiet passion. His songs have big hooks. They can catch the listener unaware and make one wonder, why isn’t this guy famous around here?
But then again, one can say that about a number of American musicians that share the same traits, such as John Hiatt, Peter Case, Dave Alvin, Joe Ely, et al—and those are just some of the male ones. Still, I am always amazed at the number of music fans who profess to have never heard of Kelly. One would think that after 40 years of recording, he would be better known.
The U.S. release of Paul Kelly’s Greatest Hits: Songs From the South (Volumes 1 & 2), attempts to rectify this situation. The 40 track, double CD contains many of his most popular songs in addition to lesser known ones that were never released in America. In addition, starting in January 2012, physical reissues of Kelly’s original albums (most of which have long been out of print, or never released, in America) will begin to become available via Amazon Disc on Demand. Kelly will also release his eight-CD, 105-song live box set The A-Z Recordings on Amazon, as will as his memoir How To Make Gravy, and its corresponding iPhone and iPad App, which combines the book and the music.
The 2-CD anthology serves as a proper introduction to Kelly’s work. It is chronologically divided. The first disc covers 1985-1997 and contains everything from the garage rock of “Darling it Hurts” to the sweet, acoustic, Dylanesque sad song about a failed love affair “When I First Met Your Ma” to the catchy pop fare of “To Her Door”. While pinning down Kelly’s style during this first decade is impossible as he’s always changing, his lyrics are always literate and innocently romantic. He may understand love hurts, but that doesn’t stop him from being sucker punched....full text
BlogcriticsAmerica has Bob Dylan, the U.K. has The Beatles, Canada gave us The Guess Who, Joni Mitchell and Neil Young. Oddly, Australia, has exported very few artists to the shores of North America. Technically The Bee Gees were Australian; so were Olivia Newton John and Men At Work.
But Paul Kelly is the iconic Australian answer to Dylan, The Beatles, and Young, and at times throughout his career he has been the Australian answer to The Byrds, Tom Petty, John Prine, Leonard Cohen and a host of other folk/rock/pop stars.
His music runs the gamut from A-Z. If you are not acquainted with Kelly’s body of work, here is another chance, as this 2008 compilation is now available in America. Songs from the South is being released along with the eight-CD, 105-song live box set The A-Z Recordings. The accompanying book, How to Make Gravy, chronicles a 2004 event where Kelley performed over 100 of his songsin alphabetical order, and in between songs told stories about how they came to be written.
Kelly is a natural born storyteller, and the tales between songs cover confessions, personal and family histories as well as what it’s like to be a travelling musician. The writing is revealtory, funny, cynically honest, and thought-provoking. The lyrics and stories in the book cover the vast culture of Australia and may be eye-opening for an American audience.
The album, Songs From The South Vol. 1 & 2, is a cross section of Kelly's career, from his days as Paul Kelly and the Colored Girls (changed to Paul Kelly and the Messengers, initially for international releases, to avoid any possible racist interpretations). He disbanded the Messengers in 1991, and since then has formed other groups as projects demanded.
Disk one covers the years with The Messengers, and opens with the pub rock/folky flavored “From St. Kilda to Kings Cross." Other memorable tunes from this early period are the top forty hits “Before Too Long," “Darling It Hurts,” and the highest charting Australian hit “To Her Door” as well as “Dumb Things." Released back in 1988, the latter song was featured on the soundtrack to the Australian box office hit comedy Young Einstein, reaching number 17 on the American rock charts....full text
Beat-surrenderI know the name of course, but in truth my knowledge of the man’s music is shamefully limited to a few collaborative recordings with fellow Australian artists and his 2007 album Stolen Apples, thanks to Reviewshine I have had a chance to listen to a handpicked 40 song collection of his work in the form of a greatest hits release that’s now out in the US and available as a two-CD set for $14 (or $ 10 for the digital version).
In the business for over 30 years, according to Wiki Kelly has released eighteen albums (discography), I’m not normally a fan of this type of album -although the completest in me can rarely resist shelling out on them when released by my favourite artists with ‘bonus’ material, but I’d heartily recommend this double-release as an introduction to Kelly’s music, the quality of the song-writing and music showcased on the Greatest Hits release is stunning and I seriously need to set aside some time (and cash) to get familiar with the Kelly’s back catalogue, if like me Kelly’s music is unfamiliar to you I’d suggest you get hold of this album post haste, it’s didn’t take long before I was nodding in agreement with the PR quotes from Neil Finn (Crowded House) and fellow Aussie Kasey Chambers and the good news for the US is the album is the first in an reissue program that will see Kelly’s back catalogue of recordings restored to the American market, including an eight-live box set, The A-Z Recordings....full text
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