Diesel – The Lobbyist

Stylish blend of Blues-Rock and white Soul for the ’90s

Eager to cash in on the huge success of his first solo album (or second if you count 1989’s Johnny Diesel & The Injectors), 1992’s Hepfidelity, Diesel (real name Mark Lizotte) was under pressure to release a follow up. But since he didn’t have enough material in the can, the concept of a hybrid LP was born, one that would consist of three sections: studio, acoustic, and live (the acoustic session was also pulled from a live performance, making it something of a misnomer, but we’ll let that one go).

Released in 1993, The Lobbyist (named after the amount of time Diesel spent in hotels), despite some apparent reservations on the part of the singer himself, would go all the way to #1 in Australia, unsurprising really, considering the strength of the ‘new’ material, along with some very fine renditions of Otis Redding’s “I’ve Been Loving You Too Long” and Jimmy Cliff’s “The Harder They Come.”

Opener “Brand New Song” is an upbeat modern-day soul-rocker, and while not exactly spectacular, it’s Diesel’s bluesy, vibrant vocals that really carry the listener along, and to a large extent make the whole thing work. The shiny, polished-to-perfection soul-pop of “Never Miss Your Water” (a hit single as it turned out) is followed by “The Masterplan,” a tender love ballad sung in a style reminiscent of Jeff Buckley (who was still unknown at the time).

The acoustic portion of the album is perhaps the most inspired, with Lizotte pulling of an affecting reading of “Since I’ve Been Loving You” (which proved to be another hit single off the LP), “One More Time” and “Come To Me” are also fine attempts at impressing the opposite sex, complemented by Diesel’s rich unpretentious timbre, a voice which, it must be said, is one of the finest around.

“Tip Of My Tongue” was one of Hepfidelity’s biggest radio hits, so for anyone who either loves or hates it, got the chance to hear it all over again, albeit in stripped down form a la MTV Unplugged. In fact, had Diesel been given the opportunity to perform this number on MTV it might well have opened up a whole new audience for him, instead of remaining limited by the much smaller Australian music market.

During the live set, he goes all Hendrix on the funky “Rhythm Of Your Soul” and the superb wah-wah infected “Get Lucky” (a co-write with legendary Oz songwriter Don Walker), before unleashing a flurry of funk-reggae on final number “The Righteous One,” a track so good it beggars belief why Diesel never sought to pursue a studio version (or perhaps he did, but decided to drop it in favour of this version).

Ultimately The Lobbyist is part ‘new’ album, part compilation. And while two versions of “Come To Me” may have been pushing it a tad, the album’s triumphs certainly outweigh any apparent shortcomings. Thanks to records such as this, Diesel further cemented his ever growing reputation as one of Australia’s pre-eminent singer-songwriters (he’s pretty handy on the guitar too).

Why Lizotte has never found success in the US (he was born there after all) or at least beyond Australia’s shores is just one of those bewildering phenomenon’s so common in the music scene. Then again, he’s probably not complaining. Few musicians experience the sort of sales and critical acclaim which he has managed to garner since his down to earth debut in ’89.