Tuesday, December 4, 2012
Top 102 Albums. No. 87 Current Affairs
Current Affairs - Johnny Duhan
This is one of the more obscure albums on my list, an album that, as far as I know, has not seen the light of day since it's initial release in 1984. And, on form, we were lucky to hear it then. Johnny Duhan has become very much a part of the Irish songwriting elite, with songs covered by Christy Moore, including The Voyage, which is particularly ubiquitous. That was not the case back in the late seventies / early eighties..
Duhan had originally come to notice as part of Granny's Intentions, a 'beat group' from Limerick who moved to London and released some singles and an album on Deram and flirted with success before they broke up in 1972.
From 1972 to the release of this album, as far as I can gather, Duhan released a few singles and recorded an unreleased album with a short lived band St James Gate and lots of demos towards a solo album and even recorded a solo album which was slated for release and then withdrawn. He also wrote an unpublished novel partly about those experiences. This may have contributed to the darkness that hangs over Current Affairs.
This album contains what may well be the starkest, most depressing song I have ever listened to. The River Shannon is a song about the prevalence of suicides in the waters of the river. The original version seems unavailable online, as is most of this album. A much warmer, less harrowing version of the song is available on Spotify from a later Duhan album. A pretty depressive teenager, I listened to this song repeatedly. It is one of the only performances of a song about suicide that I know where there doesn't seem to be any desire to comfort or understand. It is just an unflinching iteration of the toll taken.
Another song from the album, El Salvador, was covered by Christy Moore. However, for me the two key songs are the aforesaid River Shannon and Turned to Crime, which was the lead single and the reason I bought this album at the time. It seemed to capture a mood of alienation in an Ireland of rampant unemployment, social exclusion and a heroin epidemic in full flight.
"I was down and out in the city till I turned to crime
Had no job, had no money, now I'm doing fine."
The production sound on this album and some of the solos have always made it something of a mixed experience for me but the quality of the songs overrides any flaws and much of the playing and Duhan's singing is great. It's due a re-release, at least as a digital download. Johnny?