Angel Air 2014
Four decades on since its recording, long-lost slice of British funk comes up for savoring.
Having progressed from a roadie for the likes of LED ZEPPELIN who’d brought him from the US to the UK, Joe Jammer became enough of a star to secure a solo deal and release “Bad News” back in 1972 which is considered a cult classic now, overdue for reissue. The future looked bright but, with an album title like that, karma backfired, and while this album could have taken Joe to the top, Jammer went down due to his visa issues, so the record was shelved only to resurface right in time for its 40th anniversary. And it was worth the wait.
“Headway” is radically different from its predecessor: while Joe’s debut sounds like a guitarist’s album, Jammer’s approach here is one of a composer and arranger. Delegating vocal duties to the soulful pipes of SHA NA NA’s Johnny Contardo, he shifts the focus to the muscular, if sensual, rhythm section of John Gustafson and Mitch Mitchell who swing rather fiercely in the prophetic “It Wasn’t Meant To be” leaving the main man just enough space in the groove to unfurl an effervescent, if concise, solo or go cinematic with the sonic grit of “Travellin’.” Still, “Cool Breeze” pitches enough rocking into the context, whereas blues licks are woven into the very fabric of “Can’t Yer Catch?”.
There’s an infectiously slow drive in “Afraid To Make A Friend” and the drift, caressed with Jean Roussel’s organ, gets smooth and lyrical with “Alive Another Day” which demonstrates the band’s supple dynamics – on jazzy terms, just like the piano-rippled uplift of “Axe Me Another (Don’t Lose Your Head)”. Yet it’s “The Watcher Laments” that wraps it all in a tasty ‘n’ catchy, handclaps-helped heaviness of hit proportions, before “Not Tonight” marries its weighty riff to a dramatic flight worthy of an albatross. Fortunately, “Headway” didn’t become that for its creator, a session player of some renown nowadays; and as this scribe seems to have reconnected Joe Jammer with Johnny Contardo, who knows – maybe one day they’ll deliver a new gem.