Brave Kate sought the higher ground

As published by The Footy Almanac, 19 January 2015

I must admit I’ve always had something for Kate Ceberano.

The summer of ’89 in particular was a good one for us both.  After some success with I’m Talking, her breakthrough album, Brave, would hit triple platinum and peak at #2 in the Australian album chart.  Meanwhile, my junior cricket team would go undefeated on our way to an emphatic flag.

Well, everything’s relative!

My Saturday morning cricket routine would begin with watching Rage, the key being waking in time to catch Bedroom Eyes.  It was an awakening alright, a 22 year old Miss Ceberano with that voice and that song…  Sure, the Chantoozies went alright too, but Kate, she had real talent to match her exotic looks.  Looking back now it’s all pretty tame compared to oh-my-gosh Nicki Minaj fare.

If Bedroom Eyes and the eponymous single Brave weren’t enough, next on the hit list was Young Boys are my Weakness – those lyrics and video featuring curvy Kate spinning about in a tight black mini…  Hello hormones.

Some voices just have that indefineable quality, that point of difference which sets them apart.  Kate Ceberano could sing an Andrew Bolt column and make it something to behold.  Perhaps owing to the shambolic nature of its recording (a mish mash of tracks recorded here, then in London and then re-recorded again back in Melbourne), Brave was an eclectic mix of pop, jazz (a sublime cover of The Reels’ Quasimodo’s Dream), soul and funk (another cover; Higher Ground).

Kate’s sensual tones transcended all these styles and somehow Brave hit the sweet spot.  Timely for Kate – after I’m Talking’s demise and critically acclaimed, if not commercially lucrative albums with her Septet and (similarly undersold) Wendy Matthews, she’d reached a crossroads.

It rankled with me that Kylie Minogue’s Neighbours and Stock Aitken Waterman connections catapaulted her to international fame with a fraction of the musical talent.  But interestingly,  in a sliding doors moment just prior to Brave coming together, Kate walked away from the paint-by-numbers hit factory for which she actually recorded a version of Bedroom Eyes.

What also rankled was that my best friend, whose father held some kind of ranking within the Church of Scientology, had met Kate several times at various gatherings.

But I digress.  Brave should have been the platform to global fame and fortune but sadly it remains her finest hour.  Whilst Kate has enjoyed a tremendous, diverse career, she herself admits that potential Kylie-level international success eluded her due to a lack of strategic savvy and poor marketing.  As much as fame was sought, Kate wouldn’t compromise her artistic integrity.  And straddling multiple genres is tricky unless well and truly established.  The industry and marketplace is more comfortable with round pegs neatly inserted in round holes.

The first time I actually saw Kate playing live wasn’t until the 2002 AFL Grand Final.  Kate and a Collingwood flag in the same afternoon was a fantasy nipped in the bud by, well, don’t get me started on umpiring decisions in the last quarter.  Ah, what could have been.

K & JFast forward to November 2014 and she’s undertaking a sound check for the Hume Music Festival at some nondescript park somewhere in a nondescript housing estate in Craigieburn.  My wife and I arrived early to grab a prime spot and we’re treated to a pre-show that was well worth our over eagerness.  The bane of Kate’s career has struck again – this is a free concert yet no one seems to know about it.  Just a few hundred in attendance, I feel mixed emotions.  We’re treated to a typically first class set which even includes Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours album covered in full.   Kate’s beautiful personality and humour shine throughout – she’s aged well and plays drums and piano too, just because she can.  And not a skerrick of diva-ish tetchiness over the poor turnout.

Post-show my wife was keen for a photo with Kate to which she of course happily obliged.  As Mrs D headed for the hills I intejected ‘hey, what about me?’  Nevermind the ‘my worlds are colliding’ moment (and I’m no fanboy tragic), I’d been waiting 25 years for this opportunity!

Kate is far better than free gigs in the ‘burbs, no matter what the going rate.  Her quality Kensal Road album, released in 2013, also warranted greater returns.  But ultimately the great Australian songstress has probably compiled a superior body of work in the absence of the rinse and repeat pop treadmill that would have been her station in an alternate universe. The world’s loss is our gain.

You certainly need to be brave to endure the curious whims of public taste and the music industry.  And after 30 years Kate is certainly that, and so much more.

Brave track listingBrave

  1. “Since You’ve Been Gone”
  2. “Love Dimension”
  3. “Quasimodo’s Dream”
  4. “Young Boys Are My Weakness”
  5. “Brave”
  6. “Bedroom Eyes”
  7. “That’s What I Call Love”
  8. “Higher Ground”
  9. “Obsession”
  10. “Changing with the Years”

@JeffDowsing

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