Sam Shinazzi: When the Lights Come Up
Reviewed By: Malcolm Carter
Label: Laughing Outlaw
It would seem that not a lot has changed musically for Sydney’s Sam Shinazzi since we last heard from him on ‘Then I Held My Breath’ back in 2009. For that we should be thankful. While the years have shown that ‘Then I Held My Breath’ was not quite the classic that Shinazzi’s previous album ‘Stories You Wouldn’t Believe’ was and, although it’s early days right now, it seems that with ‘When The Lights Come Up’ Shinazzi has issued another collection of classic pop/rock songs.
Echoes of ‘Stories You Wouldn’t Believe’ are all over this latest fourth full-length album from the talented Australian. That former album contained such classics as ‘Out Of the Question’, Scotty Come Home’ and ‘The Drifter’ which were not only some of the best songs that Shinazzi has written but some of the best songs any of us are ever likely to hear. Strangely the only other singer/songwriter who comes close to matching the beauty in those songs is another Australian and Shinazzi’s Laughing Outlaw label mate, Perry Keyes.
Like Keyes, Shinazzi doesn’t so much compose songs but sets short stories to pieces of music that are instantly appealing. Shinazzi has a warm, inviting voice that has lost none of its appeal since we first heard from him and his melodies will have you singing along immediately. But it’s Shinazzi’s talent for touching the spot in just one line where other artists take a whole song to get there which impresses most. The closing line of ‘Out Of The Question’ from the six-year-old ‘Stories…’ album still takes the breath away. Songs such as ‘Everything To Me’ on this latest album have that same affect all through the song.
A lot of this is down to Shinazzi’s vocals. Melancholic and totally believable, it’s as though he’s singing directly to you and you alone. With one of his prettiest melodies this tale of unrequited love is Shinazzi at his heartbreaking best. With touching backing vocals from Stella Papavasiliou, Simon Coughlan and Robert Cranny and Jason Walker’s weeping pedal steel it’s a song that sounds like it’s torn straight from Shinazzi’s heart.
It’s not all broken and damaged hearts; as soon as the following song, ‘Good Things’, Shinazzi is celebrating a new love and displays his classic, chiming, more uplifting sound. For all the sounds that it’s fun to try to identify in Shinazzi’s work he does have a sound of his own. It’s easy to hear R.E.M., the Lemonheads, Tom Petty and even Bruce Springsteen in these songs but not once do you lose sight of the fact that you’re listening to classic Shinazzi.
Listening to these eleven new songs it comes to mind that it’s debatable if Shinazzi has ever recorded an average song. Shinazzi’s songs over his last three albums at least have all been above average and warrant repeated playing even after a number of years. Then there’s the songs he has written with other artists; those Shinazzi co-wrote with Jenny Queen on her last two albums come readily to mind, each and every one a perfect pop song.
Shinazzi delivers melodic, thoughtful pop music that envelops you with all its warmth and beauty. He’ll draw you into his world for the duration of his albums and it’s a place you won’t be in a hurry to leave. He’s been one of Australia’s best kept secrets for far too long.