Hidden Things worth looking for
Paul Kelly and the Messengers
Mushroom through Festival RecordsAvailable on CD and Cassette
Reviewed by Deb Sorensen
If you're a Paul Kelly devotee and have most of his albums, you would have heard most of the songs on Hidden Things. But don't let that stop you listening to it.
As Paul Kelly says in the liner notes, none of these particular recordings, apart from two, has appeared on other albums. The word "recordings" is a little misleading. As you read through the song titles just remember that he is making a distinction between songs and recordings.
Even so, just as with every other Paul Kelly album I have, this one has become a favourite.
Kelly is a very good songwriter who has avoided just churning out "pop" music. His lyrics are meaningful and from the heart.
He has written among the best songs protesting the oppression of Aboriginal Australians. "Special Treatment" was composed in response to claims by a Western Australian pastoralist that Aborigines receive better treatment than other Australians. Kelly's song wryly spells out what that the special treatment has actually meant.
His commitment to Aboriginal rights goes beyond writing and performing his own songs. Hidden Things includes the lovely "Yil Lull" written by Joe Geia and performed with Friends and Relations. "Yil Lull", which means "sing" in the Gugugimidhir language from the Cooktown area, is an anthem for black Australia. "Rally Around the Drum", co-written by Archie Roach and Kelly, and Kev Carmody's "Elly" also feature on the album.
Kelly also does a version of Woody Guthrie's "Pastures and Plenty" — the best and most atmospheric of songs about the Great Depression.
What I love most about Paul Kelly is that he can write songs which are close to the experiences and feelings of so many Australians without ever becoming jingoistic or banal. He gets a big helping hand from the Messengers, a great band. I saw them accompany Michelle Shocked when she came to Sydney last year and she couldn't have got a better backing band. So impressed was Michelle Shocked during that tour she has included the Messengers on her latest album.
Like all Paul Kelly's albums, this is definitely worth looking for. Yil Lull!