Archie Roach is one of Australia’s most important artists – musically and culturally.
Since the late 1980s, Archie has been keeping us on our toes, writing and singing about issues that need to be aired – politics, race, humanity, friendship, community and our Australian land. From 1990 and the landmark release Charcoal Lane to 2012’s Into The Bloodstream, he has cast a giant shadow over us.
Creation was released last year. A four CD set, including fourteen previously unreleased recordings and a twenty-eight page booklet, from this Australian icon. Archie Roach is the highest profile Indigenous artist next to Gurrumul, and the most acclaimed Australian songwriter next to his friend Paul Kelly.
Creation features remastered versions of Archie’s first four albums – Charcoal Lane, Jamu Dreaming, Looking For Butter Boy and Sensual Being, which were all recorded for Mushroom Records between 1990 and 2002, together with fourteen previously unreleased bonus tracks. This beautifully designed package also features detailed liner notes by Jeff McMullen and Archie himself, commentary from Archie’s producers including Paul Kelly, and unseen images from the archives of photographer Pierre Baroni.
It includes all the songs upon which Archie’s reputation is based, including “Took The Children Away”, “Down City Streets”, “A Child Was Born Here”, “Beggar Man” and “Weeping In The Forest”, as well as a demo of his AFL Australian Rules footy song “Colour of Your Jumper”.
Creation comes one year after the release of Into The Bloodstream, which completed Archie’s remarkable comeback following the passing of his beloved wife Ruby Hunter and his recovery from both a stroke and lung cancer. It follows the admission of his song “Took The Children Away” in the National Film and Sound Archive’s Sounds of Australia Registry (alongside AC/DC and Kylie Minogue). Archie’s profile is now higher than at any point in his career.
Charcoal Lane still makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand to attention. The song “Charcoal Lane” refers to places near my house, my daughter works on one of the inner Melbourne streets quoted in the song. The depiction of life there with a bunch of mates is vivid and real. “Down City Streets” (have a listen) and “Took The Children Away” are songs of the finest craftmanship, anthems that will be with us for a long time. The “Koorie Koorie” bonus track is a priceless addition that’s been stubbornly stuck in my head for weeks. Fellow Australian singer/songwriter and Australian legend Paul Kelly has a strong imprint on this album.
The second disc Jamu Dreaming is a strong follow-up when you consider how difficult second albums can be, particularly when the first release has a number of quality songs that some artists would be happy to have for an entire career. More confident vocally, Archie’s “From Paradise”, “Tell Me Why” (the ode to his parents) and “Weeping In The Forest” are stand-out tracks. The tale of domestic violence “Walking Into Doors” is a powerful addition to the material.
Looking For Butter Boy was released in 1997 includes “Beggar Man” the remastered studio track and a 1996 demo version. “The River Song”, “Watching Over me” and the wonderful bonus number – the aforementioned “Colour Of Your Jumper”. The final disc, 2002’s Sensual Being is another fine recording from Roach. Another heavy collaboration with Kelly – check out the biting “Mission Ration Blues” and the poignant “Cold Wind Blows”. Four bonus tracks round out the disc beautifully.
The other day I was deep into an Indigenous Australia exhibit at the Melbourne Museum. On demand there was a video of then Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s “apology speech” in Australia’s Parliament. Detailing Australia’s shameful past, its hurtful and indefensible policies to remove Indigenous children from their parents. Generations of stolen children. When I got home, I listened to Archie Roach’s “Took The Children Away” about ten times on repeat. I will never forget its power.
Creation is a fine and expansive collection. Every household should have one.