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Jonathan Kelly - The Charity Concert DVD

Review No: 290
Added 18th August 2006


Without any shadow of a doubt this is the best concert DVD I have ever seen. This from a person who loves music on DVD as you can watch the bits you want and listen to the bits when your attention wanders. This DVD though will not allow your attention to wander, in fact I have had to turn it off so I can concentrate on writing this homage.

Jonathan Kelly had been a popular player on the British folk scene in the late Sixties and early Seventies under his real name of John Ledingham, under which banner he released several singles. But it was under the name Jonathan Kelly that his first album was released; the self titled ‘Jonathan Kelly’ (1970). This album was really no more than collecting together previous singles, and putting them together on one album. This did not really trouble the record buying public.

But the next album recorded for the RCA label, ‘Twice Around The Houses’ (1972), was a classic and rocketed Jonathan Kelly into the bright new hope category. After several successful festival appearances, a sold out nationwide tour, and a memorable appearance on Britain’s prestigious Old Grey Whistle Test television programme, all seemed on course for superstardom.

This album was followed up the next year with ‘Wait Till They Change The Backdrop’ (1973). Another cracking album, although by this time Jonathan Kelly was moving more away from his folk roots and going a little more rock orientated. This was something that had to be dealt with as Jonathan Kelly was really now too big a star, and playing in too big halls to be just be the singer on stage backed only with his own acoustic guitar, so backing musicians were needed to give the songs more musical depth.

Unfortunately this led Jonathan Kelly down the dark side of the music industry: greedy managers, bad business decisions, and into the proximity of all the excesses of Rock ‘n’ Roll. To say that the Jonathan Kelly train came off the rails would be putting it mildly. Jonathan Kelly became a little erratic, unreliable, and a tad moody.


We Are The People
Rainy Town
The Best Of Times
Sligo Fair
Don’t Be Too Long
Mrs. Gilbert
I Used To Know You
Peels Of Thunder
Alright Till Then
Down On Me
Ballad Of Cursed Anna
Leave Them Go
Sittin’ On Top Of The World / The Train Song

The band that was formed around him was one of outstanding prospects, and named ‘Jonathan Kelly’s Outside’. The band included the excellent Trevor Williams on bass guitar (ex-Audience); Snowy White, who was to go onto play with Pink Floyd, Roger Waters in his solo career, Thin Lizzy, and have his own successful solo career, on drums was the magnificent David Sheen. The album that came out was a grave disappointment to all including the band. How such a talented bunch of musicians could not have made a better fist of it is a mystery. But when the first track on the album is called ‘Misery’ it gives you a clue as to the content of the songs.

The band quickly broke up, and under contract to RCA Jonathan Kelly squeezed out one more album to fulfil contractual obligations: ‘Two Days in Winter’ (1975). There are still flashes of the old genius on both the latter two albums, but it shows the artist’s state of mind, and that although the last album came out under the Jonathan Kelly moniker, the artist performing and writing the songs is credited to Jonathan Ledingham.

Fortunately Jonathan Kelly could see what the world of Rock ‘n’ Roll was doing to his life and simply turned away from it - no great retirement speeches or farewell tours, Jonathan Kelly simply pulled his new family together and went and created a new life for himself in Wales.

It became one of the great unsolved mysteries of rock music: ‘What happened to Jonathan Kelly’. Those first two RCA records and the various concert appearances had left a strong impression in many music lovers’ minds. So much so in fact that Gerald Sables and the intrepid Rosy made it their quest to go out and find the elusive musician. Not only did they find him in the year 2000, but like in all good stories they became friends with Jonathan Kelly, his wife and family. But still Jonathan Kelly was very loathe to make any return to the music scene.

In 2001 BGO Records bought the rights to the Jonathan Kelly back catalogue. They released ‘Twice Around The Houses’ and ‘Wait Till They Change The Back Drop’ as a double album on a two for the price of one double album. I cannot recommend these albums enough, as they are full of joy and enthusiasm with some of the most catchy rhythms since Lennon and McCartney got together. In 2004 BGO also made available ‘Waiting For You’ and ‘Two Days In Winter’ - this is nice to complete your Jonathan Kelly back catalogue. These are easily available through www.amazon.com

But now for the present and future. Gerald Stables’ mother had a frightening clash with the dreaded cancer. Fortunately she fought it and won, recovering full health. Gerald decided to give something back, organizing a concert in a local Darlington folk club to raise money for the ‘Fight The Cancer Fund’. Gerald asked his new friend Jonathan Kelly if he would possibly sing a song or two, to Gerald’s amazement Jonathan Kelly agreed to headline the show. As soon as it was announced that Jonathan Kelly would be playing his first show in nearly thirty years the club sold out in hours with people coming from all over Britain and some even taking the journey over from Europe.

The audience experienced the concert of a lifetime. Even though Jonathan Kelly had not played a public concert in thirty years, he was there ready with guitar in hand on April 20th 2005, and was naturally a little rusty, and obviously nervous. As Bob Chiswick, the announcer, walks on stage and says two words, ‘Jonathan Kelly’ the crowd is on their feet, making more noise at the beginning of a show than many star returns get when they have finished. Needless to say the concert was great success, and a sizeable donation of cash was given to charity.

A CD of the concert was released and was available through the website run by Gerald Sable (ably assisted by Rosy), so that those people who were not able to attend the concert were able to get a slice of the excitement and joy that went with the concert. Now at last there is a full length DVD of the event. All sign of any nerves drop away after one bar of the opening song ‘We Are The People’; a wonderful choice to open with as it is a great anthem to bring everybody together. ‘We Are The People’ is one of eight songs from ‘Twice Around The Houses’ including a storming version of ‘The Ballad Of Cursed Anna’.

There are two songs from ‘Wait Till They Change the Backdrop’, a couple of old singles and B-Sides, with ‘Mrs. Gilbert’, an anti-war song that is as relevant now as it was over thirty years ago when it was written. It also has two new songs that are not on the CD release: ‘The Best Of Times’ and Peels Of Thunder’, which go to prove that Jonathan Kelly has lost none of his song writing talent or bite. Then a blast through Howlin’ Wolf’s ‘Sittin’ On Top Of The World’, which segues into the rockin’ ‘Train Song’ that brings things to a glorious conclusion.

The crowd also plays their part by singing along to all the songs and providing the rhythm section by clapping in time to each song, even the new ones. Three of the crowd are pulled out of the audience to perform the backing vocals to ‘Godas’.

During the intro to the DVD you also get the chance to hear a new Jonathan Kelly song, ‘It’s What I Am’, and as the credits roll they are played over another new song, ‘Eileen’, which you can download free from the artist’s website.

Noticeably, there are no songs from Jonathan Kelly’s latter two albums with RCA. But for my money the best parts are the in-between song banter from the man. Jonathan Kelly has the audience in the palm of his hands as he tells of road stories from days of yore, including little snippets from Eric Clapton, and The Grease Band amongst others. I won’t ruin it by telling any of them. Buy the DVD and find out for yourself.

For those interested in knowing more about this spectacular artist please look up the Gerald Sable run website at www.jonathankelly.com

Mott the Dog resides at Jameson's the Irish Pub