Hard to believe, but this marks Hay’s ninth solo record (and first in over five years) since his Men at Work heyday. It’s also his best (and probably one of the year’s best singer/songwriter discs). As opposed to earlier efforts, which sometimes sounded like Hay was trying a bit too hard, Are You Lookin’ at Me? sounds completely relaxed. Accompanied by a sympathetic band, and his wife Cecilia Noel on backing vocals, Hay offers up a collection of gentle, wry songs that show a remarkable lack of regret or bitterness. Starting off with the title track, which charts Hay’s life from childhood through stardom and its quiet aftermath, Lookin’ often touches on age and mortality, and casts an appreciative eye to the past with likable modesty (“I had myself a moment / A day out in the sun”). Stylistically, Hay makes some very nice choices, such as ramping up the horns in “Lose to Win” and “Pure Love”, and arming “This Time I Got You” with Dire Straits-like guitar tone. There are a couple of missteps, most notably the overly jaunty “What Would Bob Do?”, but at its best, Are You Lookin’ at Me? takes on a fluid, organic feel reminiscent of Crowded House. If only more musicians with memories of superstardom were so well-adjusted.
// Notes from the Road
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