Jack Bruce

Rope Ladder to the Moon

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Rope Ladder to the Moon's 17 tracks are a good overview of Jack Bruce's pre-1980 solo output, drawing most heavily from his first two solo albums (Songs for a Tailor and Harmony Row), but also including material from the weaker Out of the Storm and How's Tricks. There's also the free jazz title piece from Things We Like and the title track of Jet Set Jewel (the album he recorded in the late '70s, but which wasn't released for 25 years). Since the first decade of Bruce's solo career was the best, this is essentially a best-of, albeit one that ignores his work as a bandmember in Cream and other nonsolo projects. With the possible exception of "Theme From an Imaginary Western," none of these songs are as familiar as those he sang in Cream. For patient listeners who can get beyond the absence of the hard blues-rock and huge hook-riffs characteristic of Cream, however, this is rewarding, eclectic, and mature music, with a far greater jazz and singer/songwriter influence (and calmer mood) than the blues-rock material Bruce did in the '60s. It helps that virtually all of these songs were collaborations between Bruce and frequent Cream lyricist Pete Brown, whose poetic, sometimes strikingly imagistic words are far above the standard of most pop lyrics. Their frequent vaguely surreal, ominous aura matches well with Bruce's rich, powerful vibrato vocals, creating a displaced, otherworldly atmosphere on some of the best songs, such as "Never Tell Your Mother She's Out of Tune," "Rope Ladder to the Moon," "Weird of Hermiston," and "Folk Song."

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