Paul Kelly and I became acquaintances back in the mid-eighties when a copy of an album he had recorded with The Messengers crossed my desk. It was titled Under the Sun, came in the form of a cassette and no one really seemed interested, so I picked it up and took it home for a quick listen. I brought it back to the record store I was working at the next day and put it right next to the cassette deck and played it regularly, but no one except the people I worked with noticed. At that time, I was assigned to the dungeons, buying and checking in product to be shipped to the stores, so it did not generate sales. What it did do, though, was drive Paul Kelly's music into my head until it was virtually part of my DNA.
Under the Sun failed miserably in the States though it charted, but it was not the fault of the record label, A&M, who promoted the hell out of it and gave it as good a shot as they could. In those days, A&M was as good a label as there was in the States and their people usually not only knew their product but loved most of the music that passed through their hands. More than once, the label rep thanked me for playing the cassette even though it was for nobody but myself and a handful of the best people I've ever had the pleasure of working next to (to their credit, if they did not care for Kelly they never said anything and appeared to listen the numerous times they were exposed to it, which makes them next to gods, in my mind).
Paul Kelly fell off my radar after that and I don't even know if they had a follow-up album but if they did, I should be shot for not noticing. I loved that "Under the Sun' cassette. I still have it, in fact. It sits right next to me as I type this.
Well, when I heard that there was a new Paul Kelly album, I was intrigued to say the least, and when my friend Dave Pyles said it was more than good, I jumped on it. Guess what? It is. It is a retrospective on two discs— Vol. 1 ('85-'97) and Vol. 2 ('98-'08)—in one package. Best damned two-disc package on the market today. You can quote me.
Kelly doesn't do anything fancy. His music is straight on rock with mild influences (meaning that you can hear a little country here and a little soul there, but it isn't country or soul—it's Paul Kelly). The thing is, he writes so damn good and presents what he writes so well that you don't notice. Musician friend of mine once said that for him, the best compliment to his music was when people liked it for itself and not its influences. Fits for Kelly. Damn good stuff. Damn good. Forty songs good. No. Forty songs great.
I will tell you something that went through my head as I listened (and does every time I listen, truth be told). Some of the tracks remind me a lot of The Minnows. Never heard of them? Irish? Short? Always drinking ale? Well, their Leonard Cohen Is Happy Compared To Me album caught me by surprise a couple of years ago and I've been spouting off about them since. I think I now know why I like them as much as I do. They have a bit of Paul Kelly in them. And chances are, they've never listened to one another.
This is a freaking great world, this world of music. If you don't think so, scope Paul Kelly out. In this day of genre-bending music, it is a downright pleasure to listen to rock the way it was intended to be presented.
Crap! I forgot to say he's Australian! Does it matter? Not as far as the music goes, but some of us have our fetishes. For those who have a thing for down under, here's something you should hear.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2011, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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