James Reyne

Liberations Music, 2010

REVIEW BY: Mark Millan


Nigerian-born James Reyne is one of Australia’s most-loved performers, and he has held that status for many a year now. During his high school years and early adult life, he dabbled in a few local bands, singing in pubs and clubs along Victoria’s picturesque Peninsula. It was, however, in the late 1970’s that Reyne came to believe his passion for singing could lead him to the big time. Soon after forming Australian Crawl, the band released their debut LP (The Boys Light Up), which shot the group to instant stardom and the album all the way to the top of the national charts. That release remains one of the most iconic (and greatest) Aussie rock albums of all time. 

The band was known for their blistering live performances, and up front was the handsome knockabout lad whose unique voice and songwriting abilities ensured that the debut was not going to be their only success. But the good times were not to last forever, and following some tensions among members and a death in the band (Gary McDonough in 1984), they decided to call it quits in 1986 and released their final ever album, the live recording The Final Wave

All was not lost for James Reyne, however, and he soon launched his solo career with the release of his eponymous debut that sold truckloads and spawned the hit singles “Fall Of Rome” and “Motor’s Too Fast.” Since then, Reyne has managed to keep the flame burning by releasing regular albums and frequently touring the country and abroad. Of late, he has been producing some brilliant acoustic albums (Ghost Ships and Every Man A King) as well as reworking his (and the Crawl’s) best moments on the deftly wonderful acoustic gem, …And The Horse You Rode In On

His latest (and most surprising) offering is a covers album that finds him paying homage to his idol, The King, Elvis Presley. When I first heard about this project, I felt a little uneasy because I love Elvis and it is pretty rare to hear someone cover one of his songs and actually come away doing it justice. So although Reyne remains one of my all-time favorite singers, it was with great trepidation that I went out and picked this baby up. I needn’t have been so cautious, though, because honestly, apart from a couple of weak moments here and there, this album is pretty good, indeed.  my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

TCB (named after Elvis’ band) finds Reyne sounding better than ever, and if there’s any Aussie singer out there that can drop the Southern accent on cue, it’s James for sure. His voice gives so easily to the material here, and while there are no band credits in the liner notes, whoever is playing on this thing did a mighty fine job. Reyne mentions in those notes that certain songs were off limits from the get-go (“Wooden Heart,” “That’s Alright Mama,” and “Jailhouse Rock”) because they are too uniquely Elvis. 

That was a wise decision, of course, but it still left plenty of potential tracks that Reyne and producer/engineer Charles Fisher cut down to the final fourteen songs that appear here. Let’s get the negatives out of the way first because it really is a short list, and while the performances are not bad, no one else but The King can sing these songs. “Are You Lonesome Tonight?” is one of them, and like I say, Reyne does his best, but even his best here just isn’t good enough. Never a favorite of mine, “Burning Love” just sounds generic and flat, and although it was a sizable hit for Elvis himself, I still think it was one of his weakest songs ever. But I’m pleased to say that everything else on TCB works really well for me, and choosing which songs to mention here is not an easy task. 

“Kentucky Rain” is a great cut, and a singer like Reyne probably didn’t need to stretch that much to get a great performance, but he nailed it anyway. “(You’re The) Devil In Disguise” and “(Marie’s The Name) His Latest Flame” both rock with a swagger that recalls the originals quite nicely. Reyne is way too savvy to try and out-sing The King, so it’s a joy to see him pull back a bit and let the songs do all the work. A case in point is his understated, soulful delivery on “Such A Night” and his breezy take on “Good Luck Charm.” 

The real gems here, though (as is often the case with covers albums) are the lesser-known songs in the Elvis catalogue. “Girls, Girls, Girls” is always good fun, and Reyne obviously had a blast recording it (also a blast is the killer guitar solo.) “Little Egypt” sounds brilliant and is possibly the best performance on the album by everyone including the singer. So whether it’s the camp and glossy “Viva Las Vegas” or the country-rock of “Return To Sender,” Reyne has definitely Taken Care Of Business and done so with authority.

Rating: B+

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



© 2010 Mark Millan and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Liberations Music, and is used for informational purposes only.