Jonathan Kelly: ‘Twice Around The Houses’

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Jonathan Kelly.
Jonathan Kelly.

Irish singer-songwriter Jonathan Kelly’s second album “Twice around the Houses” was released on the RCA label in 1972 and was given masses of quality marketing, while Kelly played prestige gigs at all the top venues. He was a regular at major festivals (playing with just a miked up acoustic and was always easy to whip on and off between longer ensembles). Kelly always went down a storm wherever he played but somehow it just didn’t happen for him.

This album under review starts off with the sublime “Madeleine”, a mid-tempo song about un-requited love. The feeling expressed by Kelly’s voice leaves you in no doubt that this is a song of personal experience and would have made an excellent single, but, alas, time has moved on.

Next out of the traps is “Sligo Fair”, a lovely song about life in the British countryside. (Life is not always greener on the other side). Following this is “We’re All Right Till Then”, one of the most poignant protest songs this dog has ever heard. To lighten the load we then have the glorious “Ballad Of Cursed Anna”, always a concert favorite with audiences, telling the story of the folly of youth. It’s a tragi-comedy of a song that always plucks a heartstring but still leaves a smile on the lips.

Every track on the album is well constructed and the variety is quite remarkable. From acoustic sad ballads like “I Used To Know You” to the fun filled rock ‘n’ roll of “The Train Song”, which contains my favorite lyrics:

“The backdoor daughter to a friend of my aunt,

Came to see me with a present of a geranium plant,

I wish she’d have told me not to teach it to talk

Cause today it asked me if I would take it for a walk”.

I mean, c’mon, when was the last time you heard a song with a geranium in it?

Just one listen to this album will blow away all your blues. At any rate it is doubly worth picking up as it has been re-mastered and re-released on B.G.O. records as a two for one set with Kelly’s second album “Wait till they change the Backdrop”.

Like any good story there is a certain sadness to this musician’s career, but also in a way a happy ending too. The sadness is that at some point Kelly became disillusioned with the whole business, so he cut and ran. He had to do it for himself. How long can you live with high praise from the media, but a stark lack of sales?

Kelly never had a “Year Of The Cat” a “Streets Of London” or even a “Baker Street” to lift him – like his contemporaries – on to a higher more commercial plane of international stardom. It’s great being an underground cult hero, but you still have to eat. So Kelly packed his family up, retired from the music industry and moved to Wales.

But now through the courtesy of B.G.O. we can listen to his wonderful work. Do yourself a favour, next time you want to spruce up your music collection, get this album, you won’t regret it. Your joy begins as soon as the disc starts spinning.

I wish Jonathan Kelly and his family all the joy in their life in Wales and thanks for the memories.

Mott the Dog rating: 5 stars

Track List:

Madeleine

Sligo Fair

We’re All Right Till Then

Ballad Of Cursed Anna

Leave Them Go

We Are The People

Rainy Town

The Train Song

I Used To Know You

Hyde Park Angels

Rock You To Sleep