Two of Diamonds
Two Of Diamonds was released in 2007
Celebrated Australian musician Mick Harvey returns with his second enthralling 'solo' album, Two Of Diamonds.
Encouraged by the very positive critical acclaim and the audience reaction to the live shows for his 2005 LP One Man's Treasure, Harvey has created a further wonderful collection of classic songs. For the eagerly awaited Two Of Diamonds, the redoubtable Mick Harvey is this time accompanied by his solo band, featuring Rosie Westbrook (double bass) and fellow Bad Seeds' James Johnston (organ and guitar) and Thomas Wydler (drums). Guest musicians on two tracks also include Rob Ellis from P.J. Harvey's band (piano/drums), who has also toured with Mick, and Julitha Ryan (piano) from Melbourne instrumental band Silver Ray.
Two Of Diamonds, mostly recorded at Harvey's Grace Lane studio and Atlantis Studios, Melbourne, features an eclectic collection of songs which Harvey has chosen to interoperate in his own distinctive and emotive style. Some are original Harvey compositions (the dream-like 'Blue Arrows' and the graceful 'Little Star'), and, as with ‘One Man’s Treasure’ these are combined with more obscure classics, sometimes stemming from the pens of well known enigmatic songwriters. What once again unites this timeless material is Mick Harvey's deeply personal connection with every song included on Two Of Diamonds. The recorded interpretive work of Nina Simone and Johnny Cash, two of Mick Harvey's favourite artists, still inspire him to grasp the essence of his elected material and make it his own. "With the first album, I thought I'd see how comfortable it felt and if I liked what was going on," Harvey reflects. "I enjoyed it and the live shows have become really strong over time. I didn't want ‘One Man's Treasure’ to be a one off. I thought that if I did one record, I'd do a few. To make it something I was going to be doing for a while, for five years or so, to be something I'd follow through with and make substantial. The thing with any undertaking like this is that you grow into it. With the first album I was feeling my way somewhat and now I'm feeling more comfortable in this role. With the songs I'm just trying to find a point of view in there to convey ideas and feelings.... elemental stuff."
Some of these songs refer directly to Mick Harvey's past and the Australian musicians that have inspired him. "If I'm digging around, looking for material to use, that's very often where I'll find things that I'm interested in doing something with," states Harvey. "There is a lot of stuff there that is usable, because it is so unknown outside of Australia." 'Sad Dark Eyes' was originally recorded by the mid 1960's Australian group, The Loved Ones. The group were formed as an answer to the wave of 'British Invasion' bands of the period, proving that Australian bands could match either British or American groups for raw, emotional garage rock 'n' roll. 'Sad Dark Eyes' was also often covered live by Harvey and Nick Cave's incendiary blues punk band of the early 1980's, The Birthday Party.
The reflective song 'Photograph' is by Chris Bailey, of the seminal Brisbane punk band The Saints. It was featured on their 1984 LP, A Little Madness To Be Free. Harvey has often spoken of his abiding love of The Saints and how inspirational the Australian group were in late 1970's. Bailey, in turn, was a featured singer on the 2003 Nick Cave And The Bad Seeds single, 'Bring It On'. Harvey effortlessly captures the desperation and yearning at the core of Bailey's song, recorded at The Instrument, London in October 2006.
The compelling 'Everything Is Fixed' is from unreleased demo recordings by the late, great David McComb, formerly of the legendary 1980's Australian band The Triffids, recorded for his last solo LP. Harvey dramatically performs McComb's tale of a date with predestination in the jailhouse while sensitively backed every step of the way by Westbrook, Johnston and Rob Ellis on drums.
Another Australian musician Mick Harvey salutes is James Cruickshank of The Cruel Sea. Harvey chooses to play 'No Doubt', a song featured on Cruickshank's recent Hymn For Her solo album. Harvey captures the beauty of this ode to new found love and creates an incredibly uplifting popular song.
With the track 'Home Is Far From Here', Harvey references Crime And The City Solution, the band he formed in the mid 1980's and with whom he recorded six LP's until the group disbanded in 1991. This moving track was the closing number on the 1988 The Crime And The City Solution album, Shine.
Mick Harvey has worked extensively with English singer songwriter P.J. Harvey throughout the past 12 years and was a featured player on P.J. Harvey's albums To Bring You My Love (1995) and Is This Desire? (1998). In 2000 he co-produced P.J. Harvey's Mercury Music Prize winning LP, Stories From The City, Stories From The Sea. On Two Of Diamonds, Mick pays tribute to P.J Harvey with a haunting rendition of her previously unreleased hypnotic love/lust song, 'Slow-Motion-Movie-Star.'
"A large percentage of the songs I end up playing are ones that my friends have written.” admits Harvey. “And this provides another level on which the performance of the songs is a really personal undertaking for me."
Other songs on Two Of Diamonds point towards Mick Harvey's American musical influences. Harvey's brooding take on 'I Don't Want You On My Mind' was written by soul legend Bill Withers and his beautiful rendition of 'Here I Am' by Emmylou Harris, featured on her 2003 LP Stumble Into Grace. The exciting and melodramatic 'Walk On The Wildside', was originally composed for the 1962 feature film adaptation of Nelson Algren's novel by Elmer Bernstein, with lyrics by Mack David, and performed by Brook Benton. "That's where the personal history comes in because it's always been an enormous frustration to me that the song is not on the soundtrack album," says Harvey. "I had to watch the film again to figure out the song. And then I added some lyrics. I think with every one of these songs on Two Of Diamonds, although there is probably an exception, I've added lyrics or changed lyrics. That's part of the process for me. I'm not really a 'cover versions man', where you do it all dutifully and perform an exact rendition. When I get to a part of a song that I don't think is right for me, I'll change it. You have to make it YOUR version. It also relates to the way old folk and blues songs used to evolve over time and would have different verses added or lost through the years. I’d like to think my approach is part of that tradition"
Mick Harvey's entry into the spotlight is not unexpected. Since the late 1970's, he has enjoyed a highly successful career as a musical collaborator with singer/songwriter Nick Cave. Through their bands The Boys Next Door, the explosive The Birthday Party, the formation of Cave's Bad Seeds, right up to 2004's triumphal two CD set Abattoir Blues/The Lyre Of Orpheus, Harvey has provided invaluable assistance in helping realise Cave's vision on stage and record.
Concurrently with his work in Nick Cave And The Bad Seeds and Crime And The City Solution, over the past 23 years Mick Harvey has always made time to forge his own creative path. Harvey played drums, guitar and backing vocals on Conway Savage's eponymous first EP, then produced and played on two albums by chanteuse Anita Lane, Dirty Pearl (1993) and Sex O'clock (2001). In 1992 he produced Once Upon A Time's LP In The Blink Of An Eye and the following year, with Ed Clayton-Jones, Harvey created music for an Australian theatrical production of Nick Cave's novel, And The Ass Saw The Angel.
In the mid 1990's Mick Harvey also produced, arranged, translated, played and sang two albums of songs by the magnificent French songwriter, Serge Gainsbourg - Intoxicated Man (1995) and Pink Elephants (1997). These records were acclaimed by all who heard them, including Gainsbourg's muse, partner and musical collaborator, Jane Birkin. Harvey's up tempo version of the French band Mano Negra's 'Out Of Time Man', featured on Two Of Diamonds, echoes the invigorating pop of Intoxicated Man and Pink Elephants.
Together with Cave and fellow founder Bad Seed Blixa Bargeld, Harvey scored two John Hillcoat films, Ghost Of The Civil Dead (1988) and To Have And To Hold (1996). He would also release a compilation of his other film scores from the 1980's, Alta Marea and Vaterland (1993). Harvey would later receive much critical praise for his scores for two Australian films, Andrew Dominik's Chopper (2000) and Paul Goldman's Australian Rules (2002). For Australian Rules, Harvey won Best Original Soundtrack for Film and Television at the prestigious Australian Recording Industry Association awards (ARIAS).
Since the release of One Man's Treasure in August 2005, Mick Harvey has released a second compilation CD of his film soundtrack work, Motion Picture Music '94-'05, in November 2006. He went on to write the score for Paul Goldman's 2006 film Suburban Mayhem, for which he garnered an Australian Film Institute award in December 2006. He also contributed music to Amy Berg's American documentary about the paedophile priest Father Oliver O'Grady, Deliver Us From Evil which was nominated for the Best Documentary Oscar at the 2007 Academy Awards. Last year, Harvey also co-ordinated the mixing and compiling of the best selling Nick Cave And The Bad Seeds four disc DVD/CD set, The Abattoir Blues Tour, released in January 2007. Harvey also found time to finish his extra-curricular "rock" record project. Collaborating with other songwriters, such as Tex Perkins, Harvey's band is called The Wallbangers and the EP is entitled, Kick The Drugs. During the summer of 2007 Mick Harvey will commence recording once again with Nick Cave And The Bad Seeds.
On Two Of Diamonds Mick Harvey seeks to bring the songs to their most emotionally powerful level. Two Of Diamonds is another Mick Harvey record passionately delivered straight from the heart. Harvey and his band will be presenting Two Of Diamond live throughout Europe from late April 2007. Play your cards right and be there.