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Bob Kemmis | Arena Ready (Red Hare Music)
Vancouver songwriter Bob Kemmis cuts a rather forlorn figure in a shabby bed-sit/motel room on the cover of this gem of an album. The self-deprecating title adds charm to this lovingly crafted set of astutely written pop tunes. Delivered in a softly bittersweet tone that probably would have made him a household name in the late '70s (think Nick Lowe, Elvis Costello, Squeeze), Kemmis' self-effacing, sometimes blackly comic lyrics are a real treat. Freak Luck stands out for its new slant on the love at first sight cliché - "Freak luck put a car in the way / I wasn't looking for love but our eyes met / As I bounced off your Chevrolet".  And whilst there's nothing overly ambitious in the song's arrangements, there's a lot more to them than initially meets the ear, and Simon Kendall (piano, vibes, organ, Wurlitzer, accordion, tubular bells, clarinet and more besides) certainly makes his presence felt.
Twenty-five years out of time and place it may be, but 'Arena Ready' is as welcome as it was unexpected.

Geraint Jones
February-April 2005