(Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)
“This song features our guitar player, young Ian, on a bit of vocals…”
Cold Chisel are a band blessed with a multitude of great talents in terms of the number of singers and songwriters in the band. On lead vocals, of course, you have Jimmy Barnes. And Ian Moss… Don Walker writing the tunes, with some stellar contributions from Barnes, Phil Small and the late Steve Prestwich. And Ian Moss… And on soulful, searing, beautiful lead guitar? One and only this time: our man Ian Moss.
Yes, Mossy is the real deal triple threat, and in terms of guitar and vocals at least, he is elite. With the long-awaited limited white vinyl reissue of his 1989 #1 debut solo album Matchbook to be released June 1, and a massive Aussie tour that spans June through to August, (tickets here), ILYOS looks back at some of Mossy’s finest moments, with Chisel, and as a solo artist.
One of the many highlights on Chisel’s still underrated debut album – and the perfect closer for side one - this extended bluesy piece would have been the first time many record buyers heard the smooth soulful voice of Ian Moss. Of course, they already would have been knocked out by his playing on the previous three tracks, but this piece showed the real depth of his contributions. The contrast – the smooth and the rough - of the Moss and Barnes vocal parts was a revelation too, and when Mossy starts ripping out those power chords at around 5:25 and lifts the track out of the park, it’s chills-down-the-spine time.
Ian Moss’s show-stopping moment in the spotlight in the band’s early years was his stunning version of this 1930 Hoagy Carmichael tune most often associated with Ray Charles, which soothed the savage beast that was the typical ‘70s pub audience every time.
A knockout performance that may not be overly familiar to many fans of Chisel or Ian’s solo stuff, although the release it appeared on, The Andrew Durant Memorial Concert, roughly coincided with that of Chisel’s first massive album East in ’80. Durant, of course, was the guitarist and songwriter from fellow Adelaide band Stars – the band that Michael Gudinski famously signed over Chisel in 1976 – who was killed by cancer; and the live album, which was recorded live at Melbourne’s Palais Theatre not long before his passing, also featured contributions from Jimmy Barnes, Renee Geyer, Richard Clapton, Brod Smith and others.
Cold Chisel “My Babe”
Mossy’s first song for Chisel, “Never Before”, appeared on East, but it’s Phil Small’s “My Babe” that first gave extensive radio play to Mossy’s voice, and which proved he had pop chops as well as blues feel and technique.
Cold Chisel “Bow River”
One of Ian’s signature tunes, as well as one of Chisel’s, “Bow River” introduced him as a songwriter of real note. This autobiographical track that addresses his growing up days in Alice Springs, is a lyrical gem and a hard rocking good time that easily rivals Don Walker’s best.
The first single from Matchbook; a Moss/Walker co-write, and a #2 single in 1998. As loved as any Jimmy Barnes single.
Track two on Matchbook was also single #2, and Ian’s second Top Ten hit.
A great track from 1996’s solo Petrol Head, co-written with legendary Band of Light/Rose Tattoo/X bassplayer Ian Rilen, who joined Mossy on the album tour until his Bad Boy For Love behaviour got him kicked off. Petrol Head is one of the most overlooked albums in the Moss cannon but it’s most certainly the rawest and most hard-rocking; a real return to the early pub rock sounds.
Another Mossy sung icon of a track from Chisel, this was a written by Steve Prestwich (was there ever another drummer with such a great way with a melody?) and first appeared on Circus Animals. Ian recorded the above acoustic version on his second collection of acoustic reprises and covers, Let’s All Get Together in 2007.
If it’s good enough for Barnsey… Watching his old front man rise to unprecedented levels of success with albums of soul covers was probably the spur, but Mossy of course was a soul man himself as well as a blues and rock man, and his 2009 album Soul on West 23rd trod the same path as Jimmy’s Soul Deep projects. It wasn’t as successfully commercial but it was a worthwhile effort nonetheless, as this cracking Sam Cooke cover confirms.
Don't miss out on seeing one of Australia's greatest talents on tour through June through to November. All tour dates and ticket info can be found here.
- Dave Laing
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