Esoteric Antenna 2014
Veteran bass-wielding warbler keeps it up and slides it in with resistance and revolution.
He may look like a tired starling now, but Jack Bruce has always been a stoic, such a stance oozing out of every treble of his four-string and voice, and though the veteran’s first solo studio album in ten years, laid down at Abbey Road, glistens with star guests, he seems a last man standing here. He’s also the one who always sees the light in the end of the tunnel, for there’s a railroad theme running across ten tracks on offer, rather than waits for the loving sunshine in a room where it never shines. It can be a CREAM’s classic implied in the line of “I’ve been singing that same number for as long as I can remember” which gives a fatigue feel to the otherwise merry boogie of “Fields Of Forever,” but those who think Bruce is riding quietly into the sunset are barked at in “No Surrender!” that defiantly closes the record, while dogs of war and horses inhabit “Drone” with only Milos Pál Djembe’s heavy drumming and Jack’s overloaded bass voice there to underpin his voice, yet one can’t deny the gloom of it all.
Darkness is falling over the autobiographical brace of “Industrial Child” with its crooned depiction of sleepy trains in the grimy Glasgow, as framed by Bruce’s piano and Tony Remy’s acoustic picking, and the mordant chorale of “Hidden Cities” in which the day meets the night to Cindy Blackman Santana’s beat and the wail of Uli Jon Roth’s axe. It might cut off the philosophical – rising from spoken word to operatic blues and giving the album its title – nocturnal mood of “Reach For The Night” smoothed with John Medeski’s Hammond and Derek Nash’s sax, so Bruce does wait for the sun at the end of the day, to hear “your future leaving town,” and at the start of this album. “Candlelight” offers an easy skanking groove there for Phil Manzanera to fly from as a brass section sets a sweet longing in its heart which spills into the delicate “Don’t Look Now” that turns anthemic as it ebbs and flows welcoming Jack’s son Malcolm’s romantic guitar.
Another delicate imperative, emboldened when Bernie Marsden steps in to twang and solo, comes with Jack’s perennial “Keep It Down” yet one more familiar riff sneaks in once Bruce’s old sparring partner Robin Trower pour liquid fire on “Rusty Lady” that hides its swagger behind the facade of dignified reservation. There’s no running for shelter on this album, and defeatists should listen to the “gonna sing this song for a million years” promise. Here’s Jack Bruce for you: long may his good train roll.