Jack Bruce

Monkjack

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"The Boy," track two on Jack Bruce's exquisite CD, Monkjack, has the former blues/hard rocker sounding like John Cale, introspective and ready to tell some tales. The instrumental "Shouldn't We" has the bassist/vocalist from Cream pitting his piano against collaborator Bernie Worrell's Hammond B-3, in a wonderful interplay of keyboard sounds. "David's Harp" has melodies which Aimee Mann toys with, but they are drenched in Bruce's bluesy pop voice, a voice that rules on classic rock radio when "White Room" blasts to break up the tedium of consultant run play lists. A classic voice should be an integral part of classic rock radio, and this jazzy/folksy/all keyboard disc would fit very nicely in that format. The sounds of both the piano and the hammond organ, recorded at Ztudio Zerkal, Germany, by Walter Quintus, are rich and resonant with the skills of a journeyman. Inside the CD case, Bruce peers out from among the buses, and on the front and back cover his face is a photographic negative. There is little information about the recording of this project in the beautiful 16-page booklet which accompanies this package. The music speaks for itself, with just lyrics, credits, pleasant artwork, and colors among the photos. To take each title and critique it would do great injustice to this release -- all the material is grade A. To single out the effectiveness of titles, and show appreciation, that is what is in order here. "Laughing on Music Street" is a melancholy piano piece with Bruce's voice augmented by Hammond B-3 swells which come up at the right moments. The lyrics to this in the booklet are next to a profile of Bruce against a very liquid-looking piano top. Again, John Cale has made a career out of this type of presentation, but Cale goes off onto a dark rampage where Bruce keeps things on a plateau that doesn't go over the edge. "Weird of Hermiston" is the fourth of the Bruce/Brown compositions here, and it is so very like John Cale, only with that Hammond B3 of Bernie Worrell's oozing in and out rather than a string quartet. "Tightrope" has piano runs holding up a dangling vocal by Bruce -- and it persists, one of four songs over five minutes in length. "Third Degree" would be nice in a private detective film, a moody, jazzy, dramatic piece with chords from the depths. For fans of this legend, a very nice glimpse into the working of his creative mind. For those who want something to listen to while doing other things, Monkjack does not get in the way -- it kind of stays along side of you. A very wonderful selection of compositions by a familiar voice in a different setting.

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