Tenterfield Saddler, released 1972, although the album I listened to (a re-print?) has an audio copyright date of 1978. How is it?
1. Tenterfield Saddler (Allen)
No two ways about it: this is a bloody great song, the more so because its writer was not yet thirty. It’s also in precisely the wrong spot for this album; no later song will come close to matching it.
I’ve always appreciated Allen’s songwriter’s touch in the later choruses, where time becomes a “tale-teller” and a “meddler”, and the Tenterfield saddler makes his bed instead of turning his head, plus the cockatoos and the emus appear on the ground up ahead. Allen didn’t need to change the words; he could have faded away in a nice, purely repetitive, singalong chorus. But it’s the kind of thing a professional does, and I’m glad he did it.
2. More Than I Like You (Allen/Bayer Sager)
One of those glad-to-be-rid-of-you numbers that opens with the line “Standing in the rain, waiting for a train”, and goes on to observe that, while the singer doesn’t like trains, he likes them more than he likes you. Some handy jazzy piano, especially towards the end, but otherwise a pretty generic piece of ’70s I-like-me self-assertion.
3. The Same Way I Came In (Allen/Bayer Sager)
More ’70s rooting and rootlessness: “travelling’s just a fact of life”, “love is for leaving so that life can begin”. Songwriters always get like this when they’re enduring break-ups and touring, which is usually at the same time.
4. Good to See You Up There (Allen)
Is this a proud-of-my-ex-wife number?
Guess the thing for me to do – is simply say so long
But babe it’s been good to see you up there
And that’s the truth I swear
It’s good to see you where you belong.
Double-tracked vocals, brass section, but all of it a little flat.
5. I Can Tell a Lie (Landis/Meltzer)
One for the stage act, I suspect. A country flavoured number, complete with guest country fiddle: “Just sit me in front of an unbroken spinet … I’ll make you heartbreakin’ rhymes …” goes the chorus, and it’s designed to be repeated and repeated and repeated until the audience believes that the whole night was for them. I wonder if Allen made a meal of it live.
1. Just Ask Me I Been There (Allen)
Apart from the unforgivably hackneyed rhyme of “charms” and “arms”, quite nice. An assertion of having “been through it all”, so “If there’s something you want to know …” [title follows]. More Liza references?
I watched a girl become a woman one day
She was a queen but she had to go ‘way
And though that kind of leaves me all alone
It’s good to see her make it on her own
2. Cocoon (Allen)
A funkier effort, closer to the Billy Joel of Piano Man (which wouldn’t exist for another year): “Before you get to be a butterfly, you gotta spend time in a cocoon”. Nice false ending, after which the sax solo kicks in.
3. Harbour (Allen)
Good cabaret ballad, this one, for anyone who’s looking for underexposed repertoire. You probably shouldn’t be twenty-one, though, because of the lines “Maybe it’s just growing older” and “Maybe it’s knowing a bit too much”. Incidentally, on this copy I had to hold down the record needle to get through the scratches, to the point where the key dropped about a tone. So maybe the song’s not as slow as I think it is.
4. Somebody Beautiful Just Undid Me (Allen)
Good title. Very good title. Only a pretty good song. The opening reads like something by Flight of the Conchords:
I like to say that I much prefer
Character to beauty in the ones I chooose to love
Cause the physical thing never lasts as long
As intelligent people do when they get together
More country-flavoured gospel-ish stuff, including the line “maybe I’ll get a couple of songs from you” – watch out for songwriters, girls and boys. Nice shout-out to Joni Mitchell mid-way through.
5. The Other Side (Allen/Bayer Sager)
A sort of Depression-era honky-tonk to finish up, complete with tuba bass line, in which the lyric seems to allude to the river Styx and the walls of Jericho. Not sure what exactly is being proposed in the line “If we all sing together we might get a song.” This one is trying to be a rousing finale, and I want to like it more than I do.
Incidentally, for modern decriers of youngster illiteracy, twice in the printed lyrics does “it’s” appear for the possessive pronoun. This is for an album pressed and printed when Boomers were firmly in charge.
I’m now off to read the appropriate parts of Stephen MacLean’s The Boy From Oz, and enjoy how far off the mark my first impressions are.