Paul Kelly: Songs From the South. Greatest Hits (1985-2019) [Cooking Vinyl]
Reviewed by Harry Kaplan
I started my rendezvous with Paul Kelly in 2017 when I reviewed Life Is Fine. I made a comparison between Paul and Bruce Springsteen. Paul has been described by me and other as the “Bruce Springsteen” of Australia. As I listen to this collection, I would like to change that. Paul seems to be a kindred spirit of Billy Bragg. I hear more similarities in style between Paul and Billy. While all of the accolades and comparisons to Springsteen do have some merit, I am going to go with Billy Bragg.
Anyone who has been reading my reviews for any length of time will know that I usually shy away from reviewing compilations or greatest hit collections. In this case, I will waive that rule because the material is so amazing. Most greatest hits compilations usually contain a few good songs thrown in with a lot of “filler”. Not the case with Paul. Every song is a winner. There are 43 that all pass the quality test.
Not only can Paul observe and recount, but he also has a wicked sense of humor. Just listen toEvery Fucking City (Track 22)and you will get a taste of Paul’s quick wit and how he uses humor to tell a great story. “And I’m staring at a label on a bottle of cerveza, and every fucking city feels the same.” Anyone who travels for a living will appreciate this song. Not only every city, but every hotel, hotel room, fast food restaurant, and bar look the same. It is a “Groundhog Day” feeling. I can definitely relate to these words.
I just realized that I recognize one of the songs.Dumb Things (Track 7)was a pretty big hit in the late 80s/early 90s on college and progressive radio. I haven’t heard this song in close to 30 years. I didn’t know this was Paul Kelly until now. Sorry Paul. I am going to right that wrong. This song was one of the mainstays in heavy rotation when I worked at a record store in 88 and 89. Lotta memories.
Paul can write and sing a ballad as good as anybody, but he can also rock out when it’s necessary. Darling It Hurts (Track 4) is all the evidence you need. My headphones are smoking. This is a song The Cramps would endorse. This is seedy rock and roll with the smell of stale beer and cigarettes in the air. Somehow Paul was able to capture the trashy side of things while still delivering a song that has perfect production value.
Highlighting only three songs does not do this collection justice. Take a leap of faith and trust me on this one. This is an essential collection for anyone who fancies themselves as superior music enthusiast. Paul is the real deal and a legend in Australia. Let’s do our part and make Paul a legend in the states. This collection is proof that it is well deserved.