Colin Hay Gathering Mercury on 180g LP + Download
Colin Hay may be best known as the lead singer for Men At Work, the platinum selling Australian band that topped worldwide charts in the 80s with anthems like “Down Under,” “Overkill,” and “Who Can It Be Now?” Hay’s justifiably proud of his place in pop history, but since moving to Los Angeles in 1989, he’s made 11 solo albums and is confident that Gathering Mercury is the best of the lot.
“These are some of the strongest songs I’ve ever written,” Hay says from his home studio in the hills of Topanga Canyon. “The loss of my father last year brought an unavoidable emotional contingent to writing and recording. I don’t have a definitive belief in an afterlife, but I do feel like I had his help when I was working on this album, especially alone late at night, in the studio.”
Hay recorded and produced the ten songs on Gathering Mercury in his home studio, with the help of drummer Randy Cooke, bassist Joe Karnes, and guitarist Sean Woostenhulme, from his touring band and friends like bass player Jimmy Earl and pianist Jeff Babko from Jimmy Kimmel’s band, drummer Charlie Paxson, Cuban percussionist Luis Conte (Madonna, Ray Charles) and his wife Cecilia Noel on backing vocals. The arrangements feature Hay’s quizzical, instantly recognizable tenor supported by acoustic instruments and melodic electric guitar accents. The album was beautifully mixed by long time friend and composer/producer Chad Fischer.
“Send Somebody,” the album’s first single, was co-written with guitarist/songwriter Michael Georgiades, who provides not only the main chord structure, but the understated solo that sets up the song’s touching bridge. The hypnotic pop melody is augmented by Fisher’s work on piano, xylophone and drums. The tune was inspired by a late night phone conversation. “You call tech support one night around midnight and actually get a human being on the line,” Hay explains. “The unexpected connection with a stranger is often easier to make than one with people you know. It brings up the longing for connection we all feel."
“Dear Father” is a poignant celtic folk-like tune with Hay’s 12-string guitar and melancholy vocal taking center stage. Cellist Oliver Kraus overdubbed the burnished string section. “This song was written and recorded almost instantaneously, a gift from beyond, if you will. The night my father died, I was in Glasgow on the river Clyde, about 20 streets away from where he was born. There’s some kind of bleak poetry in that, very bleak.”
“Far From Home” has the reggae lilt of a contemporary Men At Work tune. Jeff Babko’s Hammond B3, Cook’s inspired drum part, and Hay’s rhythm guitar add to the melody’s hypnotic feel. “I don’t know if it’s reggae as such,” Hay says. “But when I play electric guitar, the rhythm I feel is on the offbeat. It’s my natural default.”
Other standouts include Michael Georgiades’ “Half a Million Angels,” with sublime performances by all; the darkly humorous “A Simple Song,” which deals with the complexities of long term relationships with Hay on mandola and the buoyant vaudeville tune “Where the Sky Is Blue,” a song Hay imagined his father singing to his mother before they married.
The tunes on Gathering Mercury are deeply affecting, but never maudlin. Despite the often serious subject matter, they’re full of optimism. “It’s not a conscious thing and may have to do with the Scottish mentality. We deal with darkness by shining a light on it. It doesn’t diminish the charge of the feeling, it just makes it easier to deal with.”
Colin Hay Gathering Mercury Track Listing:
1. Send Somebody
2. Family Man
4. Dear Father
5. Gathering Mercury
6. Half A Million
7. Far From Home
8. Where The Sky Is Blue
9. A Simple Song
10. Goodnight Rom