Jeff Simmons

Lucille Has Messed My Mind Up

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Jeff Simmons (electric bass/piano/organ/accordion/vocals) -- erstwhile member of the Indian Puddin' & Pipe, West Coast Natural Gas, Easy Chair, and Ethiopia -- issued a pair of solo long-players on Frank Zappa's short-lived Straight Records imprint. First was the primarily instrumental Naked Angels original soundtrack (1969), followed several months later by this LP. Joining Simmons are Craig Tarwater (guitar), Ian Underwood (sax), and Ron Woods (drums/percussion) with Zappa (lead guitar) and John Kehlior (drums) collectively guesting on the exceedingly bluesy selections "Lucille Has Messed My Mind Up" and "Raye." Apart from the Zappa connection, the effort showcases Simmons' considerable talents as a composer and performer. The opening ode to the Los Angeles thoroughfare "Appian Way" is steadily driven by Tarwater's blistering fretwork. The heavy syncopation of "Zondo Zondo" has a vibe reminiscent of Family -- particularly Simmons' lead vocals. While potentially lacking Roger Chapman's singular vibrato, they are delivered with no less ardor. "Madame Du Barry" was presumably inspired by the French courtesan and mistress of Louis XV of France. The song's poppy feel -- à la the Turtles' "She's My Girl" -- is underscored by quirky time signatures, revealing the artist's ability to create outside the box. "I'm in the Music Business" is a lean fist-pumper reflecting the cynical realities of those who sell their souls for rock & roll. Zappa's unmistakable string mastery is emblazoned upon the aforementioned title composition "Lucille Has Messed My Mind Up" -- a tune Zappa would occasionally revisit throughout his career in the same vein as "Sharleena." Another song that definitely caught Zappa's ear was the Simmons' original "Wonderful Wino." It is executed with a loose and grinding groove. After Frank got a hold of it, he eventually worked up versions with Flo & Eddie, Ricky Lancelotti, and even himself on lead vocals. Simmons' reading is likewise notable for the sound of a reversed tape incorporated as a primary component of the rhythm track. A technique perhaps influenced by Zappa's unconventional studio wizardry. "Tigres" -- which Simmons' enunciates as "Tie Grace" -- is an earnest homage supported by a solid four-on-the-floor backbeat and a stately organ accompaniment that wouldn't have sounded out of place from Procol Harum. Languid and slightly surreal is the waltz "Aqueous Humore" -- a term, incidentally, also defined as "the clear, watery fluid circulating in the chamber of the eye between the cornea and the lens," according to The American Heritage Medical Dictionary. It is uncertain if that is Simmons' intended interpretation, especially as the lyrics involve a desire for the singer to be "...back in the water...growing my gills again...floating and fining, I'd be diving and spinning...." Returning to terra firma, "Conversations with a Recluse" concludes the album blending a bit of folk stylings on top of the typical sturdy sounds that permeate the majority of the platter. In 2007, the European-based World In Sound reissued Naked Angels and Lucille Has Messed My Mind Up" in a two-CD anthology.

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