“AGEING WITH ATTITUDE” – an overview by Jackie Hayden (Hot Press)
There’s a hugely popular modern poem called ‘Warning’ written by Jenny Joseph. Its narrator is warning people that when she grows old she’ll feel free to do all sorts of unseemly things, like wearing purple with a red hat, eating three pounds of sausages and running her stick along public railings for the sheer hell of it.
Ageing With Attitude, Tommy Keyes’ fifth album of all original songs, is born of the same indomitable spirit and a refusal to conform to social expectations, although I don’t think he’s that fond of sausages.
But he is fond of crafting a raft of classy songs that roam widely across the mainstream genres of pop, rock and his first love, rock’n’roll. The songs and the playing on this collection, led by his gutsy voice and deft keyboards, rebound off the popular musical movements of the last seven decades and are filtered through his own sonic innovations and the production values we expect of hot modern recordings.
That Keyes is well tuned into to what’s happening out there is proven by the fact that the week he finalised the track listing for Ageing With Attitude the 79-year-old Bob Dylan was topping the US charts with a single lasting 17 minutes.
But as Keyes puts it in that title-song, “I don’t mean to act rude, but I can’t stand platitudes. So don’t expect too much gratitude if you show me too much latitude … I’ve earned the right to a bad-ass mood”. Talk about ageing! Talk about attitude!
As with the Dylan hit, the subject matter of Keyes’ striking songs invariably spring from real life, from the aching teenage confusion of ‘Seventeen’ to the life-affirming determination of the title track. Indeed, listeners of a certain age could use the album as a soundtrack for a personal trip back through the seven ages of man (and woman).
Evoking the energetic spirit of Chuck Berry, ‘Born In 1955’ nods to the era that first inspired him to set out on his musical adventures, and there’s a lively brashness about ‘Tightrope’ too. ‘Go With You’ has the kind of light-hearted swoonsome swagger that Paul McCartney does so well, as does this man.
In contrast, the delicious ‘From The Bottom To The Top’ reflects the dreamier, more romantic side of the 24-carat Dubliner, as does the nostalgic ‘Grafton St 1979’ with its depiction of an unforgettable night out. The breadth of his musical vision comes through in ‘Listen To The Rain’ which could almost be a meeting of musical poets Rod McKuen and Van Morrison, while there’s a more modern feel in the Bruce Springsteen-lite ‘Billy’s Song (The Next Big Thing)’ lamenting the unwelcome changes time brings upon us all, even the most starry-eyed young rockers.
Of seventeen songs in all, almost half of them come with strings arranged by Rob Molumby that supply warmth and musical zest, most notably on the reflective ‘The Butterfly Net’. The album ends with ‘One of These Days’, its optimistic future-looking lyric proving Tommy’s still crazy after all these years. Ageing With Attitude also comes with a comical cover design by Ken Drakeford that shows how Tommy has retained his acute sense of humour despite the passing of time.
Keyes’ unerring musical instincts are further underpinned by a band of experienced and equally inventive musicians. They include his core unit of Dick Farrelly on guitars and bass, Gerard Farrelly on drums, Richie Buckley on sax and Ellen O’Mahony on backing vocals. Notable guest spots include the backing vocals by the award-winning Thomas Walsh (Pugwash) who also contributed a striking Beach Boys vocal arrangement to ‘Listen To the Rain’. Tommy produced the album himself, apart from ‘From The Bottom To The Top’ which was helmed by Ellen O’Mahony, while Michael Heffernan handled the sound and mixing.
All in all, Ageing With Attitude is a work that’s more than the sum of its parts, a fitting addition to Keyes’ impressive catalogue. So when you listen to it, listen with attitude!
Facebook Review by Gavin James Beere (promoter of The Nerano Sessions) February 2020
Tommy Keyes is an eclectic pianist/singer/song writer, with phenomenal stage presence.
Expressing upbeat, jazz/folk/rock musical fusions through his great, original songs.
Tommy’s lyrics describe relatable experiences, advice and lessons learned which he has garnered throughout his lifetime, topped off with a high energy performance that will leave you tapping your feet.
10/10 – would highly recommend Tommy.
“TEMPTATION ONCE AGAIN” reviewed on www.musicfromtheheart.eu by Jana Vondrušová JULY 2019
The new album includes the single Christmas Eve in Dublin and 14 new songs, featuring his warm bluesy vocal and piano playing, along with a superb array of musicians including renowned saxophonist Richie Buckley and guitarist Dick Farrelly, along with a string quartet.
The opening track with the clever title Just A Simple Love Song and its pleasant bluesy feel with steady drumbeat, repetitive motive on the piano and a saxophone without which a blues wouldn’t be a blues, sets the tone for the record. Romantic indeed but not too sweet.
Snakes and Ladders is another gentle song dealing and with a relationship. Ellen O’Mahony’s vocal is as clear as day and simply elevates the track to the next level.
It Wouldn’t Be Me seems to be asking the eternal question – are we gonna stay who we are or are we gonna change for the sake of our partner?
“I can change if you want me to
I can be anyone you’d like me to be
But it wouldn’t be me“
One of the highlights on the album is Brimful in my soul, powerful song based on what Padraig MacMahon (who also sings backing vocals on the track) told Tommy about the life as a young musician. Sharp lyrics so many can surely relate to.
” School is over now, all my friends are college bound
Making plans for big careers and settling down
I know that’s not for me, I got a different destiny
There’s a music in my soul, got to set it free“
It seems like Tommy Keyes picked up where he left off years ago. These songs are not only a great soundtrack to long summer nights but also makes your ears pay attention to some issues either relationships, society or musicians might have.
“AN IRISH LIFE ” & “TEMPTATION ONCE AGAIN” REVIEWED ON thisdrinkinglife.com JUNE 2019
The first album is Tommy reminiscing about the olden days, the time he was growing up as a wee lad, the teenage years of angst and rock music, gigging around the country, the monotony of a working stiff, and the equal pleasures and sadness of seeing his daughters grow up and then leave home. Basically it’s the story of Tommy’s life in music, and in poetic form sang with passion and feeling. The soundtrack to his life in all its glory and wonder, just like the lives of his fellow compatriots, a life not too separated from what so many were going through in Ireland at the time, an Irish life we all know so well.
The album is cleverly set up into 4 parts: Spring, Summer, Autumn and, finishing with Winter. Showing the various stages of life in music form, hot stepping it as a young nipper in spring, football in the summer, sad reflections in autumn, and get togethers around the family tree at Christmas.
From the beginning we are brought into the life of a dreamer, “I was there” is the first track, taking us back to the days of late night clubs and old gigs, the craic was great and the fun Tommy had………..”Those were crazy days, I know cause I was there”, all played out to the beat of an old style light rock tempo just like what was heard back in the day. Great start, sets us up nicely, gets us in the mood…………
“Happy days” is another cracker of a tune, love it. This time Tommy goes back even further, to the excitement he had as a young nipper acting out make believe scenes as a cowboy, football superstar, or 007, like we all did when we were kids. Happy days indeed. “In our field of dreams we’ll be football teams, we’ll take to the pitch in the green shirt of Ireland, win every match on the way to the final”. Great, makes me wonder do the young ones these days, what with their Iphone and Ipads, have the same amount of fun we had when we were young, somehow I doubt it. The backing vocals on this track provided by Ellen and Cian O’Mahony are excellent, and what makes the song stand out. There is also a nice guitar solo, from Dick Farrelly, midway through the track, just to remind you of Tommy’s rock credentials!
The soft rock and easy listening continues with the next tune, “Landscape Park”, again about childhood memories, again about football in the park, “Kick a football until dark”. Something tells me Tommy, was a keen footballer and perhaps music was not his first love!
“SmallTown Superstars”, track 4, goes off on a little tangent, more of a country twang to this song, pretty upbeat and chirpy, and another guitar solo from Mr Dick Farrelly, perhaps highlighting the mix of the showband and the new music coming from across the water, “We were children of the 50’s, we grow up with rock n roll”, before Tommy and his mates had a band themselves and while making all the local newspapers, they “were small town superstars”, for a while at least living the dream.
After the upbeat start Tommy slows it down a bit for the next few songs, a more soulful, more soothing collection of memories. “In Dublin” is about emigration, a subject I think most Irish people are only too well aware of, “We’re climbing slowly in the sky, never look behind, leaving on our own, America, Australia, we’re never coming home!”, while “Long Distance Call” is another reminder of the ways things were pre internet or pre skype when calling from afar. A call home, to loved ones, “On Bondi Beach on Christmas day the sky is clear, I just called to say I’m fine”. The backing vocals create an air of sadness and shows how distance does indeed make the heart grow fonder.
Tommy’s life has settled down as shown in the next few tracks, as a working man in “Sleep She Said“, a “cog in the wheel in a lifetime of service, when morning comes I do it all again!”, all played out with a lovely melody on the guitar. He has grown up and now has a young child, “Slowdown World“, it is a “Slowdown world for me and my girl”. track 8, mid life, mid album.
We then move onto my favourite track of the album and the song that got me into Tommy’s music, “Richmond Nights”, an ode to time spent watching St Patrick’s Athletic as a young lad, “Hand in hand, the boy and man walk to the terraced shed, find some space and take their place among the sea of red”, excellently setting out the scene of footballing seeds taking root. Tommy later sings about continuing this family tradition with his daughter, “in years to come, one will hold tight to his hand, when she’s allowed to join the crowd”. I love the way Tommy expertly shows through this song, what football is all about, the love of the game passed down, generation to generation. This is what it’s all about, the passion of the beautiful game, all highlighted perfectly in “Richmond Nights”.
More beautiful poetry in the next track, song 10, “Bloom”, another slow number, this time a song to his daughter, the memories of her growing up, and now she is in adulthood, “The rose is in bloom”. “Souvenirs” follows in the same vein, “A baby tooth, a tattered teddy bear, a lock of golden hair”. By the time we get to “Dust In My Eye”, we see his daughter has grown up, “I am standing in terminal two, handing your suitcase to you”, as she prepares to travel abroad. In “Shooting Stars”, he hopes she will return, “near or far, please be here for Christmas”. All these songs are slow numbers, one follows the other, a father showing his love for his children in music form. Anyone that is a parent can empathise with this passion from the heart.
“An old Irish song” is a number with some traditional music included, there is a bodhran, the tin whistle, a fiddle, even some As Gaeilge sung beautifully by Ellen O’Mahony and Carla Ryan. One of my favourite tracks, as it is hard to get an original traditional tune right, but Tommy does it just fine. The song is about where his mother taught.
The last track, “New Years Eve”, highlights the ending of the year, a time when we are all together as a family, and the album comes full circle, a pleasant conclusion to the life and times of Tommy Keyes. It starts like it will be a version of Auld Lang Syne but with a touch of Dublin soul. “Here we are again in New Years Eve around the family tree”. A fitting end to a great album.
I enjoyed this album a lot and in some sense it is good that Tommy has returned to music but this time without the pressures of trying to “make it” or the endless hassle of meeting album deadlines and doing gigs for self promotion. Now that Tommy has lived, his music shows a more soulful reflective mood, easy going and with a wonderful poetic style of writing easy for the listener to follow and partake in. It is a good album and one to listen to again and again.
Two years after “An Irish Life” Tommy returns with “Temptation Once Again”, another easy listening collection of songs, but this time the topic is love, the good and the bad of it all. The “mainstays of the live set”, were brought to life in the studio with a team of the best session singers and musicians one can find!
On the cover we see temptation…………..women, beer, the party lifestyle…………the story of my life! (yeah right!)
“Just A Simple Love Song”, kicks off the album, and what an excellent track to start with, brilliant, we get the the drums, piano, the backing vocals, violin, cello, sax, all coming together nicely, music that has a bit of everything, but “it’s just a simple love song for you”. “Snakes and Ladders”, seamlessly into song two, a similar song and mood, love is in the air…………..”feels like we’re playing a game of snakes and ladders, and we’re always falling down”, the turbulence of a rocky relationship but feels like it will all work out in the end. In both songs backing singer Ellen O’Mahony and Tommy on lead vocals guide the songs expertly to their destination.
Track three, “By My Side” is a kind of Randy Newman style number, I half expect to hear it on the new Toy Story movie, a contemplative song, “I was searching far and wide for an answer that was right there by my side” true love was found.
“Superman”, the next track, sounds like an ode to Tommy’s parents, working the piano, while singing some soul, “little fingers wipe away the tears, pull the blanket tight around my ears”.
Track five, “It Wouldn’t Be Me”, and we are back to the Randy Newman crispy voiced pop sounds. Works well and easy to listen to. This time we see some problems from the lovers, “I can change if you want me to, I can be anyone you’d like me to be, but it wouldn’t be me!”. Richie Buckley on sax is heavy on this one. Nice tune.
We get to see the reality of life as a young musician, on “Brimful In My Soul”, “I’m empty in my pockets but I’m brimful in my soul”, the harsh life as a musician with promises of stardom, “I was playing a open mic to a crowd of nine or ten”. Temptation here, perhaps, is to pack it in, give up on your first love……………….music? A very good song, love the story in it, from the heart and a nice slow number with Tommy perhaps giving us a glimpse of the struggles he, like a lot of musicians, went through for his craft.
Track seven, “Something’s Broken”, like the previous song, is another mellow piano sound that lingers in the mind. “Lean on me and I’ll guide you home” perhaps a song showing his love towards his children? “I promise you, you’ll never be alone”
Tommy on the piano once again shining in the next number, “The Moon and the Stars”. Gerard Farrelly softly on the drums, while the chorus “you light up the night like the moon and the stars” sang beautifully by Ellen and Cian o’Mahony, Paul o’Toole, and Padraig MacMahon, easy going and upbeat, the couple are back in love again. And “Everyday I Fall In Love Again” an enduring love song, Tommy’s upbeat tones declaring “everyday I fall in love again with you, with you, everyday I fall in love with you”, undying love.
But is the love undying since we move onto track ten and we get “Temptation Once Again”, an easy going soul/pop number, where an older man encounters a younger woman, “she’s walks in your direction flashes you a smile”, “experience is best”, tempting for the old man. Another song where the musicians and the session band come together as one, with a great sax again by Richie Buckley, and Gerard Farrelly on the drums again smooching it up, with, I am guessing his brother, Dick Farrelly on bass strumming out those heavy moods, all in unison, excellent track.
“Valentine” brings the pace down a bit, a slow love song with the excellent pairing of Aisling Bridgeman and Aine Gallagher on their violins in the background, a lovely song of “two lovers growing old, bring(ing) back those memories, bring(ing) back that smile”
Track 12, “Christmas Eve in Dublin”, did very well in the ITunes charts, and it’s not hard to see why, as it’s a lovely seasonal song perfect for the time of year that’s in it, meeting in the pub over pints, seeing “Just the same old faces, just the same old show Christmas Eve on Dublin, they say it looks like snow”, slow number with a lovely guitar melody running through. Pubs, pints and Dublin, what’s not to love there?
Perhaps track 13 shows what can happen if you indulge too much in the old beer drinking, as “I Was Joking”, Tommy sings about acting the maggot, playing the joker, but it got out of hand, “I never meant to hurt you, I was joking that was all”. A break up on the cards?, “Now I know the jokes on me”
Perhaps the break up has happened as in “Drunk Lullaby”, it certainly looks like lost love and someone has hit the drink, “A bottle of rye and a drunk lullaby and an old faded picture of you”, Clare Kinsella on the cello the stand out here, very good.
Bu the last track, “Land’s End”, Tommy looks back on life again, “memories, nothing more, lands end, lands end, land end” a song that reminds me of Tom Waits with his gravelly voice, contemplative and reflecting the short time we have on this little old planet we have”awaiting the last ship, to the other side, lands end, lands end, lands end”. A great song to finish a very good album, an album where time spent perfecting the songs in the studio was well worth it all with the musicians in their own unique ways come together to produce a well crafted love album. I was thinking that Tommy could be the Irish version of Louis Armstrong, Randy Newman or at times Tom Waits. take your pick! Yes it is that good!
E-MAIL FROM NIALL TONER (RTE) MARCH 2019
Tommy Keyes may well have been around the music scene for a while but for me he is a “new discovery”. Well-crafted, interesting original songs, inspired by life, love and living.
SONGS IN THE KEY OF REAL LIFE – REVIEW BY JACKIE HAYDEN (HOT PRESS) DECEMBER 2018
Musicians of the calibre of saxist Richie Buckley, guitarist Dick Farrelly and bassist Dave Fleming do not lend their talents for any old recording session, so when you spot their names (among others) on the credits on Tommy Keyes’ latest opus, you know something must be happening. Of course Keyes himself is no slouch, and with this, his fourth album, you encounter an artist growing in confidence and maturity, and as ready as ever to tackle the big issues that beset life in the slow lane.
Buckley stamps his mark immediately on the title track, as Keyes covers the subject of infidelity, his own throaty vocal and neat keyboards keeping it lit all the way. The slow-burning piano-led ‘Brimful In My Soul’ treats of the reality of the struggling musician who stays true to his art, and ‘Something’s Broken’ looks at depression, poverty and gambling, while maintaining a sense of optimism. The timely ‘Christmas Eve in Dublin’ paints a graphic portrait of decay and hopelessness, while ‘Drunk Lullabye’ brings on some atmospheric strings for a song about drink and crime and the inevitable loneliness their partnership bring, and those eloquent strings are reprised for ‘Land’s End’.
But this album is no musical version of a Joe Duffy Show, and Keyes has room in his kitbag for the less grim. ‘By My Side’ has an appealing Gospel feel, ‘Superman’ is classy mid-paced pop and the Beatlesesque ‘Just A Simple Love Song’ marries a pleasant world-weariness to a cheery feel likely to prompt repeat plays.
The album is brimful of catchy hooks, the musically-sensitive Keyes is admirably-served by his hand-picked band, and the vocal support from Ellen O’Mahony and others is top-notch. With Temptation Once Again Keyes shows that celebrating life while also facing the downsides of human nature are not mutually exclusive. (7.5/10)
EVENING HERALD REVIEW OF “TEMPTATION ONCE AGAIN” BY EAMON CARR DECEMBER 2018
Team Dublin’s finest, Richie Buckley, Dave Fleming, Dick Farrelly, with a man who exudes a classic Seventies songwriting style and you get a sophisticated set that, as US radio bosses say, “Suits all day parts”.
FACEBOOK REVIEW OF “TEMPTATION ONCE AGAIN” BY PAUL EGAN (LIFFEY LIGHT ORCHESTRA) DECEMBER 2018
As we prepare to purchase our Christmas presents, can I urge you to include Tommy Keyes’ new album Temptation Once Again on your shopping lists. I’m biased naturally (Tommy was one of the Liffey Light Orchestra’s keyboard players and was the first musician I knew who had a real synthesizer!) but Tommy’s latest collection is a beautifully put together songbook of new original material composed, sung and produced by him.
You’ll hear influences of Billy Joel (Snakes and Ladders), ELO (Valentine) (my favourites) and Tom Waits (By My Side, Every Day I Fall in Love Again). Listen to the final track – Land’s End with its gorgeous string arrangements.
Tommy has been on the road performing for the past two years, following the release of his triple album set and this new album has a terrific live feel, reflecting that time on the road.
It’s available on iTunes, Amazon etc. but the CD album gives you a stunning package (with artwork by LLO’s Ken Drakeford) with a integrated booklet with full lyrics, playing credits and photos.
FACEBOOK REVIEW OF “TEMPTATION ONCE AGAIN” BY PAUL O’TOOLE NOVEMBER 2018
If you’re planning to buy an album, Tommy Keyes new album ‘Temptation Once Again’ has to be the one.. A musical feast of 15 tracks with sublime multi-dimensional sounds created with top musicians – some of the best musicians Ireland has to offer, Tommy Keyes has created another work of art. His heart stopping lyrics conveying his emotional environment so explicitly and beautifully among a myriad of life’s themes are supported with a sensational (almost visible in the mind) audio landscape as a backdrop.
From humourous title track ‘Temptation Once Again’, to the stark and hard, heart-splitting strains of ‘Valentine’, to the folly of ‘By My Side’ and the mysterious ‘Lands End’ …This album has it all, says it all – and covers ground, a lot of ground – and also covers musical ground never before traveled. The rich sonic landscape stretches far and wide. With varied musical influences, impossible to exclude a nod from Tom Waits to Gilbert O’Sullivan. And warm sounds from latin – dance to the cold drama of The Beatles ‘Eleanor Rigby’, this album is a must.
This album is a journey, as the best albums always are. From the bar-fly to the busker, the barman to the sacred performer, the lovers to the bitter loss.. and the finale..’Lands End’. A masterpiece.
If you are someone who likes to go on musical journeys that will take you to places you’ve neglected to visit, or if you prefer to be taken to places you’ve never been before, then ‘Temptation’ is your ticket. Beware though…you may never want to come back.
HOT PRESS REVIEW OF “AN IRISH LIFE” APRIL 2017
SONG-CYCLE LIFTS THE LID ON IRELAND’S ROCK PAST
Tommy Keyes earned his place in Irish rock history as keyboardist and main songsmith with the late seventies rock outfit Sidewinder, and on An Irish Life he re-works some of the material and experiences from that era. So just as there’s a lived-in quality to Keyes’ voice there’s an appealing sense of reality about songs that, taken collectively, serve as a virtual narrative for the growing pains of the modern Irish rock scene.
Aided and abetted by such seasoned musicians as Richie Buckley (sax) and Dick Farrelly (guitars), An Irish Life delivers exactly that, tales of the trials and tribulations of life in Ireland, with lyrics that refreshingly confront reality rather than offering escape from it. The opener ‘I Was There’ sets the scene, name-checking Morans, McGonagles and other long-gone yet legendary venues, as well as such local heroes as Stagalee, the Bogey Boys and Rocky De Valera. In ‘Happy Days’ Keyes dreams of cowboys and football heroism, and football shows up again, alongside music, Radio Luxembourg and the cinema, in ‘Landscape Park’. Hot Press earns a mention in the sprightly ‘Smalltown Superstars’ in which Keyes depicts the innocent optimism of the young muso.
‘Long Distance Call’ and ‘Dust In My Eye’ remind us that emigration has been a permanent blight, while the relentlessness of work pressures inhabit and disturb ‘Sleep She Said’. Love gets a look-in too in ‘Slowdown World’, and family and local football filter into in ‘Richmond Nights’. And it’s all underpinned by Keyes’ deft keyboards and confident soft-rock arrangements.
An Irish Life is part of Keyes monumental triple-CD box set, but all are also available separately. This song-cycle lovingly explores the underbelly of Irish rock, a territory all too often ignored in our adulation of bigger names. So Keyes is to be congratulated for focusing our attention on an era that laid such firm foundations for our later successes. (8/10)
BLOG DE LOS MUERTOS REVIEW OF “AN IRISH LIFE” DECEMBER 2016
Certain music suits certain times of the year and I’d like to offer up Tommy Keyes’ evocative and enduring album ‘An Irish life’ as an antidote, or let’s say, an alternative, to Christmas FM, as it’s just such a perfect collection for this time of year – and the best albums tell you straight from the title what you can expect – An Irish Life has such a strong sense of family emanating from it, dripping in nostalgia and wonderful warmth, of a life lived, loved and now shared through music – there’s no doubt that people will feel an affinity and connection with this and will feel they can relate to it, especially at this time of year…
The album has also cemented the idea of how worthwhile it is to invest in proper packaging and graphic design for your work – opening up with a full lyrics booklet, soft hues of green and attention to detail that brings you into the music in a fuller way –the sleeve literally resonates with what you’ll find in the music within – plus an apt quote from Shaw at the start which lets us know that Tommy’s been around life’s block a bit but that he’s back with a life lived and ready to share what he’s learned along the way.
“We don’t stop playing because we grow old – we grow old because we stop playing.” G.B.Shaw.
Plus it’s hard to argue with a guy who can say, in the most off-hand and cool way, that he had U2 supporting him in McGonagles back in the 70s (though I would like to talk to any descendants of the flies on the wall there to verify that story…) But also the great thing about coming from that era of music is the ability to call upon saxophone and French horn and flute players to back up your music – the record, and yeah I like to call it that, just unfolds with a great retro vibe like what the Boomtown Rats captured so vividly but there’s also shades of a more modern Irish rock band, reminiscent of legendary band A House. The music is literally talking to you.
And this Storytelling element to what Tommy is doing is very strong – I wasn’t surprised to learn he was an alumni of the Bel Canto School of singing where singing is only ever seen as just that – telling a story. And this brings a realness and an authenticity and emotion to what he is doing – he doesn’t try to impress us with his voice but yet we are moved by what he is doing with it.
This album is about an Irish Life – his Irish life – and this personal aspect seeps through everything – indeed for songwriters who wonder about how autobiographical they should make their work, I would highly recommend listening to this. Plus this is a proper album – 15 tracks (actually the only criticism I would have would be that arguably there’s a song or two too much, but it’s hardly a criticism that someone is over generous) but it definitely leaves the Eps in the shade – like being served a full steak dinner rather than the quick take out. And, as I can attest to, it’s not easy returning to the scene after a gap – the fact that he does it with such grace, charm and with something of real substance to share, speaks for itself.
To the songs themselves, from the happier ones like I was there and Happy Days to the sadder ones later on – the album is laid out like his life – he’s literally musically mapping out his life in song and in sequence – this is where those random song selection devices need to be re-programmed – you really miss out when you don’t listen in the order that you’re supposed to listen – but this is crammed with gems , from the soundtrack to a life vividly conjured.
It’s ironic really that this collection is being reviewed in the Blog of the Dead as this is such an album of Life – death really doesn’t enter it at all. On the sleeve, the tracks are laid out as going from Spring to Summer to Autumn (Let’s say the Fall for the American listeners who will take to this in droves if we can get it to their ears..) to Winter – but this is an album that spans a life, not a year, kicking off with a nostalgic affectionate nod to those gigging joints of the past with I was There, to his happy childhood in Happy Days and Landscape Park (One for the Southsiders that one! His answer to Bono’s Cedarwood Road!), to his early gigging days in Smalltown Superstars, to his growing up and emigrating, the gorgeous In Dublin and the emotional and stark Long Distance Call which will strike a chord with this country of emigrants. From his return home to a life of work, deadlines and targets, captured perfectly in Sleep She Said; and this is where the album changes – when his children come into the world, starting with the beautiful touching ballad to his daughter Slowdown World and then to his other daughter with Bloom – Tommy is definitely at his best when it comes to these piano ballads – stunning stuff that will make you want to take up the keys yourself – not too late to say that Tommy’s artist surname suits him down to the ground…there’s also a fun stop off for the football fan in him with Richmond Nights – but it’s when he gets to the songs Souvenirs and Dust in My Eye about his own children now growing up and emigrating themselves, that this album comes full circle to reveal its heart – it’s a work of love really and a delight that he’s sharing it.
But anyone who has ever had to drop a child (okay, an adult child but to a parent they’ll always be just kids) off at an airport unsure if or when they are ever returning home has got to listen to Dust in my Eye. The last few tracks make the circle complete – wasn’t a surprise to find a Christmas song here, Shooting Stars nor indeed a New Year’s Eve Song to finish it off, with that joy of having your children returning to be with you for the Holiday Season – and though I know, for some people, this can be a tough time of year especially where there’s been tragedy etc, I cannot recommend enough that this album gets played at this time as it will definitely make you feel better – guaranteed!
Word from the album sleeve and Tommy himself to finish it off:
“These songs are the soundtrack to his reflections, from the exuberance of childhood, through the realism of maturity, to the sentimentality of later years.”
“My story is not an autobiography, but it’s all drawn from my experience or from my imagined version of the experiences of my compatriots. It may be an amalgam, but it is still a reflection of an Irish Life. It is dedicated with love to all my family.”