The first song Jimmy Bonar ever wrote was entitled ‘Out of nowhere’ when he was 17 years old. Subsequently as he matured as an artist subconscious themes were forming and evolving - that of a continued exploration of his inner self coupled with an often simplistic yet engaging outlook on everyday life.
Jimmy’s debut album BLUE BOY, released in 1995 gathered several favourable reviews. Critic Nick Bollinger, writing in the NZ Listener praised his “strong melodic skills” and a comparison to US singer Freedy Johnston (Elektra Records). PAVEMENT MAGAZINE noted his singing: “He has a voice you can’t help but love” and “would be worth a support billing with The Beatles circa ‘64”.
His sophomore album FULL CIRCLE, released in November 2005 continued this trend with RIP IT UP describing the album as “packed full of Beatlesque melodies", and TEARAWAY MAGAZINE noting its overall sound as 'jangle pop meets acoustic indie pop'. Although BLUE BOY is currently unavailable – FULL CIRCLE is available through cdbaby.com)
Celtic music has always played a big part in his life – he is of Scots Irish descent and from 1992 to 1996 fronted popular Auckland Celtic band Twisty Willow. His songwriting for the band leaned heavily towards this genre and culminated in him contributing eight original songs for the band’s album “DARKNESS IN THE SKY”. (Produced by Nick Abbott at York Street Studio 2)
Fast forward to March 2012 and the first new recordings of original songs by Jimmy Bonar in a number of years emerged as the album ‘WORKING CLASS’. Produced by Joe Hoonhout at Auckland’s Ferryhill Studio, ‘WORKING CLASS’ was mastered for release at Stebbings Studios and released digitally on Amplifier, iTunes, and CD Baby. Jimmy’s take on the album was “that is was designed to make people think - it’s not about class struggle or the like; it’s more about relating to people with a working class attitude – loyal, hardworking, steadfast, and decent.”
In 2013 Jimmy began work a project, but one of a major difference from his usual genre – that of recording a collection of easy listening songs - partially inspired by the Paul McCartney album ‘Kisses’. The end result was the 14 song album ‘2 Sides to Jimmy B’ , (produced by Bonar, with vocal engineering by Joe Hoonhout). Since then he has been mainly singing this genre in and around Auckland, Sydney and San Francisco.
Not withstanding this different direction, his major love has always been rock music and Jimmy decided in 2014 to re-release the (currently digital only) recording ‘WORKING CLASS’. Whilst acknowledging the need to have his recordings available online, he always has believed in the old fashioned traditional concept of having ‘a record for sale’. “You may see a busker on the street” say’s Jimmy,”whose fantastic. You stop, listen, buy their CD, have a quick chat and leave thrilled to bits. You’ve just met and heard a genuine artist doing their thing. In this day and age I still believe in that concept.”
WORKING CLASS is available by clicking on this link.
Recordings through the years
REVIEWED BY ANDREW SMIT, NZ MUSIC.COM
Working Class is a very polished and clean soft rock album, clearly a work crafted over and perfected with much care in a recording studio, as the lush sound and clarity of the recordings are of high quality and consistent throughout. Jimmy is clearly influenced by The Beatles and has recreated their sound with a little help of a slight English accent on the vocals, to the point where Jimmy's voice sounds like of a mix of John Lennon and Noel Gallagher.
The songs are well crafted, highlights are Helping Hand, Take A Bow and A Bit Of A Bob with wonderful arrangements that are easy on the ear, with very catchy melodies, all sung with startling clarity and perfect diction by Jimmy's soulful and smooth voice. The sweet tuneful nature of each song to a degree obscures you from the more complex themes of the songs which range from high maintenance lovers and suppressed emotions, there is a theme in there somewhere we all can connect with at some point in our lives.
The music has been given the treatment in post-production with layered vocals and distant effect laden backing vocals which create some cool vibes. There is an distinct formula for the songs on the album, with gentle soft rock songs and the occasional folky ballad all done to a standard pop arrangement, with crisp mixing and mastering polishing it all off, maybe it’s a little too polished as it's slightly too sparkly and clean, with the band sounding so perfect they almost sound synthesised. But you can tell Working Class is a creation of Jimmy's' labour and love, he has delivered an album that’s enjoyable to listen to, with very catchy tunes, they feel good and you soon will be singing and smiling along.
REVIEWED BY BING TURKBY, NZ MUSICIAN MAGAZINE
This is an album of good catchy pop/rock songs packed with great vocal melodies, driving drum beats and the odd grunty guitar solo, delivered with a pop music sensibility. It highlights Bonar’s vocals and his general cheery vibe. You could easily imagine many a crowd sing-along – the man knows how to craft a chorus. There’s a fairly strong Beatles influence but not in a derivative way – it’s definitely Bonar’s album and he is effusive in his praise for Joe Hoonhout of Ferryhill Studio for bringing his vision to fruition.
The production on this disc gives the songs a radio-friendly sheen, in fact the album is so nicely produced I think any of these songs could find a home on most radio stations, and indeed in TV/film placement. Bonar’s songwriting is assured, his band is tight, and his singing really suits this material. ‘Working Class’ has been available online for a while but hopefully now that it’s available as a shiny plastic disc it will get the attention it warrants.
‘Packed full of Beatlesque melodies. Jangle pop meets indie rock.’ A decade after Jim Bonar’s debut album ‘Blue Boy’ comes the belated successor ‘Full Circle’ which continues to showcase the artists own unique and personal style of songwriting .
This collection of thirteen original songs, recorded between 2000 and 2004 was almost shelved until its recent eventual release .It is almost a paradox, like its author: struggling to find an identity but never the less presenting itself as an equal player in the genre of singer-songwriters. New Zealand rock bible ‘Rip It Up’ said: “Unlike the recent wave of retro sounding bands, Jim Bonar’s music is very authentic and doesn’t make you feel like you are listening to 60’s b-sides….his album is packed full of Beatlesque melodies…”
Tracks: Another Fine Mess*, The Guessing game, Looking for you (baby), Canada Girl, If I could love, We don’t talk, Candlestick Park, Why did you have to leave me?, Jukebox, Odd man out, You keep on walking, Sometime in the fall, Full Circle*. Produced by Simon Wring and Marshall Bird*, through Black Tie Records.
“like Paul McCartney, his voice has a sweet fragile quality”…..NZ Musician
“there are some great melodies and choruses here”…..Tearaway
“packed full of Beatlesque melodies”…..Rip It Up
“the words stack up to nothing more than bad poetry”…..Real Groove
“good musicians…great grooves”…..NZ Musician
“Jangle pop meets acoustic indie pop”…..Tearaway
“The recurring theme throughout this album is an unpretentious overview of Jim Bonar, the individual”. Here, on his first solo release, he is backed by his band ‘The Agents’, featuring Matt Gruebner on bass, and drummer Malcolm Taylor, with material leaning towards the introspective and autobiographical.
All fifteen songs were penned by Bonar, in the process of “clearing out my bottom drawer”. Musically, the songs are mainly acoustic pop/rock with Beatleish melodies; the overall low key flair of the album lends it an air of easy appeal. As noted in ‘Pavement Magazine’, “Jim Bonar has a good head for melody and harmony. Punchy pop worthy of a support billing with the Beatles circa ’64, he not only writes well but has a voice you can’t help but love…With a tight band and up front clean production, ‘Blue Boy’ is a case of don’t judge the book by it’s cover.”
Tracks: I’ll keep waiting, Here with me, Weight in gold, Beautiful girl, Solitary prison, That’s true, Seize the day, Out of nowhere, Showboat, A Minute to spare, Friend, Remember when, Hole in my sock, Chance of a lifetime, Looking for your shadow.
Produced by Jim Bonar and Joe Hoonhout, through BBM/Global Routes Music.
“Punchy pop…worthy of a support billing with The Beatles circa ‘64”…..Pavement Magazine
“With a tight band and upfront production, this is a case of don’t judge the book by it’s cover”…..Pavement Magazine
“Gentle, smooth songs”…..Real Groove Magazine
“Fine melodic skills”…..He could yet be our Freedy Johnston…..NZ Listener
“Has a good head for melody and harmony”…..Pavement Magazine
“Forms a confident debut. The honesty and warmth in his lyrics lend it an air of easy appeal”…..Real Groove Magazine
“Jim Bonar not only writes well, but has a voice you can’t help but love”…..Pavement Magazine
“As a songwriter, Bonar expresses his perceptions of love, life and friendship with skill”…..NZ Musician.