James Reyne soars as a solo artist after doing the Australian Crawl


By Steve Newton

Have you ever heard of a fellow named James Reyne? Unless you’re from Australia–or were a big fan of the now-defunct Australian Crawl–you probably don’t recognize the name. But you will in the future, if Reyne’s solo career follows the same pattern that has brought such Aussie bands as INXS and Midnight Oil worldwide fame. His self-titled debut album has gone triple platinum in his hometown since its release a year ago, sporting three top-10 singles. The name he made for himself as Aussie Crawl’s lead singer and chief songwriter, before the group disbanded in ’86, helped initiate his huge success Down Under.

“There was a good legacy from that band,” says Reyne, who called the Georgia Straight from Toronto recently. “That was one of the reasons for releasing it in Australia first–because I was known there, and it helped us gauge what might happen elsewhere.”

Reyna first rose to prominence in Australia from the flourishing Melbourne scene, which he says has always been very productive.  “Just from the street where I grew up, I know of four guys that ended up in bands.” Of the players that formed Australian Crawl with Reyne, only drummer John Watson is still with him in his solo guise. The guitarist is now playing in bars, and the bassist has gone on to become somewhat of a TV star on a weekly Australian variety/current affairs show.

So if Australian Crawl sold over a million and half records in Australia, how come they never made it big over this way, like their current-day countrymen?

“It’s strange,” sys Reyne, “but we’ve never had good representation–which was a big reason. And it was a long time before this big interest in Australian acts; when we came over it was like, ‘Oh really. They make records down there?’ I mean, this was even before Men at Work broke through.

While Reyne is more than pleased with the way that global audiences have embraced today’s big Aussie bands, he’s aware that there is some danger of exploitation in the current Australian craze.

“It’s great, this opening doors. I just hope it doesn’t become too much of a fad–when they start signing people just ’cause they’re Australian, and start lumping us together. ‘Cause we’re all quite different from each other, you know.”

Maybe so. But there is some similarity between Reyne’s new album and the latest release by Jimmy Barnes, a powerful Aussie vocalist who went on his own after leaving Cold Chisel, another fine Australian band that never made it big on the North American market. Both the James Reyne LP and Barnes’ Freight Train Heart feature strong helpings of both surging rockers and contagious ballads. Both singers write or co-write their own tunes, and sing them with a rough-hewn style. And both acquired the talents of primo slide guitarist David Lindley. On the Reyne album, he plays on two of the three Australian chart-toppers, “Rip It Up” and “Fall of Rome”, as well as a song from the Aussie Crawl days, “Land of Hope and Glory”.

Also lending a hand on the Reyne record were ace percussionist Paulinho Da Costa, guitarist David Ricketts from David & David, and pianist Bill Payne from Little Feat. Not surprisingly, there’s some fine music on the album and it ought to help get Reyne the recognition he deserves outside of his homeland. Any chance he’ll ever make it over here to play Vancouver?

“Well, I’d love to,” he says. “All It needs is for everyone to rush out and buy the record. Please! Then I’ll come there in a flash.”


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