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John Kennedy - Inner West

  by Malcolm Carter

published: 15 / 9 / 2002

John Kennedy - Inner West
Label: Laughing Outlaw
Format: CD


Outstanding and eclectic 18 track compilation from long-serving Australian singer-songwriter, John Kennedy

And still they keep on coming. It’s getting almost embarrassing reviewing a Laughing Outlaw release. I’m running out of superlatives to use. I can, however, find fault with one thing this time. The cover is a slight letdown and doesn’t do the music it contains justice. The image of Kennedy (I presume it is he) dressed up as the Lone Ranger holding up a couple of guns has little appeal, although I must admit that the photos of the real Lone Ranger and Tonto on the inlay raised a smile. The cover gives an impression that this is an out and out traditional country and western record. It isn’t. Far from it, in fact. Kennedy calls his music “Urban and Western to give journalists a pigeonhole to put me into”, and that is a pretty accurate way of describing the sound he makes. Kennedy’s family migrated from Liverpool in the mid 60's to live in Australia. In the intervening years he lived in Hong Kong, England and Holland before returning to Sydney a couple of years back. He seems to have picked up various influences along the way ,and turned them into something very unique. I listened to this album a lot before I did any research on Kennedy. As I am not from Australia where he has had his biggest success,his is a new name to me. I wish now that I had written my review earlier and not spent my time listening to the record every spare minute I had. I thought that I was smart in noticing the snatches of Elvis Costello, Buddy Holly, Roy Orbison and The Clash Kennedy had slipped into his songs. But on doing my research I found out that it has all been said before. The fact remains though that, at times, all of the above artists can be heard on these songs although Kennedy’s own voice, which is powerful and rich, emerges on a number of tracks where he proves he has a voice which easily matches any of the above. In fact, when there are no traces of any influences and Kennedy sounds like only he can, that is when he really shines. What we have here is an album that is a greatest hits of sorts. There are tracks from all parts of Kennedy’s long career. He has had a number of bands in the past, including John Kennedy’s Love Gone Wrong, JFK and The Cuban Crisis, John Kennedy and The Honeymooners and he has also performed solo. The album kicks off with ‘King Street’ from 1985 . It's hard to believe that this track is over 15 years old. It still sounds fresh with its twangy guitars and strong vocals (with just the slightest touch of Costello) and great harmonies all wrapped up in a gorgeous melody. Another Laughing Outlaw release, another fantastic lead-in track. We then jump 10 years to 1995 for the second track, ‘The Ghost Of Newtown’ and it is obvious that the exceptionally strong first track was no fluke. It’s a driving slab of well... let’s just say Kennedy summed it up well with his description of Urban and Western. Again it is full of chunky, twangy guitars and has a melody to die for. By the third track, 'Miracle (In Marrickville), it is obvious that the melodies and Kennedy’s outstanding vocals are going to be present and correct on all 18 of the tracks here. He offers up the Costello influenced ‘The Texan Thing’, while there are traces of Buddy Holly on the brilliant ‘Juliet Jones’ (both from 1982) . ‘By The Light Of Day’ from 1993 is a ballad that in a perfect world would be blaring out of radios everywhere. Of the 18 songs here all but 2 were written or co-written by Kennedy. But even the 2 covers are inspired choices. I doubt that I am alone in thinking that the Rosanne Cash version of John Hiatt’s ‘The Way We Make A Broken Heart’ is the definitive version. I’ve lived with it for so many years now that I never thought I’d see the day when another version would even come close. But Kennedy has topped it with his reading of the song. His rich vocals, which are sung with just the right amount of emotion ,bring out the beauty of the song. It is likewise with the other cover version, which is of the Bee Gees ‘To Love Somebody’. In spite of some stiff competition from the many other covers of this song, I always thought that the Gibb brothers original was the best. But Kennedy’s version, actually a duet with Billy Baxter, is up there with it. Their are voices both well suited to the song and the two singers make this version exceptional. Although comprising of songs from 1981 through to 1995, you really don’t notice that the songs have such an age difference. Such is their timeless quality. It sounds as though it was made as an album, as the songs flow so well together , rather than a collection of tracks which span 14 years. With outstanding releases from Jack Nolan, Spike Priggen and Michael Carpenter (to name but 3) already under their belts this year I hate to say it again and repeat myself, but this is another Laughing Outlaw release which deserves your attention. I can honestly say that this album will never be far from my CD player and hasn’t been since the first time I played it. One to carry with you.

Track Listing:-
1 John Kennedy's Love Gone Wrong– King Street
2 John Kennedy And The Honeymooners– The Ghost Of Newtown
3 John Kennedy– Miracle (In Marrickville)
4 J.F.K. And The Cuban Crisis– The Texan Thing
5 J.F.K. And The Cuban Crisis– Juliet Jones
6 John Kennedy– The Way We Make A Broken Heart
7 John Kennedy And The Honeymooners– By The Light Of Day
8 John Kennedy And The Honeymooners– Take Me Now
9 John Kennedy– Forget
10 John Kennedy's Love Gone Wrong– You Brought It All Back To Me
11 John Kennedy's Love Gone Wrong– Big Country
12 John Kennedy– Two People
13 J.F.K. And The Cuban Crisis– Headline Romance
14 J.F.K. And The Cuban Crisis– Jackie O
15 John Kennedy & Billy Baxter– To Love Somebody
16 John Kennedy's Love Gone Wrong– Hey Steven
17 John Kennedy's Love Gone Wrong– World Upside Down
18 John Kennedy's Love Gone Wrong– Better Days

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