CMP 1993 / Esoteric 2014
Transitional work sees former Creamster cruising from experimental ’80s into a calmer decade.
Both innovator and traditionalist, Jack Bruce found it difficult to sail through the plastic production years. This album, recorded in 1986-1992, between synthesizer-based "Automatic" and the piano-and-organ pairing of "Monkjack", has something in common with either but, reflecting its long gestation, feels rather labored, despite the presence of the artist’s old friends. The lack of immediacy is most obvious on the repetitive raps and artificial groove of “Peaces Of The East” and “Willpower,” one of three tracks featuring Eric Clapton that had been cut for the eponymous compilation and chosen to open “Something Els.” The latter song takes a riff from Jack’s classic “Keep It Down” to wrap it in a recursive melody and cheesy keyboard splashes as if to counterweight the handclaps-helped easiness of “Waiting On A Word” where Slowhand’s twangy remarks complement Bruce’s piano.
Similar elegance carries “Ships In The Night,” a cello-adorned duet with Maggie Reilly which brings an old-school crooner out of each singer, as does the spiritual “Close Enough For Love” that marries pop synths to church organ before breaking into a barrelhouse jive. That serves as a fitting precursor to “G. B. Dawn Blues”, a homage to Jack’s old taskmaster Graham Bond with inspired saxes from their former band member Dick Heckstall-Smith: the swirling jaunt of a piece picks up where “Walking In The Park” left off. Yet the new wave funk of “Criminality,” an “Automatic” vestige, feels like a foreign body even in such an urban atmosphere, no matter how Ray Gomez’s licks and Dave Liebman’s reeds strive to spice it up. The latter’s brass shine a light into the velvet tones of “Childsong,” one of the most delicate Bruce’s ballads, while the ivories-shaped elegiac instrumental “FM” refers to Thelonious in the way “Monkjack” would.
This reissue adds three rarities from the same period, Jack’s contributions to the “The Snake Music” album by the “Childsong” percussionist Mark Nauseef and guitarist Miroslav Tadić. An interesting experimental work, it allowed Bruce to relax on the new versions of “The Wind Cries Mary” and his own “Rope Ladder To The Moon” which, unlike “Lizard On A Hot Rock” with the bassist letting rip on blues harp, pack no punch. Something else, indeed: might the missing “e” and “g” stand for “energy,” then?