John Farnham - Whispering Jack
After he left the Little River Band, John Farnham went through something of a rough ride musically. He emerged in 1986 with a new album which was titled after nickname he had once been given. The album was a massive hit in Australia, and is still the biggest selling album by an Australian artist in the country. It resulted in Farnham receiving a good deal of kudos for his work. He is still going, though he seems to have slipped into the comfort of being a lounge singer, one for whom it is obligatory that women adore and shower with their underwear. It was this fact which prompted the New Zealand opera singer, Dame Kiri Te Kanawa, to pull out of a show where the two were scheduled to perform together.
The album begins well enough with "Pressure Down" and "You're The Voice", probably the two best tracks on the album. Certainly, the latter of those two tracks, which was a major hit when it was released as a single, offered a better example of MoR radio rock than many of their contemporaries. There can't be many tracks which make use of electronically generated bagpipes and go on to become big hits. Yet the standard trademarks of the eighties soft rock sound are easily detectable, most notably the heavy-handed sampled drum machine and the gently cooing synthesisers. However, the rest of the album did not really live up to that early promise. Only "A Touch of Paradise" comes close in my view to emulating it. Ultimately, the album is just too formulaic, relying on and constantly repeating the same pattern in each track.
In the end this is little more than transient mid-eighties pop. It might be good in places, but once it fades from view it fades from memory too. It is very much like the fashions of its day - padded shoulders to make an impression, but little of substance underneath them. I suppose that is symptomatic of my lifestyle at the time. Hong Kong, where I was living then, was never a good place to catch new music, especially if it was not of the mainstream, and many albums were hard to come by.
This era was as close as I ever came to a firm musical association with the mainstream. For that reason, I have a few albums in my collection which date from this era and are in this style. I have a soft spot for them all, even if I don't play some of them as much as I might. But this is definitely one of the better ones, one which has stood the test of time remarkably well. And so it will always be associated with a specific time in my life, a time and a place when things were simpler and better for it. For that reason it gets a higher rating than it might otherwise have deserved.
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