Big Boo 2019
Back to Earth, a piano player with acute sense of relevance corrals topical songs into one intense missive and hits the listener hard, if often humorously.
“Who will be my next little Hitler?”: with refrain like this, Jack Spann pulls no punches, and even though the New Yorker will return to regular romantic notions during the course of “Propaganda Man” – a follow-up to his sophomore effort "Beautiful Man From Mars" – its songs highlight a previously concealed aspect to the artist’s creative impetus. There’s more than ivories-driven rhythm-and-blues on the dozen pieces which deliver an acerbic attack – or, more precisely, cynical comment – on today’s America; there’s a lone cowboy sway, if not swagger, to the cuts that could amount to hard-rock hits had the likes of the album’s title track been arranged differently. Country tincture and memorable riffs are only a part of the melodious mosaic whose ever-shifting tempos embrace acoustic guitar and harpsichord without distracting from lyrics where God might say a four-letter word – and it isn’t “love” – and Putin can be cast in a führer’s role.
Nothing is what it seems here, so “We’ll All Go Together” ends up being an organ-smeared funeral march – a mass for the mess we’re in – rather than idealistic call for unity – while the boisterous, groovy “(I’m Wearing A) Dead Man’s Clothes” turns out to be the danse macabre. Yes, “She’s My Love Line” tapping into the Stax canon and the soulful “Her Majesty” developing the Fabs’ tune of the same name should counterbalance, in a finger-popping way, the bitterness of the numbers they rub shoulders with, but it’s the spiritual “Marry The Flag With The Cross” whose captivating folk motif and rejection of religious bigotry that steals the scene.
“Sing your own song” was the advice Spann received from his grandad, and Jack followed it into here and now. Perhaps, too varied in stylistic terms, “Propaganda Man” is Jack’s most interesting and sincerest – albeit sinister – record. This is the album that just had to be done.