Wednesday, August 25, 2010



Another criminally overlooked platter from the archives of forgotten music. Jack Bruce dove headlong into the solo sweepstakes with an imaginative debut, which is a few summers ahead of its time.

Dedicated to a friend (clothing designer Jeannie Franklyn) who had been recently killed in a car accident, Songs For A Tailor displays a perfect balance of great writing, musicianship and production. Felix Pappalardi was at Bruce’s side as producer with Andy Johns behind the board. Dream team comes to mind when you connect the dots. You can have the best chefs and ingredients money can buy at your disposal, though without the right recipe the end product will not satisfy. Bruce brought top shelf material to the sessions, much of which fulfilled his aspiration to marry jazz motifs with rock arrangements.

Conspicuously absent is the style of heavy blues that he regularly indulged in with Cream.

Innovative, quirky yet still quite accessible, all nine selections mark a definitive break with “that other band” and certainly made it tough to mourn their passing. Enlisting a few heavy friends to help deliver the instrumental goods, the core lineup has Jon Hiseman on drums, Chris Spedding on guitar and Dick Hextall-Smith on sax. Hiseman and Hextall-Smith formed the core of Colosseum, who were a powerhouse group in their own right. Bruce himself handled bass, piano, organ and cello along with some guitar.

A few other special guests contributed as well.

“Never Tell Your Mother That She’s Out of Tune” must have shell-shocked listeners who first applied the needle to this LP back in '69. Pushed along with a driving rhythm and very prominent brass section, it is a startling opener, indicative of the fresh path that the artist was setting out on. “L’Angelo Mysterioso” (George Harrison) makes his second appearance on record alongside Bruce, though his guitar work is somewhat overshadowed by the horns in the final mix. According to session lore, Harrison showed up an hour early, ready to play live on the track if need be. Working under the pseudonym was a necessity because he was under contract with EMI and guest appearances that helped other artists sell records for competitors were not looked upon kindly.

For those who are only familiar with Mountain’s cover of “Theme For an Imaginary Western”, you get a chance to hear how Bruce handles it here. Both versions have much going for them, though I generally lean toward recordings performed by the original artist.

Three cuts that were conceived around the time that he was working with Cream on Disraeli Gears finally saw official release. (“Weird of Hermiston”, “ Boston Ball Game 1967” and “The Clearout”) Allegedly, their lack of commercial promise was seen as a barrier to issuing them on that record. They are all highlights of this eclectic masterpiece. Reportedly, he even dusted off a few musical ideas that he had composed while still in his early teens, weaving them into the fabric of this remarkable set.

My personal favorite is “Rope Ladder to the Moon”, which prefigures the acoustic, open tunings that Led Zeppelin would explore in depth on their third LP the following year. Longtime collaborator Pete Brown provides the lyrics, as he does for the majority of the album. Esoteric, at times unfathomable, though never boring, Brown’s poetic sensibilities were finely tuned and quite well matched to Bruce’s musical flights of fancy.

Uniformly excellent, this is easily his finest hour as a solo artist.

1 comment:

George said...

I loved Jack Bruce when he was with CREAM. I'll have to check this out.