Paul Kelly – this name is iconic in Australian music. I don’t know how well he is known in the rest of the world, but I can categorically state that this man is the consummate song-writer. He began his career in the late 70s as Paul Kelly and the Dots, before becoming Paul Kelly and the Coloured Girls in the 80s, then on to Paul Kelly and the Messengers, before becoming simply Paul Kelly. The man is a legend! Do I sound like a fan? If was to nail down his genre I would say that he was folk / rock, but I don’t really like to use labels.
For me, his best album is Gossip, released in 1987, which has the great track Last Train to Heaven (sadly hard to get a good version on youtube) but he has released many, many more. Last Train, with its laid-back reggae inspired rhythm, didn’t make my five songs, but I encourage you look it up. Paul Kelly has been prolific so it has been difficult for me to finalise my top 5 (nothing new there).
I’ve left out Before Too Long, No You, Cities of Texas, Before the Old Man Died, Little Decisions, Adelaide, Song from the 16th Floor, From Little Things Big Things Grow. Suffice to say, where song-writing and story-telling is concerned, I don’t think there is anybody better.
1. Careless – Taken from the album So Much Water So Close to Home, this is a gem of a folk/pop song with great use of the harmonica and some of his trademark fantastic lyrics. The rhythmic and melodic guitar intro sets up an easy-on-ear ride through the song. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fq7X_6PlilE
2. Dumb Things – This is perhaps Paul Kelly’s best known song outside Australia, taken from the soundtrack to the movie Young Einstein. An upbeat pop/rock song that start with a great drawn out harmonica over thumping drums. It’s worth a listen to hear a bit of his more lively music. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pWhj4sVeVD0
3. To Her Door – Taken from the album Under the Sun, this is a song about a man who wants to come home to his wife after a breakdown in their relationship because of drink. In many ways this is an uplifting song, inspiring hope that things can change. It has some good guitar work and great use of keyboards. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vzd_bcVDnJQ
4. They Thought I Was Asleep – What can I say? When I was researching this, I came across this song for the first time. It was from the Album Foggy Highway in 2005. I just listened, and re-listened, and listened again – it gave me goosebumps. This is one fantastic song, both musically and lyrically. If you aren’t emotionally involved in this song then I reckon there’s something wrong with you! Just my opinion. The harmonica work is, as usual, right on the mark. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rf51r4kWgLI
5. The Execution – From Gossip. I love this song; I don’t know if others will, but it starts with a guitar over drums, and the starts along on a story of the assassin. In some ways it’s a ‘harsh’ song, but I just love the way it is put together, with no real chorus, and a number of changes of pace and then builds to a musical crescendo at the end. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5wkR3ew2ZPo