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Nobody Knows: the Best of Paul Brady
Artist: Paul Brady
Label: Compass Records
Tracks: 14 / 75:39

Born in Strabane, Northern Ireland, Paul Brady picked up the guitar relatively early on and, by age eleven, was meticulously applying himself to the catalogs of guitar-oriented American Rock & Roll acts like Chuck Berry, the Shadows and the Ventures.  After moving to Dublin in the mid-'60s to attend college, Brady worked as a singer in a succession of Soul and R&B bands before joining up with traditional Irish band the Johnstons during the Irish folk music revival of the late 1960s.  After recording seven albums with the Johnstons in Ireland, England and the US, Brady moved back to Dublin in 1974 and joined the Irish folk band Planxty.  When the group disbanded the following year, Brady and fellow Planxty alum Andy Irvine worked as a duo, releasing the appropriately titled Andy Irvine and Paul Brady album in 1976.  Brady's first solo effort, Welcome Here Kind Stranger, followed in 1978.

As one might expect from such an extended career, the entries on Nobody Knows are stylistically varied.  "Nothing but the Same Old Story" from 1981's Hard Station is a passionate, hard-rocking chronicle of Brady's tenure as an Irishman in London during the late '60s and early '70s.  The title track from 1990's Trick or Treat and "Just in Time" from the 1995 work Spirits Colliding show Brady forging a much more delicate, albeit somewhat nondescript, combination of ambient music and '70s soft rock.  The soul-inflected "Paradise is Here" was brought to prominence during the mid-'80s on Tina Turner's Break Every Rule album.  And 1983's country-twinged "Not the Only One" became a Top 40 hit for Bonnie Raitt in 1992.  For all of his musical detours, though, Brady's reworks of traditional Irish ballads remain among his most enduring pieces of music "Arthur McBride" and "The Lakes of Ponchartrain" are both gripping, best-of-album tracks that show off Brady's intricate, nimble-fingered fretwork and seem far shorter than their copious six-plus minute lengths would indicate.

The single-disc collection is arguably a better fit for casual listeners than longtime followers.  Indeed, despite a running time of over an hour and fifteen minutes, ardent devotees of Brady's career could rightly argue for a more detailed investigation of the artist's solo output, particularly given the fact that it covers a span of some 25 years.  In the same way, the anthology would have been far more enticing to serious fans if it had included demo takes, live cuts or unreleased tracks.  In his favor, though, Brady pulls songs fairly equitably from his various albums, and he as much as admits that the collection leaves out a number of key entries from his back catalog.  Indeed, even in spite of its sometimes meandering tracks and less than all-inclusive nature, the Nobody Knows compilation is a well-balanced summary of Brady's noteworthy career and provides a generous allotment of mostly well-written folk and pop songs that should work to satisfy both novice and enthusiast alike.

Bert Gangl 1/23/2002

I’ll tell you exactly who’s going to like this album.  If you’re a fan of the softer side of either Dire Straits (e.g. “Portobello Belle”) or Tom Petty (e.g. ”The Best of Everything”), give Paul Brady a listen.  His tenor voice complements a diverse selection of instruments (especially among strings) and a style that can be characterized as, at times, folk with a touch of blues and country, and at others, Sting with a touch of New Age.

The one thing I didn’t see in this album was much that was distinctively Irish, with the exception of “Arthur McBride,” the final track and the only one not from a previous recording.  Brady’s voice is remarkably accent free, although he’s definitely talented. 

Dan Singleton 1/23/2002

Paul Brady is a thirty-year veteran of the music business, starting in Ireland in the late sixties with The Johnstons, recording with Planxty, releasing solo albums, and probably best known on this side of the pond for writing songs Bonnie Raitt made famous ("Trick or Treat," "Not the Only One")  

Brady has a distinctive voice, best described as Sting crossed with Roger Hodgson (Supertramp).  The title track opens the CD.  "Nobody Knows" is about our quest for attention and fame while dealing with the vagaries of life:

Nobody knows why Elvis threw it all away
 Nobody knows what Rubik had to hide…
No use in asking ­ the answer is 'nobody knows'."

"Nothing But the Same Old Story" is a story about being Irish in England, during a time when that wasn't an easy thing to be-­Brady growls through this much in the style of Michael Been (The Call).  "The World is What You Make It" has an Irish feel, and is a bit more optimistic.  Musically, it features an African-chant chorus, and the banjo of Bela Fleck.  

Bass legend Victor Wooten chips in on "Just in Time" and "Trust in You", a song that portrays the eternal difference between men and women.  The latter, while recorded in the 90's, has a distinctly 70's sound to it.  Jeff Porcaro (Toto, Bonnie Raitt) contributes throughout on drums.  

Nobody Knows is a mixture of musical styles: from light rock to 80's to traditional Irish music ("Lakes of Pontchartrain", "The Homes of Donegal", "Arthur McBride").  "Paradise Is Here", recorded by Cher and Tina Turner on separate occasions, is performed here by Brady himself, and resembles Richard Page (Mr. Mister) vocally.  On "Follow On" Brady channels Bruce Hornsby, while at other times he could be a Mark Knopfler clone.

In all, Nobody Knows spans twenty years of Brady's career, offering insight into the various musical eras he has outlasted.  Some of it sounds dated, but I imagine that is natural when you deal with songs that are twenty years old.

Brian A. Smith 2/24/2002



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