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Gathering MercuryColin Hay may be best known as the lead singer for Men At Work, the platinum selling Australian band that topped worldwide charts in the 80s with anthems like "Down Under," "Overkill," and "Who Can It Be Now?" Hay's justifiably proud of his place in pop history, but since moving to Los Angeles in 1989, he's made 11 solo albums and is confident that Gathering Mercury is the best of the lot.
"These are some of the strongest songs I've ever written," Hay says from his home studio in the hills of Topanga Canyon. "The loss of my father last year brought an unavoidable emotional contingent to writing and recording. I don't have a definitive belief in an afterlife, but I do feel like I had his help when I was working on this album, especially alone late at night, in the studio."
Hay recorded and produced the ten songs on Gathering Mercury in his home studio, with the help of drummer Randy Cooke, bassist Joe Karnes, and guitarist Sean Woostenhulme, from his touring band and friends like bass player Jimmy Earl and pianist Jeff Babko from Jimmy Kimmel's band, drummer Charlie Paxson, Cuban percussionist Luis Conte (Madonna, Ray Charles) and his wife Cecilia Noel on backing vocals. The arrangements feature Hay's quizzical, instantly recognizable tenor supported by acoustic instruments and melodic electric guitar accents. The album was beautifully mixed by long time friend and composer/producer Chad Fischer.
"Send Somebody," the album's first single, was co-written with guitarist/songwriter Michael Georgiades, who provides not only the main chord structure, but the understated solo that sets up the song's touching bridge. The hypnotic pop melody is augmented by Fisher's work on piano, xylophone and drums. The tune was inspired by a late night phone conversation. "You call tech support one night around midnight and actually get a human being on the line," Hay explains. "The unexpected connection with a stranger is often easier to make than one with people you know. It brings up the longing for connection we all feel.
"Dear Father" is a poignant celtic folk-like tune with Hay's 12-string guitar and melancholy vocal taking center stage. Cellist Oliver Kraus overdubbed the burnished string section. "This song was written and recorded almost instantaneously, a gift from beyond, if you will. The night my father died, I was in Glasgow on the river Clyde, about 20 streets away from where he was born. There's some kind of bleak poetry in that, very bleak."
"Far From Home" has the reggae lilt of a contemporary Men At Work tune. Jeff Babko's Hammond B3, Cook's inspired drum part, and Hay's rhythm guitar add to the melody's hypnotic feel. "I don't know if it's reggae as such," Hay says. "But when I play electric guitar, the rhythm I feel is on the offbeat. It's my natural default."
Other standouts include Michael Georgiades' "Half a Million Angels," with sublime performances by all; the darkly humorous "A Simple Song," which deals with the complexities of long term relationships with Hay on mandola and the buoyant vaudeville tune "Where the Sky Is Blue," a song Hay imagined his father singing to his mother before they married.
The tunes on Gathering Mercury are deeply affecting, but never maudlin. Despite the often serious subject matter, they're full of optimism. "It's not a conscious thing and may have to do with the Scottish mentality. We deal with darkness by shining a light on it. It doesn't diminish the charge of the feeling, it just makes it easier to deal with."1. Send Somebody
2. Family Man
4. Dear Father
5. Gathering Mercury
6. Half A Million
7. Far From Home
8. Where The Sky Is Blue
9. A Simple Song
10. Goodnight Rom$19.99180 Gram Audiophile Virgin Vinyl LP - Sealed Buy Now
Business As Usual (Awaiting Repress)1982 Set Shattered Records for Most Weeks Spent at Top of Charts by a Debut
Contains Smash Hits Who Can It Be Now? and Down Under
Get in the Groove: Mastered on Mobile Fidelitys World-Renowned Mastering System and Pressed at RTI
New-Wave Classic Tinted With Quirky Rhythms, Guitar Hooks, Brassy Saxophones
They came from the land down under. And they conquered the charts like no band before or since, with a 1983 debut that shattered records by staying for 15 consecutive weeks at the pole position on the Billboard Top 100. They were Men at Work, a quirky bunch led by a Scottish-born vocalist whose humor, style, and distinguished singing helped the quintet become one of the 1980s definitive new-wave acts. And it all started with the irresistible Business As Usual.
Mastered on Mobile Fidelitys world-renowned mastering system at pressed at RTI, this LP retrieves an immeasurable amount of previously concealed details from the music. For the first time, the bands percolating rhythms, pulsating guitars, brassy horns, and whimsical beats come to fore without interference from congested mixes and a flat perspective. Spaciousness and imaging are restored, as is the rebirth of palpable dynamic contrast and instrumental separation. Above all, the record is more fun than ever before.
Anchored by two ubiquitous singles, Who Can It Be Now? and Down Under, both still FM radio staples, Business As Usual signified a changing of the guard on the new-wave landscape. With leader Colin Hays vocals bearing a passing resemblance to those of Sting, and his mates supplying what seems like a constant stream of keening pop-rock hooks, dance-baiting grooves, and brassy rejoinders, the record transcends any limitations and showcases a creative depth that extends to the album cuts. No wonder Men at Work soon shared stages with the likes of the Clash.
Further separating the group from the pack is its wit. Playful, carefree, and exuberant, the songs resonate with a looseness and joyousness with which the decade is forever associated. No deep thinking or profound analysis just as the best pop tends to be!
This title is not eligible for discount.1. Who Can It Be Now?
2. I Can See It In Your Eyes
3. Down Under
5. Helpless Automation
6. People Just Love to Play With Words
7. Be Good Johnny
8. Touching the Untouchables
9. Catch a Star
10. Down By the Sea$24.99Vinyl LP - Sealed AWAITING REPRESS Buy Now
Garden State SoundtrackThe soundtrack to Zach Braff's Garden State is nearly as much of a piece with the film as the similarly sweet, quirky combinations of sound and vision in Wes Anderson's films and soundtracks. Garden State, however, is more modern in its outlook and more emotionally direct, with a mixtape earnestness belied by using not one but two songs from the Shins' Oh, Inverted World. New Slang is an obvious choice, as the song just seems to grow in stature as time passes, but Caring Is Creepy, Oh, Inverted World's vulnerable, ever-so-slightly unhinged opening track, is not, and adds to the personal, diary-like feel of the album. The bright poignancy of the Shins' tracks stands out even more among the low-key melancholy of songs like Coldplay's Don't Panic, Remy Zero's Fair, and Colin Hay's I Just Don't Think I'll Ever Get Over You. The inclusion of Hay's track, Bonnie Somerville's Winding Road, and the Cary Brothers' Blue Eyes shows that Garden State doesn't go for the hipster, too-cool-for-school poses that one might expect from the soundtrack of a hot indie movie, even with the inclusion of Iron & Wine's cover of the Postal Service's Such Great Heights. Still, there's something of a collegiate feel to the soundtrack, especially with the re-rediscovery of Nick Drake (One of These Things First) and Simon & Garfunkel (The Only Living Boy in New York) as well as the tentative forays into electronica and trip-hop like Zero 7's In the Waiting Line, Frou Frou's Let Go, and Thievery Corporation's Lebanese Blonde. Perhaps this collegiate feel comes from the fact that those years are often the time when many people are the most ready and willing to explore music that is new to them (but not necessarily new), but, as the success of Garden State's soundtrack shows, any time can be the right time.
- Heather Phares (All Music Guide)LP 1
1. Don't Panic (Album Version) - Coldplay
2. Caring Is Creepy (Album Version) - The Shins
3. In the Waiting Line - Zero 7
4. New Slang (Album Version) - The Shins
5. I Just Don't Think I'll Ever Get Over You (Album Version) - Colin Hay
6. Blue Eyes (Album Version) - Cary Brothers
7. Fair (Album Version) - Remy Zero
1. One Of These Things First (Album Version) - Nick Drake
2. Lebanese Blonde (Album Version) - Thievery Corporation
3. The Only Living Boy in New York - Simon & Garfunkel
4. Such Great Heights (Album Version) - Iron And Wine
5. Let Go (Album Version) - Frou Frou
6. Winding Road (Album Version) - Bonnie Somerville$34.99Vinyl LP - 2 LPs Sealed Buy Now