24 Sep 2020
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Jan Hellriegel - Album Review: Sportsman Of The Year

06 May 2019 // A review by Corinne Rutherford

Jan Hellriegel is somewhat of an NZ musical icon, Songwriter, performer, producer, music publisher, copyright expert, mother and now author she has a name many of us of a certain age would have heard of. Her latest body of work Sportsman Of The Year appears to be a defining moment in not only her musical life, but also her personal one. A glorious twelve track album with mini stories attached and an autobiographical style book of twelve chapters based on the collection of songs. A “musical in a book” if you will. This may be her most significant work to date.

Hellriegel has been part of the rich fabric that weaves the NZ music scene since 1989, grabbing major label Warner Music NZ's attention with her indie pop-rock band Cassandras Ears. However, by 1991 Jan had left the band and signed to Warner as a solo artist. She left the music label in 1997 and went out on her own. From that point onwards Hellriegel’s solo achievements have gone from strength to strength, ebbing and flowing, gathering momentum, producing some very fine albums in her musical career.

All paths eventually have led to these published words. The songs are a personal narrative, each one telling a different story. This is a soundtrack to her life.

Soul barring honesty shines through in each track. Sportsman Of The Year is a rich offering of beautifully composed and produced music combined with illuminating storytelling. I got the vibe that once Jan had it into her head she was going to make this album, the words just kept flowing. Overflowing into a 220 page book.

This entire body of work highlights just how resilient Hellriegel is, her strength and persistence has most definitely paid off in this stunning album. Listening to her vocals instantly took me back in time. I have respected her music for many years; this is like a feast if you are fan, a banquet of music, lyrics and words. I feel like I got to know her through her life experiences in song.

Jan can be heard playing the piano on many of the tracks and can be quoted as saying “I wrote a lot of the songs on the piano this time so I thought I might as well play it too”. Neptune has an original and captivating arrangement. Almost mythical. This track gives you good dose of her strong piano playing.

My personal favourite track is For The Love Of Glory. It is incredibly catchy with a slightly Middle Eastern flavour and a very real tale of chasing that elusive fame and glory. This track is irresistibly addictive.

Her usual core crew of musicians helped shape what is her fourth studio album. Wayne Bell, producer, Daniel Denholm, mix, Oliver Harmer, engineer and mastering, Mark Hughes, bass guitar and Brett Adams, guitar. Together they have produced a very clean and cohesive sound which is without a doubt very polished, professional and indeed as “fine an album as anything in Jan Hellriegel’s illustrious career”.

The package of music and words which Hellriegel has launched out into the world has been delivered with grace. This lady has the fortitude, and strength to survive in a tough industry. She is a survivor.

Sportsman Of The Year nails home that she is not only a musician but a talented wordsmith as well. I am basing this on the incredible lyrics which accompany each song; the book must be a remarkable read.

This unique compendium of words and song is a wonderfully rich and glorious offering of her life’s journey. A woven tapestry of captivating stories in musical form. There is also a podcast series in conjunction with Radio NZ, each episode representing a song from the album and a chapter from the book.

This is an empowering and imperishable Rock/Pop album. Five great big solid gold stars from me.

Rating: ( 5 / 5 )
 

About Jan Hellriegel

Jan Hellriegel was born in West Auckland to a family of six. While it is true that she worked at her father's panelbeaters (A.F. Hellriegel Panelbeaters Ltd) it was, contrary to popular legend, in the office and not pumping iron. Nonetheless, she has always been the New Zealand media's 'Westie' darling.

Jan moved to Dunedin to attend Otago University, where she graduated with a Bachelor of Arts, and met up with the friends who would later become Cassandra's Ears. Jan also took vocal training in Speech and Singing at Sister Mary Leo.

At this point she joined her brother Rob's band, Working With Walt, and sang on their 1985 EP '4 Sides', even writing one song, 'Christina', and playing guitars. Between 1989 and 1991 Cassandra's Ears formed to record a song for a Dunedin rock compilation, 'Weird Culture Weird Custom'. Their song The Replacements was released by National Student Radio. The band played local gigs, wrote more material, and eventually released two popular records, 'Private Wasteland' and 'Your Estimation'.

Visit the muzic.net.nz Profile for Jan Hellriegel

Releases

All The Best Thoughts
Year: ????
Type: EP
Sportsman of the Year
Year: 2019
Type: Album
Lost Songs
Year: 2013
Type: Album
Melusine
Year: 2010
Type: EP
All Grown Up
Year: 2009
Type: Album
Tremble
Year: 1995
Type: Album
It's My Sin
Year: 1993
Type: Album

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