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Fun's the right formula

1990 - Sunday Telegraph (Sydney)

"If you can sell a few records every once in a while it means there'll be somebody prepared to back you for maybe two more."

Stephen Cummings, former lead vocalist with the Sports, that popular Aussie band of the 70s and 80s, is speaking about his latest solo release, Good Humour.

It's his fifth record since leaving the Sports, and judging by sales of his first single Hell, it could be his biggest hit since the heady days of Who Listens To The Radio.

"The last two albums I recorded were made with very little money," says Cummings.

"Financial constraints do place a big limit on what you can do in the studio.

"With this album we had a budget of about $70,000 - not really very much by the standards of really big bands, but it's a lot more than I've had for some time and it allowed me more time and greater access to technology."

The last two albums which Cummings refers to are Lovetown and A New Kind of Blue - intense, introspective recordings which attracted widespread critical acclaim.

Cummings is justly proud of these records, but he's also at pains to point out that their unadorned starkness was only partly the result of artistic choice: he really didn't have the money to do it any other way.

"The albums were starting to really put me into this bag of the serious singer and songwriter, and that's not really how I perceive myself," he says.

"With this album I wanted people to realise that there was humour in my songwriting as well.

"And I wanted to do some up-tempo material, some funky things.

"I could have very easily done a whole album of dance material, but that would have been a bit extreme compared with what I've done recently, so I went for a balance of different songs in the end."

Completed almost a year ago (the release delayed by a contractual dispute between Cummings' independent record company and its distributor), Good Humour sees the singer working with some interesting musicians.

Robert Goodge, one of the main creative forces behind Kate Ceberano's first band, I'm Talking, makes a welcome re-appearance as a songwriter and musician.

Renowned Sydney jazz pianist Chris Abrahams also makes an appearance along with the guest backing vocals of Tim Finn.

"I have very ecelctic tastes in music and I like putting people together who will maybe create something quite different," says Cummings.

"Tim Finn's involvement came about because I needed some harmony vocals and I was thinking along the lines of the Bee Gees, that kind of thing. I don't actually know him very well although obviously we've met many times, but he was really into doing it.

"He didn't want any money for doing it, either. He just asked for a copy of the record."

Cummings plans to embark on a full-scale national tour to promote Good Humour in March, but in the interim he's been performing in all-star ensemble shows that also feature Finn, Deborah Conway, Vika and Linda Bull and others.

"The idea came from this nightclub in Melbourne called IDs. On Sunday nights there you might get six or seven people getting up and singing in different configurations. It's all pretty casual."

Cummings stresses that he prefers to perform his own material with a very limited number of musicians; informal jam sessions are definitely not his style.

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