Thursday, October 28, 2010

John Kennedy - Have Songs Will Travel


It wasn't until I was researching this review and found a few of Kennedy's band JFK & The Cuban Crisis videos on YouTube that I stumbled across Kennedy's Love Gone Wrong and recognised the song King Street.  While there is a big difference between the original band version and the one on this collection, both are equally great takes.

I remember seeing the clip and admiring the song way back sometime after it was first released.  I particularly liked the line

On King Street, I am King.  

In contemporary Australian  at that time, there was a move to have worldly rather than local references due to some cultural cringe but Kennedy defied this with his songs, sprinkling his tracks with locations around Sydney and Brisbane.  I really enjoyed hearing names I recognised and places I had been.

Vocally, he reminds me of Billy Bragg but (no offence to Mr Bragg, of course) with a better voice.  More importantly, he wrote great songs that have travelled well over the years.  I particularly liked Miracle (In Marrickville), Big Country and Juliet Jones.  And Kennedy can do the solo singer/guitarist thing very well indeed.  This collection deserves to be played more.



A Forgotten Gem for me indeed.  I never followed John Kennedy when he was part of JFK and the Cuban Crisis, but came to him in his later years, with Love Gone Wrong, just prior to his departure for Berlin.  I'd purchased their album, Always the Bridegroom, when it came out in '87 and it featured heavily on my turntable.  Odd moment: some years later when I was playing it while a musician friend of mine was visiting, he told me he'd sung backup on Better Days, a semi-gospel number.  It's one of my favourite cheer-me-up songs.

This album is a sort of unplugged greatest hits, and I haven't played it for way too long.  His self-styled Urban and Western tunes are fun to sing along to, and matched with funny and clever lyrics.  However, I do recall going to see the band in a farewell concert before he left Oz for Germany (he's back now) and having him admit that in The Ballad of Jackie O he wrote what he freely admits to be the world's worst-ever rhyme.  I'd have to agree.

It must be lonely when you're recognised
As the world's most famous widow
If you married me I wouldn't die on you
Like all the others did - oh, oh, oh, oh


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