CMP 1994 / Esoteric 2014
A tuneful birthday bash of one of the most versatile musicians of the last century – with regular suspects and unusual pieces.
t had been about a year after Jack Bruce’s actual 50th anniversary when, in March of 1994, he strode on a Cologne stage to start the celebration. A major part of that show fills these two discs, with an audio section of the recently released DVD/CD combo simply filling some gaps. Given an abundance of Jack’s friends beside him, any post-production tweaks would be impossible, but the sometime roughness of the almost 2-hour performance adds to its charm. Yet the most arresting side of it is Bruce’s carefully curated repertoire which barely touches on the CREAM era of his career, opting instead for the less obvious material.
Of course, the majority of the veteran’s stellar guests join in for the finale fun of “Sunshine Of Your Love,” it being the ultimate peak of what starts here with Jack alone at the piano warbling “Can You Follow?” as if to challenge everyone to the task. They rise to the occasion to create a genuine harmony row on such rarities as the funky “Smiles & Grins” where Dick Heckstall-Smith and Art Themen blare their saxes and Gary Husband drums, while the main man’s bass goes into a delicate overdrive, or romantic “Running Through Our Hands” on which the latter helps Bruce on the ivories. Less transparent yet equally tremulous sounds “Ships In The Night,” a duet with Maggie Reilly from the then recent "Something Els" and the acoustically-laced “Golden Days” that features FUNKADELIC’s Gary “Mudbone” Cooper as a second vocalist.
Jack doesn’t limit his cache to the songs, though, and, once Ginger Baker settles down behind him and Heckstall-Smith, runs for experimental jazz of “Statues” and “Over The Cliff” from his debut solo recording, “Things We Like,” before expanding the brass department and revisiting the cheerful “Never Tell Your Mother She’s Out Of Tune” and “Neighbor, Neighbor” that Bruce used to do with Graham Bond whose Hammond role is played now by another PARLIAMENT member, Bernie Worrell, making it a precursor to their full-blown collaboration on "Monkjack" one year later. Clem Clempson, a hero of the day’s guitar foil on most of the tracks, comes to the fore on “Born Under A Bad Sign” and Jack’s own classic, “Theme For An Imaginary Western,” until Gary Moore aggressively takes over the axeman duties for the Simon Phillips-backed “Life On Earth” from Jack’s partnership with Robin Trower and stays on to grind a punchy smattering of CREAM perennials, including “Politician” with Peter Brown on, as one third of BBM.
With regards to the selecton, it’s arguably the best Jack Bruce concert ever released, as this recording highlights different facets of his talent – or cities of the heart.