Jeff Kelly

Private Electrical Storm

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Although the material on Private Electrical Storm isn't all that different from what Kelly put on two prior cassettes (Portugal and Coffee in Nepal), the production is. Much of the charm of Kelly's work is due to the sparse but thoughtful backing, which -- like his songwriting muse -- is low-key and subdued, but not plain or boring. On Private Electrical Storm, he often goes for a much fuller sound. An artist should certainly branch out into different directions rather than continuing to mine the same approach over and over. But it's also true that some of the mechanical drums, heavy bass, and otherwise upfront aspects of the arrangements sometimes give this a lumpy, thumpy bluntness at odds with the tender, introspective singing and songwriting. There's still much to admire here, whether in Kelly's appealingly scratchy, vulnerable vocals, keen pop-folk melodies, and brooding, uncertain lyrics about elusive and mysterious love and women, the kind that take repeated listenings to sink in and digest. Issued on cassette only in 1990, it became available, with two previously unreleased bonus tracks, as one of four CDs in the 1999 box set Melancholy Sun. That box set also included a couple of previous albums that were originally released only on cassette, and an otherwise unavailable 1997 album, The Rosary and the House of Jade.