Colin Hay, best known for his role as the singer for the immensely popular Australian pop rock band Men At Work (“Down Under”, “Who Can It Be Now?” and “Overkill”) is back with a new solo album – Next Year People. It is crafty, well constructed and seemingly quite introspective. Produced by Hay and mixed by music producer and film and TV composer Chad Fischer, Next Year People includes stunning contributions from two immensely talented Cuban musicians, San Miguel Perez and Yosmel Montejo as well as Larry Goldings, Jeff Babko, Charlie Paxson, Jimmy Branly, Michael Georgiades, and Colin’s wife, vocalist Cecilia Noel.
Similar to his previous release, 2011’s Gathering Mercury – Hay offers up a solid mix of simple acoustic and lyrically complex tracks. However, this latest installment of Hay’s catalog – finds a seemingly happier man singing behind the microphone and strumming the guitar. These new songs are beautiful and thought provoking. Highlights from the album include the Scottish influenced title track, the whimsy “Scattered In The Sand”, lyrically vivid “Mr. Grogan” and the moving bonus track “Are We There Yet?”
If you’re expecting to hear songs similar to Men At Work’s greatest hits from Business As Usual or Cargo, don’t bother. But, it should be noted that Hay started a solo career playing acoustic guitar and singing long before establishing the pop band that made vegemite sandwiches a household name. His song writing was and has been the cornerstone of Men At Work’s success and has supported about a dozen solo albums to date. Spin the title track and get swept away in the finger picking and optimistic lyrics, “Next year, everything will come good/The rains they’ll all fall and we’ll dance on the hood/We’ll fill up our bellies with plentiful food/We’ll eat, drink and be merry”. The sitar infused into the mystical “Scattered In The Sand” is a nice touch and quite possibly a nod to one of Hay’s greatest influences – The Beatles.
“Mr. Grogan” is an intense story. It’s lyrics “Sometimes his tidy mind, it wanders and remembers/and all he once knew is all gone/His slip is silent/as he falls and hits the sidewalk/and leaves a small stain in the snow” are so explicit and graphic that it paints quite a moving image in the listener’s imagination. Hay reaches for the heart and turns on the water works in “Are We There Yet”. Though it’s easy to go ahead and assume whom the muse may be for this track, it may be good to remember that it could be written with just about anyone in mind and to let it relate to someone that has personal meaning to you. The chorus itself is classic Hay, with his knack of pulling at the heart’s strings, “And you’d say/Are there yet?/as we drive into the sun/We are almost there my love/my innocent one”.
When Colin Hay performs live, he often shares many personal stories and sometimes the stories behind his songs. It will be interesting to see and hear which songs Hay decides to perform from Next Year People. He is a true master of his craft and his hard work should be recognized.