Jan Hellriegel: All Grown Up (Blind Date)

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Jan Hellriegel: Orange Liqueur
Jan Hellriegel: All Grown Up (Blind Date)

The title tells its own story, it has been well over a decade since Jan Hellriegel made an album and that might explain the huge interest in this one: lotsa interviews, articles and media attention, my guess from people who remember Hellriegel fondly for her swagger and sensitivity in bands and on her solo albums.

The swagger is still here on this widescreen and often dramatic production by Wayne Bell (horns and strings on many songs), but it is mostly in the guitars of Hellriegel and Brett Adams of the Bads -- because out front Hellriegel sings of those things (not always wisdom) that getting older brings: the wistful Filled Me Up punched home by the astringent music, the stabbing Misadventure among others.

She delivers a mature line in lust and aching need (the orchestrated Middle of the Morning), there is deft pop-rock everywhere (notably the immediate pleasing Very Mostly Good and Orange Liqueur), the ballad Heaven is Here doesn't quite work (it never quite decides what it wants to be) but the gorgeous Small Blue Flame redeems that.

Hellriegel was always known as "a westie gal" and she doesn't ignore her audience on that count: V8 Car is a brooding and slightly melancholy piece, and the gentle Under the Stars (lyrics by Geoff Matthews) which follows is like a redemption which opens spare and folksy but becomes increasingly cinematic as strings and guitars swell and soar.

The album closes with her most ambitious song yet: the multi-faceted, seven minute Goodbye Adieu (co-written with guitarist Wayne Bell) which rides guitar jangle and a relentless rhythm section in some sections but also comes with a "choral" part. It is big, in every sense.

You have to be all grown up to attempt something like that, and even more so to realise it as well as they do.

This is an album of great sonic breadth, boasts an exceptional production to bring out the brittle country-rock edge of the band in places and gentle settings in others, has an impressive number of guests (Eddie Rayner, Dianne Swann, Paul McLaney among others) and Hellriegel -- shifting from soul to blues-tinged rock and ballad voice -- sounds more confident than she has ever been.

She has every reason to be. 

Note: There's a very beautifully packaged collector's edition of All Grown Up which comes with vinyl and CD versions of the album plus a 28 page booklet of lyrics and appropriate artwork which is worth seeking out (here).

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