Next Year People
Reviewed by: Dan Williams
It’s been thirty-four years since Men At Work hit the airwaves with such classics as “Down Under” and “Who Can It Be Now”. They hit around the same time as The Police and Supertramp. And in many ways, they shared similar sounds. It’s hard to listen to Men At Work’s lead singer Colin Hay and not think of Sting, and vice versa. They shared bits of reggae, world beats and vocal patterns. They also shared a vocal affectation which made them sound as if they were from somewhere other than their native U.K. Hay is from Scotland and Sting is from England.
Fast forward to today and the performances and voices of both Sting and Hay have mellowed into something different. They can still hold their own with world class pop song writing and delivery, but no longer need the quirky production values. They have matured in both song writing and delivery. They sing in clear voices of their own. And that’s a nice thing.
Colin Hay’s 12th solo album, Next Year People, is a beautifully written collection of pop songs. They feel comfortable, lived in and are instantly accessible. His small band includes San Miguel Perez and Yosmel Montejo, recent arrivals from Cuba, and Larry Goldings (piano), Jeff Babko (B3), and Hay’s wife Cecilia Noel on vocals.
The leadoff single is “Trying To Get To You”. It begins with a classic guitar line and Beatlesque rhythmic hand claps. It could be sung by many of his contemporaries from Paul McCartney to Jimmy Buffett, but feels just about perfect in Hays’ soft sandy voice. Hay has spent a number of years touring with Ringo Starr. One can’t help but wonder if some of those songs influenced this sweet little gem.
The title song begins as an acoustic folk song and is full of hope, imagined or real. It has a maritime feel to it and is sung in a world-weary voice. Colin Hay: “There is never any intentional theme to my records. The song “Next Year People” is based on the farmers in the depression doing the same thing each year and expecting a different result. I can relate, although their situation was so much more bleak. They still had hope in their hearts.”
As in Men At Work, there are some tropical influences, especially rhythmically, but more as gentle spice to the recipe rather than becoming overpowering. These are contemporary but timeless pop and folk pieces that work very nicely in a collection or individually.