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RECORD RACK

* * * * Great Balls of Fire * * * Good Vibrations * * Maybe Baby * Running on Empty : : AUSSIE TREASURE

August 23, 1987|STEVE HOCHMAN

* * * "GOSSIP." Paul Kelly & the Messengers. A&M. Paul Kelly is a find. On his American debut, the Australian rock veteran offers a treasure chest stuffed to the brim (15 songs on a scaled-down version of an Australian double album) with pop/rock gems shining with clever wordiness and catchy tunefulness a la Squeeze and Crowded House, with colorations pirated from all corners of the rock world.

The opening "Last Train to Heaven" is a mesmerizing gospel/reggae rocker. The Springsteenianly-titled "Incident on South Dowling" is an enticing blues/polka. "Somebody's Forgetting Somebody (Somebody's Letting Somebody Down)" is a lonesome acoustic country ballad that starts by quoting the Elvis line "Are you lonesome tonight?" Throughout, the four-piece Messengers (with assistance from various guests) are plenty versatile as they follow their leader, though they don't establish a true sound of their own. And though the album is full of musical and lyrical reminders of other artists, Kelly has packaged them so neatly that discovering them is all part of the fun.

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