Sometimes, a strong solo record is all an artist needs to assert their status among the all-time greats. Today, we're checking out six of the best solo albums from Australian music legends - dig in.
Ian Moss - Matchbook
Sure, Jimmy Barnes may steal the limelight, but any educated student of the Australian rock canon will know that it’s Mossy and Don Walker who form the heart and soul of Cold Chisel. On his 1989 solo debut, Ian Moss made sure the world knew just how vital his contributions were with Matchbook, a dazzling collection of solo tracks that underscore his prowess as a vocalist and remind you just how good of a guitarist he really is.
Featuring stellar songwriting contributions from Don Walker and bolstered by FM radio classics ‘Telephone Booth’ and ‘Tucker’s Daughter’, Matchbook was lauded as a smash hit on release, and ended up snagging the ARIA Award for Album of the Year, Best Male Artist and Breakthrough Artist in 1990. An undisputed dad rock classic.
Bernard Fanning - Tea and Sympathy
After Powderfinger’s late ‘90s - early ‘00s hot streak and subsequent hiatus, Bernard Fanning planned to write a scathing political record criticising the policies of Prime Minister John Howard - and then everything changed. Following the loss of his brother, the dissolution of a 12 year relationship and a shift in direction from the alternative rock he was best known for, Fanning began recording the folk and country tinged Tea and Sympathy: a deeply personal solo effort that saw him grapple with mortality and failed love in a way listeners had never heard before.
Released in 2005 and fuelled by the breakout success of singles like ‘Wish You Well’ and ‘Songbird’, Tea and Sympathy has since attained 5x platinum status in Australia, and despite accumulating lukewarm reviews at the time, is commonly regarded by many as one of the most memorable solo efforts of the 2000s.
Adalita - Adalita
While she might be best known for fronting seminal ‘90s grunge rockers Magic Dirt, it’s on her debut solo offering where Adalita’s songwriting talents truly shine. After starting to record the album in 2009, work on Adalita was brought to a standstill after the tragic loss of Dean Turner; Adalita’s former partner and bandmate in Magic Dirt, who was also acting as producer for the solo release.
Although much of the album was completed before his passing, Adalita feels like a tribute to Turner in many ways, with much of Adalita’s songwriting being enveloped in a sad sense of melancholy which is only underscored by the raw production quality of the record.
Gurrumul - Gurrumul
Years after initially achieving success with Yothu Yindi and the Saltwater Band, the late Dr. G Yunipingu experienced an incredible renaissance with his self-titled solo debut, with the ensuing acclaim seeing him become known as one of the most commercially successful Indigenous artists of all time.
Largely performed in the Indigenous Yolngu dialect, Gurrumul is a strikingly minimal release centered around a bare template of Yunipingu’s haunting vocals and a hushed acoustic guitar, and features some of the finest storytelling of any Australian album released this century. This record is a national treasure - there’s no other way to put it. A truly timeless release.
Jen Cloher - Jen Cloher
Jen Cloher had been performing and recording with The Endless Sea and under her own name for years before releasing her self-titled album in 2017, but it was almost certainly this record that flung her into mainstream recognition. Heralded by many as the greatest Australian release of the year, Jen Cloher is jam-packed with poignant lyricism and witty one liners about Australia’s painfully monotonous indie scene (‘Shoegazers’), the same-sex marriage referendum of 2017 (‘Analysis Paralysis’) and the state of the music industry in Australia (‘Regional Echo’).
Featuring instrumental contributions from longterm partner Courtney Barnett and Milk! Records stalwarts Jen Sholaki and Bones Sloane, Jen Cloher is addictively raw and brooding, giving way for Cloher’s songwriting talents to cut through in what might be one of the best Australian releases in recent years.
Ed Kuepper - Honey Steel’s Gold
Best known for fronting legendary Brisbane proto-punks The Saints, Ed Kuepper has enjoyed quite a successful solo career and has churned out a number of killer records, but nothing matches his 1991 effort Honey Steel’s Gold. A masterstroke in songwriting, production and sequencing, Honey Steel’s Gold is abundant in dense, textural alternative rock songs that prove Kuepper’s talents a hundred times over.
Featuring tracks like the ten minute opening cut ‘King Of Vice’ and album standout ‘The Way I Made You Feel’, Honey Steel’s Gold is a limitlessly rewarding album that has somehow escaped retrospective critical recognition, but it’s 100% worth exploring if you want to check out a truly underrated Aussie classic.
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