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Paul Kelly and the Prayers - Saratoga

As the first couple of songs on "Saratoga" rolled past, I was struck by the similarity to the usual array of AOR type bands/singers. 'On the Floor' and 'The Truth Ain't on the Sign' start off optimistically, sounding like shades of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers circa 'Freefalling'. 'They just don't' make 'em like they used to', with its gravelly vocals and blues vernacular has a Steve Earle twang about it, complete with husky female backing vocals, although attempts at guitar and harmonica solos throughout are predictable and unoriginal.

'Airport Road' with its dodgy voice-echo effect sounds like substandard REM and the next couple of songs are pure Country and Western/Folk/Blues. Overall, the album sounds as though it is attempting too much musical diversity albeit in a very banal way. The production and sound are fine, but ultimately there is not much originality here. At times, the music would sound slightly bearable if it were not for the strained vocals of Mr. K. From the outset, this collection of songs wears its musical influences on its sleeve, but they seem to clash and the album lacks cohesion.

The middle of the album veers into Chris Rea/Dire Straits territory, including the cringeworthy lines of "You must be strong even when you're in traction" of 'Once it happens'. The last fractions of the album plumb the depths of tedium with '1992/Snakes live in the desert' sounding like Bob Dylan on a lousy day. 'You took it too far' and 'Harm's Swift Way' are self-indulgent, maudlin numbers. These last few songs blend blandly in to one another and are identifiable only in that they resemble any recent Rod Stewart singles. At best this sounds like a bad Randy Newman album: at worst it's Blind Lemon Jefferson. Sample only if you like this kind of thing.

by Sinead Gleeson