Saturday, May 24, 2008

Fall Of Rome Signals Reyne Of New Solo Empire

By the time aussie band Australian Crawl’s race was run in January 1986, they had sold over a million records in Australia alone. Seven top 20 singles, including the #1 ‘Reckless (Don’t Be So)’, and five top five albums were only part of Australian Crawl’s musical legacy. They were one of the most popular live drawcards of the era, and without doubt a large part of that appeal could be attributed to their charismatic front man James Reyne. It was always going to be a tough gig to follow Australian Crawl, but it was a fair bet the Nigerian born Australian James Reyne would meet the challenge.

It took Reyne over a year following the break-up of Australian Crawl before he finally scored a solo recording deal. The deal came via a contact with Roger Davies one time manager for Sherbet, then Tina Turner and Olivia Newton-John. In a twist of fate Reyne would later play the part of Roger Davies in the 1993 Tina Turner bio-pic ‘What’s Love Got To Do With It’. With the services of producer Davitt Sigerson and a host of top American session players at his disposal, James Reyne’s debut self titled album was released in September 1987.

‘James Reyne’ soared up the Australian charts and eventually peaked at #4, in the process going triple platinum (210,000 copies). The album’s success was in part fuelled by a string of brilliant single releases. ‘Fall Of Rome’ was the first single released a month in advance of the album release. It was a guitar driven rock number featuring Reyne’s signature vocal drawl and surged to #3. The follow up single ‘Hammerhead’ (#8) was my favourite Reyne track (of that album or any other). In contrast to ‘Fall Of Rome’, ‘Hammerhead’ was a slower tempo number with a strong blues based rhythm line, and featured backing vocals from Olivia Newton-John. I guess it would be like comparing Australian Crawl’s ‘Things Don’t Seem’ with ‘Downhearted’. I did hear that 'Hammerhead' was an anti-drugs song. Either way Reyne had made the transition to solo act almost seamlessly. The album yielded three more hits with ‘Rip It Up’ (#34), ‘Heaven On A Stick’ (#59) and ‘Motors Too Fast’ (#4).

The follow up albums ‘Hard Reyne’ (1989) and ‘Electric Digger Dandy’ (1991) both went top 5 and the hit singles continued to flow. All the while James Reyne continued to grow as a songwriter/performer and explore new musical fields. 1992 saw him record a #2 hit duet with James Blundell covering the Dingoes song ‘Way Out West’. He then joined the Company Of Strangers with song writing partner Simon Hussey, session guitarist Jef Scott (who had worked with Reyne on his solo albums), old friend and aussie pop icon Daryl Braithwaite and also brother David Reyne (an original member of Australia Crawl). Company Of Strangers’ self titled album was a platinum effort, yielding three top 40 singles.

Reyne’s commercial returns dropped off in the latter part of the 90s but the critical acclaim continued for albums such as ‘The Whiff Of Bedlam’ (1995) and ‘Speedboats For Breakfast’ (2004). Following 2005’s acoustic album ‘And The Horse You Rode In On’ James Reyne latest album was ‘Every Man A King’ (2007). After 30 years in the biz James Reyne has proven himself a consummate professional with a rare talent for penning some of Australian rock music’s most memorable songs.

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