A "Sex in the Morning" Voice (9/11/98)
Paul Kelly, Words and Music (Vanguard 1998) - Vanguard Records is the home to a fine collection of singers and songwriters, with a rocking spirit. Like Peter Case and Canadian Bruce Cockburn, Australia's Paul Kelly takes the singer/songwriter tradition and infuses it with his own background and sensibilities.
Words and Music is the 14th release from Paul Kelly, in a recording career beginning in 1979. His greatest hits album, Songs From the South, debuted at No. 1 on the Australian charts (the album was not released outside Australia). Last year, Kelly was voted into the Australian Recording Industry Hall of Fame, in a tribute that included Peter Garrett (lead singer for Midnight Oil) and a re-formed Crowded House.
For the 15 tracks on Words and Music, Kelly (guitars and lead vocals) is joined by Steven Hadley on bass and harmony vocals, Bruce Haymes on keyboards and harmony vocals, Shane O'Mara on guitars, and Spencer P. Jones on guitars and harmony vocals.
Kelly shines on such songs as "Glory Be to God," "Tease Me," and "Beat of Your Heart." Adds Kelly, "I'm glad that the record contains two duets. 'She Answers the Sun' was written with Rebecca Barnard's sex-in-the-morning voice in mind, and Monique Brumby and I wrote 'Melting' together."
There's a lot of material on the new album, with Kelly working in the best tradition of the rock-oriented singer/songwriter. A strong and self-assured voice, Words and Music is a worthy successor to the sexy, Deeper Water (1996).
Leon Russell, Legend in My Time: Hank Wilson, Volume 3 (Ark 21 1998) - Leon Russell, the white-haired rock enigma, returns with his alter ego, the country-based Hank Wilson. Legend in my Time is the follow-up to Hank Wilson's Back (1973) and Hank Wilson, Volume 2 (1984).
Coming out of Tulsa, Leon Russell, perhaps best known as the gravely-voice piano and session man who performed with the Byrds and toured as part of Joe Cocker'slegendary, "Mad Dogs and Englishmen Tour." Still active in the studio, Russell last released Anything Can Happen in 1992 (with production by Bruce Hornsby).
Legend in My Time includes covers of three Willie Nelson songs ("Night Life," "Crazy," and "Funny How Time Slips Away"), as well as such country classics as "16 Tons," "Daddy Sang Bass," and "Okie From Muskogee."
With a polished country production, Legend in My Time is an easy listen. The album also includes guest vocals by Willie Nelson and The Oak Ridge Boys, together with assistance from country star, Marty Stuart on mandolin.
Says Wilson, "We recorded 24 songs in two days. It keeps an excitement, almost like a nightclub excitement, with these guys. These musicians from Nashville are equal to the task, but are never allowed to work fast. I just got the momentum going."
That unrushed but energized sense leads to a refreshing recording.
My big gripe is the supposed "audio liner notes," consisting of a conversation between Russell and band leader Howard Bradley. The "notes" are supposed to be before track 1 on the disk (meaning that they're captured in a hidden track). But my CD player won't read that track.
Lessen to be learned - don't be cutesy on your recording. If you want to include a track, make it accessible to all. With that caveat, Legend in My Time is an enjoyable recording.
Soundtrack to Dead Man on Campus (Dreamworks 1998) - "Dead Man on Campus" is the new comedy film from MTV about the lengths college students will go to for passing grades. I didn't see the film, but like the soundtrack.
Indeed, Dead Man on Campus shows the direction of modern rock. The album opens with a cover of David Bowie's "Golden Years" by shock-rocker Marilyn Manson(with production by the Dust Brothers). On this track, Manson eliminates some of his more depraved elements and delivers a spooky version of this classic cut.
Also featured is "Paint by Numbers" by the new band, Self. With a mix of cheery pop and international beats, "Paint by Numbers" (performed by singer/songwriter/sampler Matthew Mahaffey of Murfreesboro, Tennessee) is one of the highlights of the soundtrack.
The album closes with Twiggy & Twiggy's version of, "I Only Want to Be With You" (the Dusty Springfield classic). And that's a strange juxtaposition: The first Twiggy is the supermodel, and the second Twiggy is the bass player for Marilyn Manson. Yet they deliver a twisted version of the song that strikes the right notes with samples and scratching by the Dust Brothers (John King & Michael Simpson).
Also included are tracks by Blur ("Cowboy Song"), Soul Coughing ("Super Bon Bon"), and Supergrass ("We Still Need More").
Dead Man on Campus proves that alternative rock is alive and well. The soundtrack is a good sampler of modern music, and deserves a chance.
- Randy Krbechek © 1998
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