The covers album has become routine during these Covid times, and we can’t expect every artist to be as ambitious as Lucinda Williams has been, her six-volume, Lu’s Jukebox series the standard against which all others might be measured. Still, one-off, home-based projects appeal, and Colin Hay’s more than many.
Sparked by introspection following the death of Gerry & the Pacemaker’s Gerry Marsden in January, 2021, Hay started playing around—his words—with “Major 7th chords, as you do”, pressed the ‘record’ button, and ended up with a version of “Don’t Let the Sun Catch You Crying;” Hay’s version is even darker than Marsden’s already heavy take. A few months later, we have I Just Don’t Know What To Do With Myself, giving proof to the fact that Hay had a good idea of what he was doing in his basement.
As appealing as an album of covers featuring Hay with his acoustic guitar would be, he and co-producer Chad Fischer have elected to augment Hay’s initial home studio recordings with additional instrumentation, including Fischer contributing any number of sounds. The result is a full-bodied and dramatic set of songs largely drawn from Hay’s Scottish youth. Comfortably in his late-60s, Hay is no longer the seemingly-frantic, sometimes manic hit-maker of the 80s. Time, maturity, and reflection has brought Hay to where he is today, completely comfortable with himself, no longer yearning for his ‘real life to begin,’ as it were.
Notable takes of “Waterloo Sunset,” “Can’t Find My Way Home,” and “Wichita Lineman” allow Hay to explore avenues of his voice some of us may not have previously experienced. Del Amitri’s “Driving With the Brakes On” is the most recent song explored, and is given the emotion required; an intense, challenging performance. “Many Rivers to Cross” suitably closes the album, summing up the mood and tone of the recording: “Wandering I am lost, as I travel along the white cliffs of Dover.”
Less interesting to this listener are “Across the Universe” and “Norwegian Wood;” rather than overly-familiar Lennon songs, a deeper dive into the Faces songbook (“Ooh La La” is a highlight of this set) or less-familiar Aussie gems would have been appreciated. But, that’s just one opinion—Colin Hay can record whatever the heck he likes!
An enjoyable if emotionally bleak recording then, ten songs familiar to most listeners but benefiting from the intimacy a world-wide pandemic inspires.
Review based on serviced download.