Thursday, October 16, 2014

Jimmy Barnes - Hindsight - As Good A Voice As There Is, And A Notable Cast Take A Long Look Back

Jimmy Barnes' Hindsight is a great way to ease your way into a vast and wonderful world - it's a look back by one of the planet's best singers, and he's brought along a lot of marquee names to point out that he's been doing it right for 30 years, and this is a fantastic way to celebrate the anniversary.

There's every chance that you've no idea who Jimmy Barnes is, or if you do you think he's a guy that did a song with Bonamassa for a Deep Purple tribute album, or maybe some work with Steve Morse and the guys from Ozzy's band back in the day, and if that's the limit to your exposure, you ain't gonna catch it - and you really need to catch it.

The real story is that Jimmy Barnes has been one of the world's greatest vocalists for decades, and the guys who want to work with him do it for just that reason. One of the joys of this record for American listeners will be the two fisted joy of discovering not just Barnes, but many of his co-conspirators on this collection of songs from the singer's past. You know the names of Journey, Joe Bonamassa, Little Steven, but their are plenty of acts on this record performing alongside the star of the show who will be new and exciting discoveries for the uninitiated. Also, much credit should be given to producer Kevin Shirley for keeping this project sounding cohesive and focused as different casts show up for nearly every one of these great tunes from Barnes' extensive catalogue.

Barnes kicks things off with Lay Down Your Guns, a 1990 solo hit, and he brings in the long running Australian punk/psychobilly band The Living End to pump new blood into the old chestnut, and damned if they don't better the original - Barnes is a better singer than he was twenty five years ago, and the taut arrangement here is a great example of why this project works so well. This kicks like a mule, so turn it up.

(Free Download of Lay Down Your Guns)

Baby Animals are the next set of co-conspirators, and Suzi DeMarchi cozies up next to Barnes for their duet, and their as tight as a....(fill in the blank). This is another ongoing collaboration, as several of the Baby Animals have played with Barnes over the years. There's no sense of this being a rehab project - everything sounds new and fresh, there's none of that all too uncommon, 'Let's go in and do pale covers of our pasts.' No this is tough hard rock with cool Beatle-y flourishes, and a bass line that keeps knocking me out of my seat. Again, kudos to Kevin Shirley for getting this done right. Jimmy Barnes is brilliant, but he also is savvy enough to know he needed a strong will behind the board for this project, and he got Sgt. Rock.

Little Steven brings a nice Stonesy vibe to Ride The Night Away, the song he wrote with Steve Jordan for Barnes way back in 1985 (Yeah, Steven has always had his ear to the ground) - one of the joys of this record is the realization that much of the world has always been hip to Barnes. His voice has aged like fine whiskey, befitting his Scotish birth, and the production again aces the earlier recording. So far, we're three songs in, there's no slowing down, and while each track is clearly another band, they are equal in terms of quality and fire.

The apple falls not far from the tree, and Jimmy's daughter Mahalia comes on board with her band The Soul Mates to completely update 1993's Stand Up, and this one is aflame with the power of soul. Scratchy wah pedals snuggle up to a wailing Hammond organ, and father and daughter go at it like gladiators, with no quarter given, taken, nor asked for. Holy hot hell, this is burning it up the way it's meant to be. Barnes' voice is just incredible. But then, so is Mahalia's.

Another song from 1985's For The Working Man album, I'd Die To Be With You Tonight, and Barnes is joined by his brother-in-law, Diesel, another longtime Australian hit maker who's discography you'll now want to pursue. They've been duetting on this tune for some time, and they're definitely in sync. It's fabulous that when Barnes joins the party, the temperature goes up and he owns whatever is going down, but that being said, he's not being brought down a drop by the company he's keeping.

Joe Bonamassa always brings his A game to his guesting sessions, and he's spot on as he milks great tones and notes out of his Goldtop on Stone Cold, a tune hat will absolutely thrill anyone who sets Otis Redding up as the high water mark for soul singers. Barnes is at his very best here, and Bonamassa plays a solo that makes hairs stand up on arms - you can actually here the strings chocking on the frets on some of his more adventurous bends, his reverb tank screams right back at him on one high note, and again he's at his best when he's performing next to a world class vocalist. The horns are just right, and this one sizzles.

Jonathan Cain wrote Working Class Man back in 1985, and the minute you hear the keyboards there is no doubt who's behind this classic. They're joined by Barnes' Cold Chisel band mate Ian Moss, and this tune doesn't age as well as some on the record, but Barnes is on it, and working hard every step of the way, he's lost nothing to the years.

Bonamassa's back for Going Down Alone, and he's joined by Neal Schon and Jonathan Cain, and the kids all play nice - Joe is wielding yet another Goldtop (this one with single coil P-90 pickups), and he provides some very tasty slide guitar, and he leaves the heavy lifting to Schon who tears off a ripping hot blues solo on a Stratocaster and what looks to be a Kemper amp modeler. Regardless of the tools (the guitars, not Joe and Neal, I love them both), they're serving their master here and Barnes keeps up the pace with no sense of slowing down. I kind of wish the female vocals were higher in the mix, and maybe even a smudge more Schon on the solo, but that's just me nitpicking.

Shihad joins Barnes for Love And Hate, and it's the hardest rocker yet by miles, and it's hardly surprising that Barnes fits well with the edgy distorted guitars, and it's the New Zealanders who sound like they're the ones trying to keep up with the old man.

No Second Prize is a Barnes solo shot with no guests, and the coming from his first solo album, Bodyswerve, from 1984, and it's a pleasant revisiting of a much different time and place. This is probably the least adventurous look back, and it's aged vibe is charming.

There's more to come, but I've run out of time - there's another five tracks onboard here, and they're all strong and along the same lines, so I feel like my work here is done. If I haven't convinced you to go out, buy this album, and commence to delving into the long and glorious career of one of the finest singers that has ever stomped the tundra, then I either haven't done my job, or you're unwilling to do yours. Rock Ain't Near Dead, and Jimmy Barnes, Kevin Shirley, and a very large cast is kicking ass to remind us of the fact.

1. Lay Down Your Guns (w/ The Living End)
2. Time Will Tell (w/ The Baby Animals)
3. Ride The Night Away (w/ Little Steven)
4. Stand Up (w/ Mahalia Barnes + The Soul Mates)
5. I'd Die To Be With You (w/ Diesel)
6. Stone Cold (w/ Tina Arena & Joe Bonamassa)
7. Working Class Man (w/ Jonathan Cain and Ian Moss)
8. Going Down Alone (w/ Neal Schon and Jonathan Cain)
9. Love And Hate (w/ Shihad)
10. No Second Prize
11. I'd Rather Be Blind (w/ Jon Stevens)
12. When Your Love Is Gone
13. The Other Kind
14. Walk On (w/ David Campbell)
15. Still On Your Side (w/ Bernard Fanning)

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