To The Sea
Harry Lyon’s debut solo album arrives on the back of his storied career as one of the key members of iconic Kiwi bands Hello Sailor and Coup D’Etat; someone who long ago proved themselves as singer, songwriter and team player – and then went on to involve himself as a teacher in the industry, helping others to prosper.
So it’s late in the piece and these songs – many of them – have been around for a while, some were even recorded previously, such as Muscles, originally on Midge Marsden’s Burning Rain album. Here’s it, well, more muscular, there’s a grit, a real soul to it – and winningly Midge is invited back to contribute his deft harmonica skills to it.
Delaney Davidson handles production duties, you’ll spot and feel and hear his twang (Harbour Lights) and the musicianship all around is exemplary, as you’d expect from great players with any amount of reasons for favours and with plenty of friends in the industry. The stock band here is rhythm section stalwarts Mark Hughes (bass) and Wayne Bell (drums). They will always get you home. And you’re going to enjoy the drive too.
There’s Delaney on guitar and piano and lap steel, and a few more friends pop in for a bass or drums track here and there, or some backing vocals or a steel guitar. We’re talking names like Hammond Gamble, Neil Watson, Ricky Ball, Paul Woolwright and the Crystal Palace Choir.
The quality of the songwriting makes this a walk in the park for the musicians I’m sure – these are songs begging to be recorded (I’m sure many were – for years) and the spirit of it all is encapsulated in the opening brace, first the Neil Young-like riff-strut of To The Sea followed by the happy-joy rocking pop-ditty One For The Road. We have a lot of Lyon’s lyrical tropes lined up in those songs too – there’s a lot of mentions of roads and streets, then stretches of water, geographic markers for distance become metaphorical staples to explore the emotional distance that grows with time.
Here we have the last core singing and songwriting member of Hello Sailor telling us on the rather Spines-esque Harbour Lights “first we stand, then we fall” – is he eulogising his old band? There’s a Dave Dobbyn-like vocal delivery here, it harks back to classic Islander period DD.
Elsewhere the emotions are in connecting to family – or missing them due to distance (Christmas in Dublin) and the album manages the transitions between pretty balladry and more gnarled and chewed country-hued rockers (Johnny Cash) with ease.
It’ an album of so many highlights too – the (late-period) Stones-y haze of Baby Don’t Stop, the simple-pleasure straightforwardness of Missionary. And we can start to hear familiar feels too: Luxury Cargo’s laidback vocal is buoyed by the lapping-tides guitar (and you’re reminded that this is from the same pen as the one that wrote Lyin’ In The Sand all those years ago…)
The happy, hearty tuba and trombones (supplied by Kingsley Melhuish) give I’m Surrounded an almost Harry Nilsson swagger, Dance Me To Hell and Back returns us to straight-ahead pop-rock while the closer, Overtime, goes deep with Ringo Starr drum fills and McCartney/Harrison guitar churn and a glorious arrangement that makes the most of Neil Watson’s pedal steel cameo.
Arriving just in time for the Kiwi summer this is a wonderful album. Lyon’s taking it and a great crew on the road to launch it in style.
And then we’ll have the rest of the summer to drink this in.
I like this medicine!
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