🎡 AOTW Paul Kelly and the Messengers GOSSIP (A&M SP 5157)


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A1 Last Train To HeavenHarmonica – Chris Wilson (6)Steel Guitar [Pedal] – Graeme Lee* 4:50
A2 Before The Old Man DiedSaxophone – Chris CoyneSaxophone [Solo] – Joe CamilleriTrombone – Wayne FreerWritten-By – Langman* 2:33
A3 Leaps And Bounds 3:24
A4 Incident On South DowlingHarmonica – Chris Wilson (6) 3:13
A5 Don't Harm The MessengerSteel Guitar [Pedal] – Graeme Lee*Vocals [Talking] – Grant McLennan 3:48
A6 Somebody'S Forgetting Somebody (Somebody's Letting Somebody Down)Harmonica – Chris Wilson (6)Steel Guitar [Pedal] – Graeme Lee* 3:39
A7 The Execution 4:57
B1 Darling It HurtsWritten-By – Connolly* 3:18
B2 Before Too LongHarmony Vocals – Astrid Munday 3:22
B3 Look So Fine, Feel So LowBass – Michael ArmigerSaxophone – Chris CoyneTrombone – Wayne FreerWritten-By – Frawley* 3:19
B4 Stories Of MeSaxophone – Dianne Spence 2:47
B5 Tighten Up 3:01
B6 Down On My SpeedwaySaxophone – Chris Coyne 3:22
B7 White Train 2:42
B8 Randwick BellsSaxophone [Solo] – Chris Coyne 3:22

Released 1987
Issued on CD in Australia & New Zealand by Mushroom Records in 1987 and reissued in 2011

Note: the band is known as the Coloured Girls in native Australia, named after a line in Lou Reed's 'Walk on the Wild Side.' The name was changed to the Messengers in the U.S. to avoid racial connotations.


Another Son

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Paul Kelly is known for capturing the human condition in his lyrics and embodying in his songs the essence of life in his home country.

Almost anybody who was aged between ten and fifty and lived in Australia in the 1980s would still be able to sing along to his songs, 'Before Too Long' and 'To Her Door', even though neither were Top 10 hits. They are the type of song that are now woven into the fabric of the country. While not exactly anthemic in structure, they are the kinds of song that almost cause everyone to stand to attention and sing them when they are played in public.

Paul Kelly was, for a while, to the Australian public, what I imagine Bruce Springsteen was to the American public, (although his music is nothing like Springsteen's). The lack of obvious commerciality in his recordings was possibly one of the traits that Australians found appealing. (Almost a non-trait).

Another draw-card of Kelly's material was the fact that he spoke to and of the working-class man / woman. Take, for example, a set of lyrics from one of his best-loved songs, 'To Her Door':-
"They got married early.
Never had much money.
Then when he got laid off,
He really hit the skids.
He started up his drinking.
Then they started fighting.
He took it pretty badly.
She took both the kids".

Kelly's songs have been covered by a range of artists, including Australian indigenous artist, Jimmy Little, on his brilliant album, 'Messenger', ('Randwick Bells').

I imagine that Paul Kelly's music speaks so strongly of a certain place that people from other parts of the world are unlikely to 'get' it, (even though he covers universal themes, as in the lyrics above). His recordings probably aren't in a style that was going to grab people by the ears, if they are conditioned to hearing their music framed in particular settings.

But if you were in Australia in the 1980s, you would certainly know his music!

Another Son

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I'm just listening to 'Gossip' by Paul Kelly and The Messengers at the moment on CD and am really enjoying it!

How would you describe this music? I'm not sure. It's sort of a cross between rockabilly, 80's light Aussie pub rock and country rock. It seems to have Heartland Rock influences but with a distinctly Australian feel, and urban themes rather than rural.

Assisting my enjoyment today is the inclusion on the album of three songs that are so familiar from being radio staples over the years that they seem like they must have been Number Ones - 'Leaps and Bounds', 'Before Too Long' and 'Darling, It Hurts'.

'Darling, It Hurts' is heavier than anything that was a hit in the US around this time, so you wonder how the singles would have gone with promoting the album in the United States.

Although I said, in my post from a few years ago, above, that Paul Kelly's songs often don't 'grab you by the ears' in comparison to really commercial stuff, most of the tracks on this album are very bouncy and catchy. In fact, I was just reading a review from a New York performance from around the time this record was being promoted where the reviewer said something like Paul Kelly played one catchy song after another - dozens of them.

Speaking of 'dozens', this album had 24 tracks when originally released and was a double LP. The track list was whittled down to 15 songs and a single disc for US release. The song titled with the name of Paul Kelly's original home city, Adelaide, was one of the tracks left off. However, other tracks with distinctly Australian content remained - for example, 'Leaps and Bounds' mentions the MCG, (Melbourne Cricket Ground), and another track, one of Paul Kelly's well-known songs, is 'Randwick Bells'. (Randwick is a suburb of Sydney).

Paul Kelly's version of 'Randwick Bells' actually isn't as atmospheric as the version recorded later by Australian Aboriginal artist, Jimmy Little, on his brilliant album, 'Messenger'.

An example of the stories told through Paul Kelly's songs is below, in an excerpt from his lyrics for 'Before the Old Man Died':-

'I used to walk in shadows...
Before the old man died.

I used to follow orders -
Do my duty, like a son...
Before the old man died.

The way he ruined my mother,
Not enough blood can run...'

Some of the bright, sing-a-long melodies have surprisingly contrasting lyrics.

One thing - I would have left the track, 'Last Train to Heaven', off the US album. It's not a very strong track.

All in all, though, this album has provided an enjoyable listening experience today and it has reminded me of the type of music that was prominent on Australian radio in the mid-80s.
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