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Paul Brady : Nobody Knows

REVIEW: Paul Brady: Nobody Knows
3.9.2002 by Sean

Paul Brady: Nobody Knows (The Best of Paul Brady) [Compass Records, 2001]

Two words? Celtic Journeyman

Paul Brady has been around since the sixties, first playing in bands like The Johnstons and Planxty, before embarking on a solo career in the seventies. This album spans the three decades since and includes both old and new recordings of his favorite songs. Mr. Brady's songs have been covered by the likes of Joe Cocker, Tina Turner, and Trisha Yearwood, but here he has chosen to leave out some of his more proliferated works ("Helpless Heart", "Steel Claw") in favour of others. The style of music ranges from traditional Irish ditties to bluesy rock to what we might have in the Eighties called 'contemporary', with layers upon layers of synthesizers.

Mr. Brady presents an opus that is well varied and highlights his ability to stay relevant. He is an accomplished musician, usually playing several instruments (guitars and keyboards mostly) on each recording. His tin whistle playing is also a nice touch here and there.

The music in and of itself, however, is fairly generic and reminds me of the more interesting works of his contemporaries. The title track, for instance, is reminiscent and approaches the works of Peter Gabriel and Sting, yet falls short when the listener feels the song is going nowhere. The second track, "The World is What You Make It" is a foot-stompin' bar tune with fancy licks, but like the first is fairly uninteresting.

His best works here are the piano-based songs, stripped-down of all the synthesizers, electric guitars and programmed beats that sterilize his compositions. "The Lakes of Pontchartrain" is a well-rendered arrangement of a traditional Celtic tune featuring the aforementioned tin whistle, and of particular note is "The Island", a love song, sweet and without pretension.

Mr. Brady has crafted nice songs but as a whole they lack that hook that would make them memorable. He will remind you in turns of Eric Clapton, The Rembrandts, and the band you saw at the Old Dublin last week, but ultimately it feels like Mr. Brady has more potential than comes through on this album. Let's hope his best is yet to come.

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