“My issue was, ‘How on Earth am I gonna do something different?’ I’m always changing the songs. There’s so many more options for an acoustic album than just acoustic guitars and singing.”
On his first album in more than 15 years, Dave Mason reinterprets the Reels’ catalogue with the maverick musical flair that characterised that band’s every step from ’78 to ’91. Reelsville is an album of extraordinary left turns down an intriguing track in Australian pop history.
The stately grand piano of Quasimodo’s Dream presages something very special. After covers by Kate Ceberano and Jimmy Little, Dave’s signature song stands in its definitive light, an aching piano/ cello treatment that justifies its position among APRA’s Top 10 Australian Songs of All Time.
“I especially like the later songs, My Family and Comedy,”says Dave. “Kitchen Man is the same as we play it on stage now – but I don’t play live very much. Prefab Heart, Go Away and Yet I Feel Like Dancing are off the first album, which is a rock album. I haven’t heard it for such a long time it was funny going back there.”
Nothing rocks in this parallel universe of eerie pump organ, elegant strings, slide guitar, skiffle rhythms and other off-kilter elements. Jazz tangents are more common, from the jitterbug jump of According to My Heart and the stride piano gait of This Guy’s In Love to the doleful New Orleans funeral march of Bad Moon Rising.
It’s a mark of Dave’s dogged pursuit of innovation that the old Creedence standard is again reborn. From his eccentric chamber orchestral take of World’s End to the playful dub undertow of After the News to the impossibly spare shuffle of Go Away, the strength of his tunes and the ache in his voice have never been more striking.
Reelsville was arranged by Lindsay Page from Sydney dub/ reggae bands King Tide and junglehammer; with drummer Joe Accaria, Karma Country’s Brendan Gallagher on guitar and Michael Galeazzi on bass. With Amanda Brown and Sophie Glasson on strings and a small Salvation Army of brass and woodwinds, Reelsville echoes with a unique and ethereal atmosphere.
“One of the good things about it is it doesn’t even sound like an acoustic album,” says Dave. “There’s only ever three or four instruments, but I think the vocal harmonies may have had something to do with filling it all out.”
Whatever magic combinations of sound and mood give it flight, Reelsville is one for the most demanding and discerning music lover. “I like this album,” says Dave. “Most records, as soon as I’ve finished them I can’t listen to them anymore. For the first time, this is one I can listen to.”
1975 Dave forms Native Son in Dubbo, New South Wales
1978 Band moves to Sydney as the Brucelanders
1979 The Reels’ debut album produced by Mark Opitz. Band begins a consistently eccentric Countdown presence
1980 Reels By Rail tour announces inventive performance approach. Christmas EP, Five Great Gift Ideas From The Reels
1981 Landmark second album Quasimodo’s Dream breaks Top 40. Kitchen Man Tour uses Aussie kitchen set
1982 Cover of Bacharach/ David’s This Guy’s In Love With You hits #7 Beautiful album, released on sells Gold
1983 US and UK tours; Pitt Street Farmers EP
1986 The Reels sign with Regular Records. Dramatic synth version of Bad Moon Rising hits #11
1987 Reels By Request tour. Neighbours album radically reinterprets Australian rock classics. Dave stars with Nick Cave in Ghosts … of the Civil Dead
1991 Last original single, I Don’t Love You Anymore. Band says farewell with compilation CD, Requiem
2003 Dave sings a duet on David Bridie’s album, Hotel Radio
2005 Sings the Reels’ Shout and Deliver on junglehammer album
2006 Sings on Coffee Protection Society album Eleven/ Eight
2007 Reelsville acoustic album on Liberation Blue