Thursday, November 25, 2010

Forgotten Music Thursday: Jimmy Barnes - s/t (1985 - US) )For the Working Class Man (1985 - Australia)

The combination of 14 Australian Top 40 albums for Cold Chisel and 13 charting solo albums, including nine No. 1s, gives Jimmy Barnes the highest number of hit albums of any Australian artist.  Yet in the United States, Barnes is virtually unknown.

In 1985 Jimmy Barnes, took another stab at the US market, this time as a solo artist.  His band, Cold Chisel had, at best, a lukewarm reception when they'd attempted to crack the American market a few years earlier.

Unfortunately, largely due to poor timing, Barnes was met with a similar lack of enthusiasm on his solo attempt.  While he was arguably far more talented than Bryan Adams, his music was far too similar to that of the Canadian rocker who had beat him to the punch for people to take much notice.

Luckily for Barnes the album was a smash hit that went multi-platinum outside the United States and even yielded 1998, 2003, and 25th anniversary (2010) re-releases in Australia.  Working Class Man (penned by Journey keyboardist and the album's co-producer, Jonathan Cain) was even used in the American film Gung-Ho (featuring actor Michael Keaton).  The title song was so popular in Australia that the film was re-titled Working Class Man for its Australian release.   

Incidentally Cain thought so highly of Barnes that he approached him about possibly replacing Steve Perry in Journey.  An offer which Barnes thankfully politely declined.

The album features some solid blues tinged rockers that have aged far better than much of the material from the eighties.  While the track order was changed substantially for the re-releases the album is equally enjoyable whether the songs are listened to in the American track order:
1. No Second Prize (Barnes)
2. I'd Die To Be With You Tonight (Sandford)
3. Working Class Man (Cain)
4. Promise Me You'll Call (Barnes)
5. Boys Cry Out For War (Barnes)
6. Paradise (Barnes)
7. Without Your Love (Arnott, Barnes)
8. American Heartbeat (Cain)
9. Thick Skinned (Arnott, Barnes)
10. Ride The Night Away (Jordan, Little Steven)
11. Daylight (Barnes)
Or with the Australian track order:
1. I'd Die To Be With You Tonight (Sandford)
2. Ride The Night Away (Jordan, Little Steven)
3. American Heartbeat (Cain)
4. Working Class Man (Cain)
5. Without Your Love (Arnott, Barnes)
6. No Second Prize (Barnes)
7. Vision (Barnes) (Bonus track not on original release)
8. Promise Me You'll Call (Barnes)
9. Boys Cry Out For War (Barnes)
10. Daylight (Barnes)
11. Thick Skinned (Arnott, Barnes)
12. Paradise (Barnes)
Admittedly the first time I heard Jimmy Barnes voice (his duet with fellow Aussie vocalist, John Farnham, When Something Is Wrong With My Baby)  I was not a fan.  His rasp grated on my nerves.  Unbeknownst to me at the time, Barnes voice had snuck under my skin and started to fester.  Over time a voice that I once found grating I've grown to absolutely love. 

While some might argue that Barnes is best enjoyed within the confines of Cold Chisel, I'd counter that his solo material challenges that argument quite convincingly.  While his solo material is not necessarily superior to his material with Cold Chisel it is certainly on the same level of quality.  If Barnes voice doesn't grab you at first, give it time.  He has a swagger to him that demands to be noticed and inevitably enjoyed.

There's an easy enjoyability to this album from start to finish.  The album is augmented by guest contributions including late 70s/early 80s pop chanteuse Kim Carnes, the aforementioned Jonathan Cain, and the highly respected Aussie vocalist Renee Geyer.

In hindsight I can understand why, within the context of the mid-eighties, this album failed to generate a stir in America.  However, at the same time, I'd argue this album has aged far better than many of the albums that were far more popular at the time of its release.  It lacks the oversynthesized keyboard saturation that was so prevelant on other releases from that era that was so welcome at the time but now makes those releases sound so dated.  The tracks written and produced by Jonathan Cain even show him exhibiting far more restraint with Barnes than he exhibited in Journey.  (**** out of 5)

Related Links & Media
Working Class Man video (Australian)

Working Class Man video (American)

I'd Die To Be With You Tonight video

Ride The Night Away video 

Boys Cry Out For War video

No Second Prize video

Daylight video

Jimmy Barnes (official site)
Jimmy Barnes (wikipedia)

1 comment:

luminous muse said...

I confess this is the first I've heard of this fellow. The songs and style are not my thing, but he is really better than the other singers like him. He sounds sincere. He isn't dull like Bryan Adams, isn't cloying like that guy from Journey, and does the working man thing without falling into whatever awful trap Bob Seger does.

Get him some songs I like and I'll be a fan.