Jimmy Barnes is an iconic presence within Australian music. From Cold Chisel to numerous solo albums, Jimmy has been plugging away successfully at his trade for almost 50 years now. After some time off reflecting on his life and successes, including writing two books, he has decided to enter the studio once more and record a rock record, his first since Rage and Ruin in 2010.
Opening with the openly autobiographical ‘My Criminal Record’ about his upbringing, commonly the first track is the pace setter for an album from a solo artist such as Barnesy; here though, it picks up more on his soul and roots musical releases as it grooves along with a very speakeasy feel.
‘Shutting Down Our Town’,written by country singer Troy Cassar-Daley, comes up next and sees the music pick up the pace towards a more comfortable pub rock pace, telling the story of Barnsey’s hometown of Elizabeth in South Australa, but could be any small town in Australia as industry fades away off shore. From here the album really takes on the vocalist’s rock roots as ‘Stolen Car (The Road’s on Fire) Part I’ builds up slowly, before going full Cold Chisel rock out, whilst Part II that follows later is far more immediate in a rock sense.
With a solid half of the album written with his musical cohort from Cold Chisel Don Walker and the rest of the slack taken up by musicians as diverse as Chris Cheney (The Living End) on ‘I Won’t Let You Down’, a track more country orientated than the Cassar–Daley written songs, or his brother-in-law Mark Lizotte (Diesel), whose guitar tone is instantly recognisable on ‘If Time is On My Side’, an album of this kind was bound to come together with so many great artists bundled together. From the stomp of ‘Money and Class’ or the laid back emotion of love song ‘Stargazer’, it is hard to pick too much wrong with an album that covers so much territory but maintains a great flow.
This interesting insight to what has made the artist is musically uplifting despite the darkness of the lyrical content contained within. The oft covered John Lennon track ‘Working Class Hero’ and ‘Tougher Than the Rest’ by Bruce Springsteen fit perfectly among the stories of a tough early life as well as a life lived hard and fast, all coupled with Kevin Shirley’s crisp clean production, and the in-studio use of Barnsey’s live band gives it an immediate feel.
I have never been the biggest fan of Barnsey’s solo output particularly the rockier stuff, despite his powerful vocal performances, as it often felt insincere and pandering to an audience built up from the Australian pub rock scene he was born from with Cold Chisel, who were generally sincere in their output. Here, with the help of bad memories and great mates, Jimmy Barnes may well have put out his best solo album, and dare I say it, something that at times matches some of the greatest output he is so famous for from all those years ago.
- My Criminal Record
- Shutting Down Our Town
- I’m in A Bad Mood
- Stolen Car (The Road’s On Fire) Part I
- My Demon (God Help Me)
- Working Class Hero
- Belvedere and Cigarettes
- I Won’t Let You Down
- Money and Class
- Stolen Car (The Road’s On Fire) Part II
- If Time is On My Side
- Tougher Than the Rest