In 1992 when Johnny Diesel (real name Mark Lizotte) released his debut album, he was the ripped jeans and long hair antidote to the polished sounds of the dance music that was flooding the airwaves.
A mix of rock, soul and funk, Hepfidelity typifies the sound of the 90s. Born in America but raised in Perth, he is one of the most successful Australian acts of the decade.
With a little of his brother-in-law Jimmy Barnes‘ scream and the incredibly catchy tune ‘Tip of My Tongue’ that is still a radio favourite today, this was the time for the then 26 year old to break out on his own after fronting The Injectors in the 80s.
Recorded in the US, he went on to Hot Tin Roof Studios in L.A. and Stupid 6 in Memphis to work on the album. With American producer Terry Manning at the helm (from Lenny Kravitz, Iron Maiden and Otis Redding fame) and having either written or co-written all the tracks except one, the ingredients for a memorable album were all there.
The opening track, ‘Man Alive’, is a song dedicated to that unobtainable girl – someone who doesn’t believe the guy is for real. “There not a man alive with a love as justified; and I’m gonna make you believe it”, he sings. With its atmospheric, INXS-like vibe, the Jimmy scream makes an appearance here.
‘Tip of My Tongue’ is the radio friendly single every artist needs. More slinky than rock and roll, with a catchy hook that got everyone’s attention, it wasn’t surprising it was no. 4 on the ARIA chart.
‘Too Much of a Good Thing’ is the soul-tinged track that will have you respecting Diesel, not just as a guitarist, but as a singer. He sounds very Stevie Wonder here.
With strong drums and a guitar solo to melt your heart, ‘One More Time’ is the rock ballad the album needed to balance the rock moments. Not unlike Bruce Springsteen’s ‘Tougher Than The Rest’, Diesel wrote the song with J.L. (Jerry Lynn) Williams. Having worked with BB King, Bonnie Raitt and Eric Clapton, he was in good hands with Jerry.
Adding to his talents, Diesel almost raps on the very funky ‘Get Lucky’. I challenge anyone not to move when this song comes on. Returning to the wall of sound like ‘Man Alive’, ‘There Is a Love’ is a keyboard driven track with the background vocals really bringing it to another level.
‘Love Junk’ is the sexy bass driven song with an almost grunge sound to it. Following that, the gospel hint on ‘Come To Me’ adds to the album’s depth. ‘Save a Little Lovin’ is another uptempo bass-driven song followed by the soulful ‘Picture of You’.
‘One Thing After Another’ is a great end to the album – high energy and a fantastic sing-along for his die hard fans.
Diesel was duly rewarded for his efforts – an ARIA no. 1 album, best male artist and album of the year is no mean feat. Put this on your To-Listen list and discover a real 90’s gem.