Graham Reid | | 1 min read
Dave Dobbyn has been so much a part of the cultural furniture in New Zealand for decades that it's hard to remember there was a period when he struggled. After the early successes of the bands Th'Dudes and DD Smash then a solo career and the huge hit Slice of Heaven (with Herbs) he went to Australia . . . and in the early Nineties had to start at the bottom again.
His excellent album Lament for the Numb recorded in LA also didn't light many fires -- despite it being his most lyrically interesting album to that point -- and then came Twist in which, with Neil Finn producing, he slipped off the shackles and let himself feel more free to experiment and go with the moment.
Twist is an exceptional album (it has long been an Essential Elsewhere selection, see here) and rewards repeat listenings. Every home should have a copy, there is no other album like it in Dobbyn's lengthy catalogue.
Twist was also a new start and the follow-up three years later, The Islander - on the back of the single Beside You which made more of an emotional impact than its modest chart placing suggested -- topped the New Zealand charts.
If Lament for the Numb was his dark album which had him disconnected with his own life and Twist was a cleaning out and pushing the sonics of the studio, The Islander was him accepting himself and his place in the world (as a singer-songwriter and his geographical location) and also his embracing of a a generous kind of Christianity (Beside You), and he began using its imagery (Hallelujah Song).
On The Islander, Dobbyn found his voice -- some would hear something of Dylan in his John Wesley Harding/New Morning/Planet Waves period -- and kept a little back from the experimental approach of Twist (Blindman's Bend). He carried that confidence over into the more optimistic Hopetown in 2000 which included Just Add Water and Kingdom Come.
These three albums are cornerstones in Dobbyn's career and he still plays songs them today. His 39 song double disc collection Beside You in 2009 included six songs from Twist, five from The Islander and two from Hopetown.
These were the albums that took Dobbyn through the Nineties and consolidated his reputation as a singer-songwriter foremost. And they are now in the Sony Music series Original Classic Albums for a paltry $15 at JB Hi-Fi stores here.
And that means this set is this week's Bargain Buy.