WIDOWMAKER – Running Free: The Jet Recordings 1976-1977

Jet 1976-1977 / Esoteric 2017

WIDOWMAKER - Running Free: The Jet Recordings 1976-1977

Running Free:
The Jet Recordings 1976-1977

High-flyers from different rocky ways of life find a heavy kind of common denominator and have a ball with it.

The best music emerges from the pleasure of playing, not commercial necessities, that’s why this unthinkable union of talents worked so well, albeit too briefly.

Steve Ellis, the most famous voice behind “Everlasting Love,” has always had a bluesy wail in his warble as Luther Grosvenor’s guitar has, even when he sprinkled MOTT THE HOOPLE glam all over his SPOOKY TOOTH edge. With spare time on their hands, the two joined forces with LINDISFARNE’s drummer Paul Nicholls and went heavy – having rounded off the line-up with bassist Bob Daisley who was biding his time in CHICKEN SHACK, and a HAWKWIND axeman Huw Lloyd-Langton. Yet on their band’s debut record hard rock is a mere vehicle for a top-notch songwriting.

“Ain’t Telling You Nothing” swinging its instrumental pendulum wild, from slow to fast and back again, the musicians’ combination sounds so robust that Grosvenor decided to reprise “When I Met You” from his solo album – in distinctly different arrangement, to which Zoot Money added jolly piano – and pull in a spiritual Gary Wright co-write “Shine A Light On Me,” fleshed out with a meaty organ and female backing. Elsewhere, his mandolin adorns the handclaps-abetted ballad “Leave The Kids Alone,” while Lloyd-Langton’s slider is rolling along the acoustic strum of country-tinged single “Pin A Rose On Me.” Soulful sway all over it, the song may fade too early, but Ellis would compensate for this with a delicate pull of “Straight Faced Fighter,” a contrast to the sharp funk of Daisley’s “Such A Shame,” where riffs are sparse and the vocal tension is high, and to the bar-room romp of “Got A Dream” – just right to kickstart the LP and sign it off.

After a bout of touring, the singer jumped ship, and the original magic was gone, yet the rest of the band, now with John Butler at the fore, soldiered on for one more LP. 1977’s “Too Late To Cry” – for the first time officially appearing on CD in its entirety now – would have been more solid if not for non-engaging vocal lines that deflate the players’ performances and propel the result towards regular pub-rock. The album’s playful title track and the equally bluesy “Pushin’ And Pullin'” – sung by Luther, in a last attempt to flaunt his Ariel Bender persona – are typical of that period’s stance, what with the folky ditty “Here Comes The Queen” tapping into the spirit of the Silver Jubilee, whereas on punchy likes of “Mean What You Say” the ensemble edged too close to the Page ‘n’ Plant-patented groove.

Done in the same vein, previously unreleased out-take “Talk To Me” completes the group’s output: ostensibly, these twenty numbers are all they ever recorded. Their potential not wholly fulfilled, the quintet’s legacy is still a lot of fun.


January 5, 2018

Category(s): Reissues
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