• Running Free - A New Release by Joe Creighton and reviewed by Rob Greaves

      0 Not allowed! Not allowed!
      It can be a daunting task when an artist of the calibre of Joe Creighton contacts you in order to send a new released album for review. Daunting because Joe is certainly an icon of Australian music and his musical pedigree and indeed his reputation can be summed up in one word - awesome!

      Running Free is the latest release by Joe and it is a ten track album on a CD format, with all ten compositions by him, self released with the music published by Albert Music.

      Born in Belfast Northern Ireland he was certainly exposed to the local music. Yet by choice, his listening and appreciation for music even at a young age was wide, ranging from Paul Robson to Lonnie Donegan to Elvis and among the local groups - the fantastic homegrown group, Them. As a result of being exposed to the early and ongoing music by Them, he then continued to delight in the music of Van Morrison right up to the present time, but more on that later.

      Joe's tastes in music are indeed eclectic. Among the artists he was drawn to are the greats such as the Who, Hendrix, Captain Beefheart and Dr. John, just to name a few. Each of these groups and artists have had an influence upon Joe and his music.

      When he arrived in Australia in 1970, he joined local unit 'Melissa', which was a rock-fusion band somewhere between Jethro Tull and Big Brother and the Holding Co. with a little Astral Weeks thrown in, and as Joe says, thanks to him.

      His reputation as a skilled artist was enhanced through a meeting with Mark Gillespie and was convinced by Mark to play Bass, despite his own misgivings. As a result of Mark's album 'Only Human", Joe's reputation and his obvious ability spread and he was quickly in great demand.

      Most of us became familiar with Joe when he became a member of the great Black Sorrows with Joe Camilleri. Then in 1984 he joined Tim Finn to do a tour to promote Finn's 'Escapade' LP.

      Later in 1988 he joined John Farnham on his highly successful "Age Of Reason" Tour and from there it just went on and on with associations and collaborations with artists such as Olivia Newton-John, Kylie Minogue, Stephen Cummings, CDB, Kate Ceberano, Tina Arena, Glenn Shorrock, Tim Finn and Crowded House. He also toured nationally with Sir George Martin during the 'All You Need Is Beatles' tour.

      In 2012 he, as he writes on his web site, he "Sailed into the Mystic".

      Calling upon his love and appreciation for the music of Van Morrison and with the encouragement of his friend Gary Young, he formed the band and the show - "Into The Mystic", a show that has pulled many fantastic reviews and continues today.

      Into The Mystics at Sunset Sounds

      So Joe is certainly an artists who is endowed with great talent and is certainly dedicated to his craft.

      And so it is we come to this, his fourth solo album, in which Joe says he drew inspiration from his Soul, R&B, Blues and Gospel roots. Discerning listeners will be able to hear threads of Al Green, The Temptations, Bobby Womack and Sam Cooke and to my ears, there are elements of Dr. John, Tom Waits and of course to state the bleeding obvious,Van Morrison, in his music structure and delivery style.

      Track Listing:
      Running Free
      2. Beautiful Way
      3. Dreams
      4. Nothing I Can Do
      5. I'm Not Your Fool
      6. Slip Away
      7. What It Means
      8. How Long
      9. Believe
      10. It's Gonna Get Hot

      Accompanying Joe on the album are:
      * James Black
      * Jimmy Sloggett
      * Tibor Gyapjas
      * Anny Remsnik
      * Cres Crisp

      The album was produced, mixed and mastered by Simon Polinski and is in a gatefold style cover which has allowed Joe to provide a track listing that acknowledges each musician's contribution on each track - one of my real bugbears are CD's that fail to acknowledge the musicians whose contributions make a piece of music work and, to inform us as to who contributes what! On the other side of the inner cover Joe has given his "special thanks" to all those that assisted in the many ways that help bring a project to its conclusion.

      Another element that is applauded.

      Running Free is track 1, and as soon as track one commences I was immediately drawn to a comment Joe made on his web site, when he said, "Sometimes when I am trying to write songs I will strike up a few Morrison favourites for inspiration and I never seem to tire of these songs." The style of the delivery, even elements of Joe's voice, just drew me to immediately appreciating the influence van Morrison has had on Joe.

      It is a beautiful introduction to the album, from the sax playing of Jimmy Sloggert through to the delightfully understated guitar of James Black and the delightful vocal delivery of Joe. As we listen we understand it is a track that could have been dedicated to Van Morrison, especially with the references to Belfast, Mystic Eyes and Gloria, yet at the same time Joe lived not far from Belfast as a child, and it it would also reflect his memories of what he experienced and heard on the radio.

      James Black

      The track is a portent of things to come, no! not Van Morrison by inference or style, but of a quality of compositions, delivery and fantastic musicianship.

      Cast my memory back in time
      Livin’ down by the bay
      Runnin’ all along the sea wall
      Saturated by the sea spray
      Watchin’ the ships said down from Belfast
      Headed out to sea.
      We were runnin’, we were runnin’ free

      We were so young,
      So young and free
      All along the waterfront,
      We were runnin’ free.

      Down on Queens Parade on the weekend
      What a spectacle to see
      Well it’s the ‘60s and everybody’s turned out
      Some of the boys in Cuban heels
      Mystic Eyes and Gloria, playin’ on the radio
      There’s a new world comin’, we’re ready,
      And we’re good to go.

      We were so young,
      So young and free
      All along the waterfront,
      We were runnin’ free.

      Running Free [Sample]

      Tracks two, three and four are all medium to down-tempo are variously continue to demonstrate Joe's ability to be a storyteller through both the construction of his words and also, just as importantly, his delivery. Some of the harmonies, particularly in track 2 - Beautiful way, are just spot on! Joe tells me that track 3 - Dreams, was actually inspired from works of Poe and Yeats that he had read.

      I also would like to comment on track 4 - Nothing I Can Do. The choice of using an accordion, an instrument that is not often heard in contemporary music of today, is fantastic and is courtesy of Cres Crisp. A mighty fine blues/country crossover indeed indeed!

      We come to track 5 and the tempo picks up again. I'm Not Your Fool has become one of my favourite tracks. Sometimes it's hard to define why a certain track "captures' us, and trying to explain why when every track is a quality track makes it even harder. But it certainly demonstrates that Joe is not just the recipient of a fine voice, is an incredibly accomplished bass player, but his guitar playing on this track really demonstrates his versatility.

      Joe says it was largely inspired by the process of having one of those moments, I guess you could say, a "light bulb" moment when you suddenly wake up to who 'you'really are, quickly followed by a 'how did I miss those signals' moment! hands up anyone never having had one of these?

      I'm Not Your Fool [Sample]

      In track 6 - Slip Away, the pace drops back into a sublime ballad style approach. A song of reflection it is also a track of where the instrumentation is restrained in order to support the emotion of the piece, yet the snare drum is played in an almost militaristic manner, which provides a delightful tension and release between it and the other instruments and, the fantastic vocal arrangement which of course features Joe, but is wonderfully supported by Anny Remsnik.

      Anny Remsnik

      Track 7 - What It Means is so different to every track that has preceded it. Joe delivers the vocals,
      particularly in the track opening, in such a way I am reminded of elements of Tom Waits, and certainly more recently the vocal delivery of Leonard Cohen in Nevermore. What It Means might just be my favourite track! It has a foreboding overtone but it is a delightful overtone.

      Behind the image that the music creates in our mind is some more of that damn fine playing that essentially underpins the whole album. The wailing harmonica, the steady pulse of the bass in almost lock-step with the drums, works so well. Then there is Joe questioning all the time, "Tell me what it means"?

      If we could only unravel those dreams!

      A black crow sittin’ on an old tin shack
      Callin’ me to come on back
      Just around the corner at the barnyard door
      A liveried driver with a coach and four

      Well I ride that carriage all through the night
      But when I step outside it’s already light
      Tryin’ to figure just what it means
      Open my eyes it was just a dream
      Tell me what it means

      In an old wooden church by a river bank
      Hands to god, people givin’ thanks
      An old man walks on an endless road
      As he prays to the lord to lighten his load

      Well I’ve met the devil and I’ve seen the light
      Travelled to the stars in just one night
      Like knights of old and the holy grail
      I’m on a mission and I don’t wanna fail

      Come hell or high water, come rain or shine
      I’ll be lookin’ for the reason, the reason or the rhyme
      So please, somebody, tell me what it means

      Well you can fly across the heavens, sail the seven seas
      Climb the highest mountains, in dreams
      But please, somebody, tell me what it means

      I’ll find a fortune teller, a clairvoyant, see a gypsy woman,
      Maybe see a shrink, throw down some cards, consult the stars,
      Oh somebody, Tell me what it means

      What It Means [Sample]

      Joe continues the theme of wondering what is going on, but in a quite different manner in track 8 - How Long. In what is a blues boogie feel, Joe draws upon the use of the harmonica which certainly provides a strong element of blues, the influences of John Lee Hooker, Lightnin' Hopkins and Elmore James were, according to Joe, major inspirations.

      We are again reminded that Joe's back of music styles and abilities is indeed deep and rich.

      The track is so far away stylistically to where the album began! Now this is not just okay, it is wonderful as we are privy in many ways to being part of Joe's musical journey, which is quite reflected in this album.

      Track 9 is Believe. This is one of those tracks that you can easily find yourself singing way after you finish listening to the album. A real funky feel, It has a nice clean simple guitar line running through it which is then cut through by a magnificent 'dirty' sounding fuzz guitar line, all supported by some excellent percussion work. Jimmy Sloggett again sets that sax wailing in a way that brings the hair up on the back of your neck and you just seriously, want to groove along with the "guys".

      Jimmy Sloggett and Tibor Gyapjas

      it is often dangerous and somewhat unfair to equate an artist with another, but when I say there are elements of Dr. John in this track, I say so with the greatest respect for Joe and this track. It is his track through and through, but this descriptor gives some further idea of the depth of the music pallet he has to call upon.

      Joe sings, "You gotta believe", and while he is talking about 'believing in yourself '- we sure "believe" that this track has that magic touch. Again Amy Remsnik slips in behind Joe providing delightful backing vocals.

      Believe [Sample]

      Then we get to the final track, track 10. By accident or design, it seems as though Joe has pulled together the best of the elements of tracks 7, 8 & 9 together in It's Gonna Get Hot. We have funk, we have undertones of "things" that cause our skin to come up with bumps of delight and moments of emotional uncertainty. The use, the fantastic use of subtle reverb and effects to supplement and compliment the fantastic keyboard arrangement, the sax and the "dirty" fuzz guitar - is really a sign of a person whose production skills have been finely honed over a long period. Joe has chosen his production person well, take a bow Simon Polinski.

      I love the trumpet playing,courtesy of Tibor Gyapjas and it sits positioned beautifully in the mix over the the wall of passionate playing that sits below. Anny Remsnik has a free form vocal line that floats through the power of the keyboard wash, funky bass, handclaps and drums.

      Then, it all fades leaving just a ever so gentle 'symphonic style" layering that gives us a chance to pull out of the power and magic of the piece, and allows a gentle landing back here on earth.

      Joe says of this track, "It's a fun groove"! I have to agree.

      I have used many superlatives in this review, and I make no apologies as this is an album of musical superlatives itself!

      Joe Creighton is not a survivor of the Australian music scene. He has been, along with a treasured few, one of its architects, one of the creators of uniquely wonderful admixtures of styles that results in a quality album. He has absorbed many styles and has nicely balanced them with his own creative output of skill, imagination and wordsmithing, and this has resulted in a damn fine track in Running Free.

      Running Free is seriously an album all Australian audiophiles should have, its engineering and production is as good as it gets, and Joe can and has on the inside cover thanked Simon Polinski for his "inspired production, mixing and mastering."

      It is an album that lovers of good music should have, as it is carefully crafted, the lyrics are beautifully written and delivered in a variety of styles that should please almost everyone.

      It is an album that those of us who appreciate good Australian music should have as Joe reminds us, along with a number of his contemporaries that it has been my pleasure to review recently, that while we may bewail the lack of any decent Australian music on commercial radio, quality Australian music most certainly exists.

      It is commercial radios loss that albums like this are not used, but "we" can still support our Australian artists and appreciate the great music, and not out of "nationalism", but because they are just that damn good!

      Through albums like
      Running Free we can enjoy what is world class music, we just need to seek it out.

      However, you need not look any further on this occasion. Joe Creighton is not back - for he never left, and here he has given us a fantastic album with great pieces of music, and, he is supported by some absolute classy playing from those who worked as musicians on the album. He is equally supported by those who worked behind the scenes on this production.

      The album is available at Joe's ‘Into The Mystic’ shows and, through the following sites: Just click on the link


      JB HiFi

      Waterfront Records
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