Jack Downing

A Force That Cannot Be Named: The Jack Downing Anthology

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Though born and raised in the U.S., Jack Downing spent most of his adult life in Sweden, where he performed and recorded with Swedish, British, and American musicians in the '60s and '70s. This two-CD collection compiles numerous singles he issued between 1966 and 1973 (some as frontman for the Other Side in the mid- to late '60s); his 1970 album Now and Then; a 1971 session for Swedish radio, and a few live and unreleased tracks. It's a bit harsh to state, but the impression is that Downing became a bigger fish in a small pond by basing himself in Sweden, where American-born competent roots rockers were not common. Starting with raw, almost garage folk-rock on his earliest recordings with the Other Side, by the early '70s, Downing was concentrating on earthy rock with considerable folk, country, and blues overtones. In those respects, his music is similar to that of the Band (he even did a decent cover of the Basement Tapes tune "Open the Door Richard" on a 1969 single) and their numerous imitators, though he's not nearly as remarkable as the Band in either the vocal or songwriting departments. Composing with longtime British keyboard accompanist David Hynes, he capably crafted typical earnest, late-'60s/early-'70s American-rooted rock sounds that didn't stand out much from the crowd. Some of the better songs are rock-oriented covers of Hoyt Axton's "Greenback Dollar," Tom Paxton's "The Last Thing on My Mind," and "I'm a Lonesome Fugitive," and he even went into zydeco on one of his later singles, 1973's "Colinda." The package is certainly exemplary, however, with lengthy liner notes, period photos and graphics, and the condensation of his bulky and irregularly spaced recordings from various sources into one place. Kris Kristofferson and Lovin' Spoonful guitarist Zal Yanovsky, incidentally, made contributions to the Now and Then album (though their exact nature isn't specified), as they were passing through Sweden at the time and stayed with Downing and his wife in Stockholm.

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