There are music legends who keep touring, churning out slightly ragged ‘hits and memories’, pushing sonic limits to reach the high notes of yesteryear … and then there’s an exclusive club that’s home to the real deal. Joe Camilleri is a paid-up member of the latter. Loved him with the Falcons, both back in the day and gloriously resurrected on a more recent bill with Elvis Costello. Costello’s a major longtime fan. Me too.
Among the bands the sax man has fronted, The Black Sorrows are similarly iconic after three decades. Camilleri’s enduring songwriting partnership with Nick Smith has produced another extraordinary clutch of songs, making Certified Blue one of the finest albums in the band’s catalogue. The usual blend of rhythm & blues, soul, gospel and rock ’n’ roll is instantly likeable.
Camilleri’s vocals are as strong and soulful as they were in the pub rock days of yore. And it ain’t down to digital tweaking – he sounded as good at an intimate in-store gig a few weeks ago. On opening song ‘Roarin’ Town’ (title of a previous album), those distinctive pipes allow a shade of Bob Dylan in. The track also features John McAll’s piano and a quirky carnivale interlude.
Fifties soul comes out to step and sway on ‘Call Me a Fool’ and the title track. A classic Sorrows a cappella intro launches ‘Save Me’. ‘Wake Me Up in Paradise’ is likewise countrified, while Mr Costello might already be considering a cover of ‘Lovers Waltz’. ‘Return of the Voodoo Sheiks’ is a rockabilly shuffle, while reminiscent of ‘Daughters of Glory’.
Glorious layers of horns, rhythms, strings, keys and backing vocals abound. A splash of flute and pedal steel don’t go astray either. Croutons on the salad. White walls on the Caddy. It’s like old mates dropping in to show off a new set of wheels: always welcome.
By Chris Lambie