Chain Reaction (D Stewart/S Fahey) and Burn for You (P Buckle/J Farnham/R Fraser) and That’s Freedom (J Chapman/T Kimmel) – John Farnham 1990
Chain Reaction was Farnham’s 15th album and followed the great success of Whispering Jack and Age of Reason and the slew of successful singles lifted from those blockbuster hits. Farnham had also toured extensively after each album release and he was now one of the most successful performers in the Adult Contemporary Music market in Australia as well as Europe, although the USA market continued to be impenetrable.
Where his two previous albums had been glossy, somewhat bombastic, synth-rock affairs with an emphasis on anthemic choruses, Chain Reaction was a simpler, rootsier acoustic guitar -based album with harmonica flourishes as exemplified on the title track.Chain Reaction had been written by the then husband -and-wife team of Dave Stewart (Eurhythmics) and Siobahn Fahey (Bananarama and Shakespeares Sister) (above), their pop sensibilities tended towards a more minimalist country-tinged romp with acoustic instrumentation and ensemble vocals blending the contributions of Farnham, Venetta Fields and Lindsey Field.(below with Farnham)The album and the title song brought together the cream of the country’s musical talent – Phil Buckle, Brett Garsed (below) and Ross Fraser (guitars), David Hirschfelder (keyboards and bass), Angus Burchall (percussion) and Steve Williams, whose harmonica and tenor sax flourishes were highlights of the song.Chain Reaction was a #6 hit in Australia and the album soared to #1, sold over 500,000 copies locally and charted for 50 weeks, so continuing Farnham’s Phoenix-like rise back to chart prominence. The promo video was directed by Maurice Todman and featured Farnham in relaxed pub rock mode, strumming a guitar, woo-hooing along with the band, while Steve Williams delivered a definitive harmonica solo. It felt like the whole romp was going on inside a country pub, but it was actually filmed in what was the Grainstore Tavern in King St Melbourne in the heart of the CBD, an address that is now a gentlemens’ club, where the romping is now of a very different kind.This album would also prove to be a generator of more hit singles, That’s Freedom and Burn for You were both top five hits and the gorgeous gospel-inspired cadences of Farnham’s co-composition In Days to Come, was an under-appreciated gem when it charted at only #41. Phil Buckle (below) also emerged as one of Australia’s consummate songwriters at this time, his sensitive ballads were custom-made for Farnham’s vocals, Buckle was a member of Southern Sons and he had written no less than six of the songs on Farnham’s Chain Reaction album including the hits You Were There and Burn For YouHe ultimately re-formed the Southern Sons around lead singer Jack Jones because he was so impressed with Farnham’s treatment of his compositions on Chain Reaction and he felt that Jones was a Farnham sound-a-like. Southern Sons would have success with Phil Buckle compositions in the future, the euphoric Hold Me in Your Arms and their version of You Were There were great songs, but it was the moody, atmospheric, intimacy of Farnham’s reading of Burn For You that stood out, with its stripped back acoustic guitar strumming and Farnham’s intimate vocals.Like an earlier Australian classic, Golden Miles by Healing Force (1971), the song captured the loneliness and yearning of a man separated from his loved one “”I got myself into some trouble tonight/Guess I’m just feeling blue/ It’s been so long since I’ve seen your face/ There’s distance between me and you” and how you try to assuage the burning feelings of separation and alienation “Took my troubles to a bar tonight/ For a different point of view/ But there’s nothing new/ I’m missing you”
A classic ballad which coaxed a sensitive and nuanced vocal performance from Farnham who got solid support from Brett Garsed and Phil Buckle on guitar, David Hirschfelder on keyboards and Angus Burchall on drums and percussion. Burn for You was the ARIA Song of the Year in 1990, a year later Phil Buckle was awarded the highest ARIA accolade as Songwriter of the Year, the record charted #5 locally, Southern Sons would take another Buckle composition, Hold Me in Your Arms, to #7 a year later.Also lifted from the #1 Chain Reaction album, was the uplifting and revivalist-tinged That’s Freedom which charted #6 in November ’90, it had a catchy chorus and infectious beat that never let up “From the mountain to the valley/ From the ocean to the alley/ From the highway to the river/ One emotion to deliver/ One heart, one way, one love/ To share but not to claim/ That’s freedom.” Tom Kimmel (above) and Jeanne Chapman were American songwriters who had previously written several minor hits, and with That’s Freedom they focused on replicating the anthemic appeal of You’re the Voice and pulled it off, making That’s Freedom the third song in the Farnham trilogy of fanfares for the common man after You’re the Voice and Age of Reason, when this became their biggest hit. Farnham’s team on That’s Freedom were again his stalwarts from past successes – Ross Fraser, Brett Garsed, Phil Buckle, David Hirschfelder and Angus Burchall.