Thursday, April 13, 2006

John Farnham - Whispering Jack (1986)

After a brief stint as the lead vocalist of Little River Band, a union that worked far better in theory and on paper than it did in practice, John Farnham resumed his solo career with what would become the first album in Australia by an Australian musician to sell over 1 million copies. Much to the detriment of the US population this album remains largely unheard outside of Australia.

Whispering Jack is everything that was good about eighties pop. It was catchy, it was fun, and it got into your bloodstream. As with most albums, there are indeed some songs that are better than others, but none of the material on this album is weak. Even the “weak” tracks on this album are stronger than some of the better tracks by other artists of this era.

While 2 of the songs on the album Pressure Down and A Touch of Paradise were Australian hits. The hallmark of this album, the one song that transcended the term “hit” and became not just a hit song but an Australian anthem is You’re the Voice which is easily the strongest song on the album. Farnham’s exceptional voice was the perfect vehicle to spread the message of the song across the entire nation of Australia.

Farnham’s voice has a depth and presence that sets it apart, and maybe that’s why his stint in Little River Band was so short-lived and didn’t translate to the success many believed it should have. While Glenn Shorrock’s voice blended into the tapestry of vocalists in the band, Farnham’s stood apart. And part of what made LRB’s music work was the tightness of their vocals and vocal harmonies and having someone with a voice as distinct as Farnham’s was bound to upset that vocal balance.

Much of the material on those Farnham-led Little River Band albums was just as strong as the material on Whispering Jack, but to many fans it just wasn’t “Little River Band”—it was John Farnham with Little River Band—the balance had been upset. Part of the reason of the success of this album can be attributed to a restoration of that balance. Farnham was back on his own, and Glenn Shorrock returned to Little River Band and both once again sounded as they should.

Rife with synthesizers and drum machines that were so inescapable in the eighties, the album does sound somewhat dated. Despite sounding dated the album remains eminently enjoyable.

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