HARRY LYON

Metro Magazine NZ - - Albums -

TO THE SEA

(South­bound)

He’s the only mem­ber of Hello Sailor left stand­ing to sing about it. Ironic, then, that the still­ing of the voices of Dave McArt­ney and Gra­ham Bra­zier should fi­nally give Harry Lyon the chance to use his on To the Sea, his first-ever solo al­bum, at the age of 68.

Lyon did, of course, con­trib­ute to the group’s song list (who could for­get the nos­tal­gic glow of “Lyin’ in the Sand”?) and had his brief mo­ment in the sun with Coup d’Etat and its cod-reg­gae hit, “Doc­tor I Like Your Medicine”. Both of those songs are mi­nor gems, and To the Sea has 12 more of them.

Mu­si­cally, the songs are all over the show, from the roots-ori­ented coun­try-rock of the ti­tle track, to the Bea­tles’ chord pro­gres­sions on sev­eral of the songs, the Spec­tor tropes of “Dance Me to Hell and Back” to the 1950s rock and roll homage, “Baby Don’t Stop”. While the mu­sic might sound like a kalei­do­scope of styles that in­flu­enced through­out his life­time, the lyrics take a leaf from lat­ter-day Hello Sailor: partly nos­tal­gic, but al­ways em­bed­ded in Kiwi cul­ture. Writ­ten over sev­eral decades, they’re songs that name-check lo­cal places and faces but do so with an ease that speaks vol­umes about how far we’ve come from the days of our so­called “cul­tural cringe”.

Packed with sea­soned muso pros — not sur­pris­ing, given Lyon’s long stint at the Mu­sic and Au­dio In­sti­tute of New Zealand, from which he has re­cently re­tired — and pro­duced by ac­claimed song­writ- er De­laney David­son, if To the Sea has a prob­lem, it’s that he lacks a sig­na­ture voice. On a few of the more rock-ori­ented tracks, he takes on a gruff vo­cal per­son­al­ity and ends up sound­ing like an aged Ian Ast­bury, or per­haps more ac­cu­rately, con­tem­po­rary Mark Lane­gan; while on “Mis­sion­ary” (pre­sum­ably en­cour­aged by David­son) he as­sumes that fa­mous “Iggy Pop singing through a mega­phone” ef­fect. Nat­u­rally, on “Johnny Cash” he gets pretty close to mim­ick­ing the coun­try leg­end’s dul­cet tones.

But Lyon is not out to im­press with char­ac­ter so much as to get the best per­for­mances of his songs across, and the songs them­selves fre­quently im­press with their en­cy­clopaedic grasp of rock and pop his­tory. And there’s even a sen­si­bly sen­ti­men­tal song for Yule­tide in the sing-alongable “Christ­mas in Dublin”.

IF YOU LIKE THIS AL­BUM BY THE QUIET MEM­BER OF HELLO SAILOR, HOW ABOUT AN AL­BUM BY THE QUIET GUY FROM THE ROLLING STONES? BILL WY­MAN’S MON­KEY GRIP IS PACKED WITH FUNNY, PRO­FI­CIENT, MI­NOR CLAS­SICS.

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