Gordon Joll is a name that may well be naggingly familiar, having sat behind the drums for some genuinely legendary Kiwi acts including the NZ Music Hall of Fame likes of Herbs, Hello Sailor and Hammond Gamble. Sue Joll is no slouch either, playing rhythm and acoustic guitar, bass and piano here, with a musical history that includes playing bass with Doc Savage and Monique Rhodes. Together they are Happy Fish, a more than competent husband and wife party/pub duo gigging around the far north since 2015.
Hence the album’s title I guess – they likely have a great covers repertoire, plus at least the seven (of nine) soft rock songs that were written by Sue and feature here.
Let’s look at the covers first. It’s All Over Now Baby Blue by Bob Dylan is convincing, Sue’s vocals pushed into the kind of emotional rock territory pub fans would likely rate highly. Neil Young’s Harvest Moon is played with a jazz swing beat and sung in a softer natural voice – likely well-received when the lights are down and things are getting a bit slow and cuddly. It’s a sweet way to close things out on the Happy Fish album as well.
Lost At Sea is the best of the originals. Slow-paced and full of farewell-to-love metaphors, it’s a showcase for Sue’s alternately sweet and gritty vocals, set against Hammond Gamble’s delightful delicate lead guitar. Co-producer Stuart Pearce played piano and Bruce Madden decorates several tracks with some great organ, so musical standards are kept pretty high.
Overall though, the original tracks struggle to shake off the sense of being pre-programmed for a live performance duo, which may simply be because that’s how they’ve always been played, or perhaps deliberate if this CD was recorded to be a post-gig merch item, as seems highly likely. Plus it may well be a case of the two classic tracks covered unintentionally showing up the less-practised songwriting elsewhere.