Friday, April 27, 2012

FDF Volume 3 Issue 264 - Men at Work - Cargo

Album - Cargo
Artist – Men at Work
Key Players – Jerry Speiser – drums and backing vocals. Ron Strykert – guitar, backing vocals, lead vocals on”Setttle Down My Boy”. Colin Hay – guitar, lead vocals, synclavier. Greg Ham – flute, keyboard, saxophone, backing vocals, lead vocals on “I Like To”. John Rees – bass and backing vocals.
Produced By - Peter McIan

Release Date – June 28, 1983

What caused me to blow off the dust? - I have to admit, it was the death of Greg Ham Overview - This is the second album from the Australian band “Men at Work”. The album would have four singles released. It was a critical follow up to their massivly popular debut (Business as Usual). Formed in late 1978 the band would toil around some and add members before forming as a “unit” the following year. The bands debut would actually be rejected by the label twice in America, but touring and persistence of the management team had the record released. They'd be rewarded for their hard work and receive the Grammy Award for Best new Artist (A first for an Australian act) in 1983. Cargo was already completed, but held back due to the success of the debut. The band would release another album and disband by 1986.

FDF Comments (aka the songs) - “Dr Heckyll & Mr Jive” opens the record with a slow fade up and a clock bell tower ring. It quickly jumps in and the band finds their poppy bounce. Hay doesn't try to hide his accent and you can quickly hear the strong bass line from Rees. The guitars and drums are all held back some. This was one of the four singles released to radio and it has that sound that fans of their previous ablum would be comfortable with. The band is tight with good harmonies and solid mix on the instruments. There is a short instrumental section before the verse returns as well as an additional run at the chorus. One of the bigger singles “Overkill” follows. This track would peak at #3 on the top 100 (the highest charting single). Ham is a strong component on the track with the sax playing off the drums. Not to be left out though is the solid bass line from Rees and the quick guitar chords from Strykert. Ham has the sax be far more in the front on this track running a few notes at the after the first line of the chorus. Strykert gets a longer electirc guitar solo while the others seem to ease in to the back. After the guitar Ham gets his run at the solo before the verse comes back. Hay sounds great with a nice baritone, but pushes himself up in range after the solo to push the track further. Strykert takes the lead vocal duties on “Settle Down My Boy”. Rees has some bass work more up in the mix. Strykert has a fine lead vocal “voice”. His accent doesn't seem as obvious as the tracks from Hay. The track has a light feel to it with a solid backbeat pushing the band forward. Everyone, again, seems to be comfortable with their roles. Hay and Strykert have a nice section of harmonies before the guitar solo comes in, sounding almost flamenco at times. Ham has a great solo, albeit it very short at the end before the harmonies come in again. A very solid “deep track” with Ham taking off at the end. “Upstairs In My House” is another track with a slower and quiet fade up. It lasts about 30 seconds before Ress and Speiser seem to want to get things moving. As the vocals start its a bit quicker than other tracks, but other than the speed of Hay and Speiser things seem to be the norm for the band. Hay seems to push himself with his range on the chorus and they are short lines, saying on the song title and nothing furher. Upstairs is held for a bit, 16 or more beats worth. Strykert takes a guitar solo that is just the right length, not over playing and keeping things moving. Hay really goes up on the final few runs, a really solid “eye opening” track. Top notch. Strykert plays a few notes and “No Sign of Yesterday” begins. Hay joins in after a few bars, but it just the two of them. After a verse Rees and Speiser join in. The track continues to be slower with the focus on the vocals. The song is nothing too crazy and then suddenly Strykert comes in with a big guitar solo. Its not fast, but the overall sound is sort of that big “dramatic” slow note type solo. Speiser does some big rolls across his kit, and Ham rings out on the sax and even Rees comes along. It sounds like it would be a live set closer, which it may have been? Another one of the bigger singles from the record comes in “It's A Mistake”, this too would crack the top 10 (peak #6). Strykert plays a few short notes before Rees compliments on the bass and then the band all comes in. You can hear the smile in Hay's voice on the track. Rees is rock solid on the bass allowing Strykert to punch out a few strong chords during the chorus. A very solid example of the bands compitence. Excellent choice for a single. “High Wire” is another one of the four singles released. This charted on the “mainstream” chart vs the hot 100. This has more of a big rock sound again, with the full band taking off from the start. Speiser gives the drum kit a good workout and the vocals working with the layers of horns from Ham are solid. Ham starts right up as “Blue For You” begins. We are much more laid back, almost with the reggae feel on the track. It is not bad track, and as it played I just sort of listened. Nothing really strood out. Greg Ham takes the lead vocals on “I Like To”. This has that early 80's sound. That makes little sense when the record you are speaking of came out in 1983, but if you heard for the fist time you'd say “okay what 80's band is this?” Not a band thing to say, it just has that sort of pop and speedy backbeat to move things along. There is an odd guitar solo, mostly high up on the neck. Sounds a little campy but the band seems to gel on it just fine before the solo gets a better direction if you will. The song really seems to speed up and then comes to a crashing finish. The album concludes with “No Restrictions”* This has that big 80's feel as well with the guitar sound and electric drums. Hay's vocals seem to have a little effect thrown in on them. The speed on the track is right up there and the band is all but willing to play along at the speed. Ham has his most “up front” flute solo on this track. It adds a great touch and you want it to be longer. It has a quick tempo change, then it ends.

*there was a re-issue of the album in 2003 which includes 5 additional tracks.

Where are they now? - Extensive touring took a toll on the band. Speiser and Rees were let go by the management and Strykert followed later. The band would dissolve in 1986. Ham and Hay would reform the group and tour in 1996. Strykert released a solo record in 2009 called “Paradise”. Rees is a music teacher in Melbournse. Speiser plays drums for the band “The Afterburner”. Colin Hay has continued to write and perform live as a solo artist. He also played woth Ringo Starr in his All-Star Band. Greg Ham passed away on April 19, 2012.

FDF Personal Comments (aka the Live experience) – I never saw the band live.

FDF Overall Take – I recall in the early days of the compact disc it was hard to find the “less” popular cds. My girlfriend at the time wanted this on cd and we looked at many places. I would ask her “don't you mean you want Business as Usual?” and she'd say “No..I am sure its Cargo that I want”. I couldn't understand it then, but listening now I get it. There are some really strong moments here. Cast off for whatever reasons as just an 80's nostalgia act it is a shame. I've been hearing great things about the solo Colin Hay stuff as well has his shows. I really think its time I smarten up. All that aside, these guys are talented and write a decent song that doesn't sound dated. Well worth tracking their stuff down, its all in the “cheap” bin so treat yourself.

The band on myspace
Colin Hayofficial site

Curious? Check out some MUSIC! Upstairs at My House (Live) before the album was out Upstairs at My House (studio) Highwire (audio only) High Wire (sort of bad audio) official video Overkill (just because/Colin Hay solo acoustic) You can still track down the record here.


At 11:35 PM, Blogger David Woods said...

Not sure if you have seen this solo Colin Hay song from a few years ago? Its a good one.


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