JOHN FARNHAM Greatest Hits (Camden)
In his adopted Australian homeland former teen idol Farnham has a successful career stretching back to the mid-1960s; as with Cliff Richard here, he can claim a number one record in five consecutive decades. As far as the UK is concerned, though, this compilation could be more accurately titled “Greatest Hit”.
As if you have to ask, it opens with “You’re The Voice”, and pretty horrid it is too, with its mid-80s overload of synthesized handclaps, bubbling bass guitar, thin electric pianos and sentiments of blow-dried rebellion. It’s shocking to discover that it took four people to write this schlock; even more so that two of them were members of Procol Harum and Manfred Mann’s Earth Band. (None of them, however, were Mr Farnham himself, who’s restricted to two co-writes over the course of this 17-track CD.) “Pressure Down” is inane, bouncy, sequencer-riddled production line pop – pretty horrendous, then – and “A Touch Of Paradise” predictably falls some way short of its title, being more akin to “A Touch Of Purgatory”. Remarkably, the intro to “Reasons” almost, almost sounds like New Order circa “Touched By The Hand Of God”, at least until a cheery plastic piano and a relentlessly upbeat and positive Whispering Jack arrive to ruin things. “Age Of Reason” attempts slinky, socially committed sophistisoul and ends up sounding not very much like Curtis Mayfield or Marvin Gaye, but Farnham’s attempts to get rootsy (“Chain Reaction” and “Talk Of The Town”, neither being the songs you first thought of) are equally unpalatable. Even given a proper song to wrap his tonsils around – step forward “When Something Is Wrong With My Baby” – the emotional core gets swamped by histrionic faux-soulful posturing.
As an advert I recently saw in Uncut charmingly phrases it, “Life’s too short for shitty music”, reason enough to attempt to find something positive to say about everything I review. Here, though, I’m struggling. (To paraphrase Woody Allen, would you take two negatives?) I suppose I should be grateful that, at 73 minutes, it isn’t the track or two longer it could so easily have been.