Let me start by saying that the third Coronet Blue album, “Better Day”, is a truly great album. I don’t say that too often and I don’t say it if I don’t mean it. Let me tell you the story behind it.
Remember those bands they used to call supergroups? A bunch of legendary music figures gathering, pooling their talents and creating something that is certainly of the moment – and hopefully enduring. Coronet Blue’s third album is one such project.
John Rooney, Sydney based former singer of The Lonelyhearts, decided that he needed a break from his crazy workload as an orthopaedic surgeon and that a new Coronet Blue album was way, way overdue. Never one to be shy Rooney decided once again to approach a swag on his musical heroes and see if they’d be prepared to contribute to the album. He’d done it before. It had worked. There was no reason not to try it again. People like guitarist Blondie Chaplin (who’d played in those groups you might know of called The Beach Boys and The Rolling Stones) answered the call. As did drummer Anton Fig who’s on too many amazing albums to mention here and a bunch of other extremely talented players such as acclaimed Nashville player Michael Rhodes on bass and keyboardist Arlan Schierbaum (John Hiatt, Joe Bonamassa etc). Also playing drums on some tracks is Herman Matthews who plays with Bonnie Raitt. These are people who know what they’re doing – and don’t have to do anything they don’t want to.
Also coming on board was Australian and now LA-based producer Kevin Shirley whose previous credits include albums by silverchair (frogstomp), Cold Chisel, The Angels, Robert Cray, Metallica, Aerosmith and John Hiatt.
But no matter what the assembled talent is if the songs aren’t there it’s almost inevitably going to be a mediocre (at best) recording session. Thankfully Rooney, who has always been an extraordinarily talented songwriter, turned in the best collection of songs of his career, many of them written with long time associate Tom Watson. And there’s a gem written by Rooney’s long time partner Georgina Johnston. And one song is almost a cover – So Many (Mystery Song) is a dramatic reworking of a song that appeared on Coronet Blue’s self-titled debut in 1999. It was partly written by the late Cold Chisel drummer Steve Prestwich.
For the recording everyone assembled at at Revolver Studios in Thousand Oaks, California (as you do) before moving to Shirley’s The Cave studio in Malibu (also as you do) for mixing.
The result? A totally magnificent collection of Stonesy, blue-eyed soul, pop gems. The Stones influence is clear on a number of songs (without being derivative mind you) but the album also reflects Rooney’s recent musical obsessions – Richard Hawley (a BIG influence), Aimee Mann, The Hold Steady, Paul Carrack, Ron Sexsmith and David Gray. I’d add in Hall & Oates mind you. In the end “Better Day” is a superb merging of blue eyed soul, pop rock, soul rock . . . call it what you want just just call it great songs performed brilliantly. And I should mention that Rooney is becoming a rock’n’roll Sinatra, his voice gaining more depth, strength and emotion as the years go by. He has always been an inspired rock’nroll singer – he’s just getting better. That’s all.
Listening to “Better Day” you’ll hear echoes of all of the aforementioned artists – but you’ll also hear snippets that will make you think The Small Faces, John Lennon, Albert Lee, surf punk, old and new psychedelia, George Harrison, Stax, Big Star. . . you’ll hear so many things but this album sounds like all of those things and none of them at the same time.
“Better Day” oozes class, textures, insights and intelligence, all wound up amidst some sublime musicianship, songs and vocal performances. If the planets continue to align there’s the distinct possibilty that the key members of Coronet Blue will tread the boards in Australia in the first quarter of 2014. In the meantime, immerse yourself in “Better Day”. It is class and spirit from start to finish.
I love this album. You may quote me. In fact, please do.
Stuart Coupe, Lewisham, October 2013