Only the good die young. So Jesse Younan was great. The singer/songwriter passed away in 2008 from leukaemia aged just 35. Younan had released just four albums in his short lifetime but wrote hundreds more songs. The fruits of his labours were largely unappreciated at his creative peak and shortly thereafter but there is now a chance to right those ills with the new compilation, Take Something Beautiful: The Songs of Jesse Younan.
Take Something Beautiful is an absolute treat that sees nine independent artists gather together to cover his compositions while the closing, “My Addiction” leaves the final word to the man himself. This song has an easy groove and like the remainder of his catalogue sees copious amounts of tender moments and humour (particularly of the dark variety) combining in spectacular glory.
Abbe May opens proceedings with “Blowfly”, one with a dark musical tone to match the lyrical themes. Younan was apparently always a rather intense bloke and because he was usually dressed in head-to-toe black, many people often figured he was in a gang. But really, if there was anything dark about him at all it was his wicked sense of humour and the fact he was tantalised by the gloomier aspects of life – like tragedies – and a lot of his writing was about negotiating your inner demons and drowning your sorrows.
“C’est La Vie” is lead by The Paper Scissors’ Jai Pyne and takes a dramatic look at being strung-out. On the one hand the lyrics talk about the rather loaded “Noose around my neck” and yet, later on his misgivings are dismissed in a much more tongue-in-cheek fashion. Consider: “I’m sick of trippin’ over old regrets/I’d sell my soul for a pack of cigarettes”.
On the title track the song does exactly just as it describes by taking some beautiful elements – like the gorgeous flutes and atmospherics – and celebrating. So while the lyrics could be dismissed as a rather bitter rant, the end result is something lush and darned pretty. A similarly sweet offering is Jordie Lane’s smooth vocals on “Swing”. This one tackles the struggles of life and love, but the ragged edges are softened by his angelic tones.
“Bea” is sung by Tinpan Orange’s Emily Lubitz and sounds like “I’m Kissing You” by Des’ree, from the soundtrack to Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo & Juliet. It too is a pleasant piano ballad lead by a female- a real contrast to the playful, almost country-like swagger of “Forever”. And “Road Long Been Travelled” is the uplifting, penultimate track with the simple yet powerful message.
Take Something Beautiful is a real heartstring stirrer and is a perfect continuation of the work made by an amazing artist who should’ve been far more popular back in the day. It’s full of bleeding hearts, loss and devastation so it’s also impossible to maintain a dry eye amongst such expressive and emotive songs. Ultimately though, it’s raw, honest and as delicate as an eggshell and proves that while Younan’s flame may have been extinguished too soon, with collaborators like these his light is still very much alive.
Originally published on 27 June 2012 at the following website: http://www.fasterlouder.com.au/reviews/music/33011/Various–Take-Something-Beautiful-The-Songs-of-Jesse-Younan
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