22 of 23 people found the following review helpful
on 15 April 2008
This is an extraordinarily beautiful piece of work, and I think it has to be heard like that, almost as a continuous suite of songs, not something that can be dipped into a track here and another there. It's the sound of a mature man counting his blessings and at the same time mourning the death of one of his dearest friends, and it contains some of the warmest and saddest words this fine lyricist has ever written. I love its sound, the rich simplicity of instrumentation, from that first confident flickery twitch of a Forsterian guitar riff at the beginning to that elegiac, lilting piano motif at the end, and I love especially the amazing tenderness in his voice, especially on Demon Days, and the way he sings "baby" in the title track...I think it's the most honest, humane, deeply felt album any of us will have heard, or will hear, for a long long time
15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
Completely agree with the reviewer who cites The Go Betweens and The Triffids as the greatest Australian musical exports of the 1980,s -though I would add Nick Cave in there as well. The Go Betweens always had two distinct styles for me. Robert Forsters songs were more angular and difficult to get a handle on -though they mostly rewarded any effort made to get beneath their skin. Grant McLennan though was just an effortlessly brilliant song writer, to my mind as good as Paul McCartney or Brian Wilson in that he just seemed to have an instinctive knack for conjuring beguiling and memorable songs. "Cattle And Cane" , Streets Of Your Town ", the wondrous "Quiet Heart" or "Haven,t I Been A Fool" from his magnificent debut solo album "Watershed".
It's no surprise that Robert Forsters first solo album since McLennan,s tragically premature death at the age of 48 is suffused with the spirit of the man who Forster calls "My best male fiend and my working partner". Three of the songs on the album "Demon Days" , "Let Your Light In Babe" and "It Ai,nt Easy" were started by McLennan and completed by Forster including some of the lyrics. Demon Days was the most complete, with a chorus and five lines written of the first verse; the other two songs, "Let Your Light In, Babe"and "It Ain,t Easy", had chorus lyrics only. For "Let Your Light In," he constructed a narrative that had come to him after reading a 19th-century poem of erotic romance set in a church.
Does it sound too sentimental to say that these three songs are the best things on the album? Possibly but that,s the way I feel ."Demon Days" is one of the most purely beautiful songs McLennan has written .(He was so excited about it he called Forster over to his place to give him a sneak preview) It has a gorgeous quartet string arrangement by Audrey Riley who worked with the Go Betweens on "Liberty Belle And The Black Diamond Express" and is the most poignant track helped considerably by Forsters unusually sensitive vocal .Go-Betweens bassist Adele Pickvance and drummer Glen Thompson are also featured on the album . "Let Your Light In Babe" has an infectious glistening mandolin melody and shuffling percussion while "It Ai,nt Easy" glory,s in sprightly guitar and pirouetting violin.
The Forster songs meanwhile vary in quality though all are worth hearing . "From Ghost Town" is a truly lovely piano led ballad with plangent strings and cooing female vocal backing ."Lets move on, it,s gone" he sings though you get the feeling it won,t be that easy for him. The title track has another swooning string arrangement with crystalline guitar while album opener "If It Rains" is ushered in on a Casio drone and carefully plucked nylon string guitar and Forsters most typically austere vocal. "Did She Overtake You" bundles along on infectious electric and bass guitar . The lack of percussion on the album is most noticeable on more lightweight tracks like "Pandanus" and "A Place To Hide Away" so the sudden thump of the drums and fat Hammond organ of "Don,t Touch Anything " come as a welcome vivid surprise.
There is no doubt that for those of us who loved GW McLennan,s work our opinion of this album is coloured somewhat by his death. But that,s only right, after all Robert Forsters song writing is coloured by it too , but even more so. Robert Forster is often cited as writing from a cerebral standpoint but with The Evangelist he has written from the heart. He should do it more often , it suits him . Consequently this is the album that most recalls his mate McLennan ....how very apt
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
The Go Betweens and The Triffids were, for me, Australia's greatest musical exports of the 1980s. The core of the Go-Betweens was the songwriting partnership of Grant McLennan and Robert Forster, who together created a run of fantastic albums of (gulp) literate guitar indie pop through the 1980s, topped by the brilliant 16 Lovers Lane. When the Go-Betweens split, McLennan and Forster each continued to release pleasing and enjoyable solo albums that never quite hit the heights of their work as Go-Betweens. Like Lennon and McCartney (and oddly 'McLennan' seems to embrace both those names) the pair were characterised as having distinctive styles; McLennan was seen as the softer, more personal writer with Forster being more acerbic and tart. Putting it simpler still McLennan wrote from the heart (exemplary track: Cattle and Cane) and Forster from the head (exemplary track: Part Company). Like most generalisations this is too simplistic but it is suggestive that when Forster and McLennan re-formed The Go-Betweens their combined strengths helped to provide the balance and rigour occasionally missing from the solo albums. We, the lucky listeners, were treated to a short run of new Go-Betweens albums that each improved on the last. Their final collaboration, Oceans Apart in 2005, was critically hailed and appreciated by fans at the time. Retrospectively, with the death of Grant MacLennan last year,it now has to serve as a (fortunately fitting) summary and conclusion to their career.
Robert Forster's latest album of course cannot help but be shadowed by McLennan's passing. Presumably both were going to continue as The Go-Betweens, as a handul of the tracks here incorporate some of Grant McLennan's lyrics. Whatever the intention, The Evangelist is a Forster solo album which addresses this tragic event and which in the process provides some balm for our souls. Forster is bruised (acknowledging that "something's not right, something's gone wrong") but trying to create good from misfortune if you can only learn to look at it the right way: "If it rains we won't let it run away". The tone is mainly rueful and melancholic. The lyrics are by and large direct, straightforward and affecting, the tunes and arrangements plaintive and unadorned. The quality of the songs make an appropriate tribute to his much missed friend. If you loved The Go-Betweens and were hit by McLennan's death then you will need no urging to get this album. But get your hanky ready.
on 12 August 2010
This 2008 album was Robert Forster's first solo album in 12 years. It should have been a Go-Betweens album, but for the death of Grant McLennan. It's very much in the vein of the post-reformation Go-Betweens albums, and can definitely stand beside them.
Opening track If It Rains is a pretty calm, slow number, in the vein of the Velvet Underground's Pale Blue Eyes (especially the guitar solo in the middle). The playing on this is really pretty, and it has an air of a lost Lou Reed classic, and even the storm sounds towards the end work well.
Demon Days which follows is the centrepiece. Written with Grant McLennan a few days before his death, it displays a hitherto unheard Neil Young influence, sounding like an instant classic, which would fit in seamlessly on any of Young's more acoustic albums. Forster sounds like a worldly wise Neil Young on his vocals with a simple chorus of "something's not right, something's gone wrong", as the music becomes ever more lovely, with the guitars joined by violin, cello and even celeste. Despite this, it's a beautifully simple song.
Pandanus picks up the pace a bit with a simple jangly guitar/bass/drums arrangement and arrives in time to stop the album from sinking in a sea of morbidity with some particularly fine guitar on this one. Did She Overtake You follows in a very similar vein, also uptempo before the pace slows again with the title track. This one is a classic dreamer type song, about taking a girl "out of her world and put her into mine... let's sail away baby, please try and follow me". Later there's a lovely image about how "she drove a Golf white diesel... she took me into her world of parks and wooden seats". Indeed it's these little details that make this romantic song work, without them it would probably be fairly unremarkable.
Let Your Light In, Babe and It Ain't Easy were also worked on with McLennan, and are kind of countryish skiffles, with the former featuring jaunty mandolin. But the final track From Ghost Town is another tear-jerker, again in the vein of Neil Young, with plaintive piano. The lyrics however are all Forster, presumably singing about McLennan: "and he knew more than I knew, and I hated what he hated too", and also "it's gone, yes yes yes it's wrong". It's deeply sad, yet goose-bump inducing and is then punctuated by a Neil Young style harmonica at the end. It could have been mawkish and sentimental but it's handled with self-deprecation and sensitivity. It's powerful stuff.
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 26 June 2008
I agree that Robert Forster should write and sing from the heart more , it does suit him. Obviously listening to someone you have revered all your adult life bareing their heart so honestly is going to grab a fan like me.
I didn't think I was especially sentimental about Grant , he clearly didn't think much of himself, despite his talents as a songwriter, carrying his personal fight to believe he could be loved throughout his life. And I used to find that a little irritating if I'm honest, like - 'god's sake man, you're the real deal, get over yourself !' .... and his songs , although often truly brilliant in structure and melody , could stray into saccharrine sweet. I also got the impression he was trying to recapture early poetic glories such as 'wrong road' , 'palm sunday' ( one of my all time favourite songs ) and 'bye bye pride' and he was frustrated he couldn't quite get there again. Only my opinion obviously.
Forster on the other hand, is simply in love with pop music for the sheer joy of it and unencumbered by such baggage. He could still frustrate by the inclusion of too many repetitive lines and tunes amongst the flashes of, dare I say it , genius. Playing 'born to a family' followed by 'too much of one thing' at recent gigs, practically the same song, and not a very good one either, when you know he could be playing something great instead .....
So - the Evangelist. I told myself I wouldn't cry, was gripped by the throat 20 seconds from the end of Track one Side one ( as Robert would delight in putting it )
blubbing helplessly right through track 2 ( it's good to have good cry though sometimes , no ? )
now then , track 3 ..... here's some optimistic grateful-for-the-wonderful-world sunset healing stuff .... I'm feeling a bit better .... gaaah cried again ....
wishing Robert luck and happiness , and thanking him for making this genuinely heartfelt and honest album. Some really good songs too !
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 30 April 2008
I guess every Robert Forster fan is also a Go-betweens fan.
As is well documented Forster and the late Grant Mclennan had very differing styles of writing, perhaps unusually so to be accommodated for so long within a successful and friendly partnership, and band.
While Mclennan wrote many songs that I love, and even possibly more of the moving, heart-rending ones at that, Forster for me always had the edge.
The main reason, I think, was and still is his extaordinary uniqueness as an artist. Like so few others by this time in the game (at pushing 50) he remains vital and inspiring; never yet to repeat himself.
This album came with very high expectations, and exceeded them.
On first hearing it through every track delighted, and following tens of listens it has also stood up better than the other Forster solo albums, to be one of the very best albums I've heard in years.
It is perhaps partly due to the amount of Forster's (unusually) earnest and direct sentiments within. Obviously the passing of his closest friend factors highly through the subject matter - though not exclusively - and those songs are indeed beautiful, sensitive tributes.
Knowing Forster as we do, it is not surprising that honesty prevails here, and a palpable willingness to allow the influence of his late songwriting partner to come through as never before in his solo work.
Whilst Mclennan's actual contributions here bear the hallmark of the man melodically, he did not write many of the words in the final lyrics - and Forster has built respectfully and sympathetically around what there was (3 of these songs were started by McLennan, but barely in terms of lyrics).
One feels assured that Grant would have approved of the final results.
Production-wise it couldn't be better. A sublime treatment of arrangement, recording clarity, instrumentation and mix. It is not "acoustic" overall (as one or 2 media reviews have suggested) but is definately not over-adorned; featuring as it does beautiful string arrangements, Dylanesque use of piano and Hammond organ, and some gorgeous backing harmonies. There is also a good measure of Forster's recognisable guitar work, without which we'd be disappointed!
There is a theme of "perspective" on this album, with Forster more sombre and reflective than usual.
However, It is his take on this as ever which creates a massive and permanent grin at times, such as in "Don't Touch Anything" (a true Forster classic) with lines such as "Life is art. Art is life. But have you met my wife?..."
The final track "From Ghost Town" is mesmerising, and brings the tears. It also features the best harmonica refrain ever, by Forster or anyone else.
I'll confidently and proudly push this album at everyone I know - even if I've bored them stiff already with my obsession with Forster/Go-b's - and I'd tell them to read the lyrics along with it.
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 2 July 2009
This is a bit like a retro Go-Betweens album or the Friends of Rachel Worth without the production. The funny thing about their joint collaborations was that GM's songs were the catchier and better crafted songs. As soloists, his work was the weaker IMHO. This is simply a very moving album but I suspect that knowing why makes it good and it will never be highly regarded or recognised by others. I suppose that is the Go-Betweens in a nutshell really........
1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 14 April 2009
GRANT IS FOR ME THE BEST, BUT IN MY OPINION IT'S THE BEST ROBERT'S SOLO PROJECT.I'M VERY GLAD IT'S BRILLIANT,SMART MUSIC.PLEASE MORE DEAR ROBERT.
2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 28 June 2008
As an ageing Go-Betweens afficionado from the 80-s I always struggled to warm to Robert's solo albums. This though is something else and a very pleasant surprise - the best album I've bought this year.