Garland Jeffreys

True Confessions: The Epic Sessions

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In the '70s, Garland Jeffreys made a handful of albums that wowed critics without moving much merchandise (at least not in the United States), but that changed in 1981, when he signed with Epic Records and released Escape Artist, an album that fused his ambitious songwriting with tough but engaging rock & roll, giving his music an accessible feel without robbing it of its streetwise power. Escape Artist was the first of three albums Jeffreys would record for Epic, and True Confessions: The Epic Sessions brings them all together on two CDs. Escape Artist was that rare example of an album that managed to be a major artist's best and most popular work; Bob Clearmountain's production was clean but made the most of an outstanding studio band (anchored by members of Bruce Springsteen's E-Street Band and Graham Parker's Rumour), and brought out the wiry rock & roll energy of great tunes like "R.O.C.K.," "Modern Lovers," and the epic "Mystery Kids." This set also features Escapades, a bonus EP included with early pressings of Escape Artist, and a pair of tracks recorded in London with Black Uhuru producer Dennis Bovell rank with Jeffreys' finest reggae material, especially the chilling "Miami Beach." Released in 1981, Rock & Roll Adult was a live album recorded on Jeffreys' tour in support of Escape Artist, with an expanded version of the Rumour backing him up. It features highlights from Escape Artist as well as fan favorites like "Matador" and "35 Millimeter Dreams," and while it lacks the precision of Jeffreys' studio work, both the frontman and his band work up a joyous sweat on these tracks, documenting a very combustible stage combination, especially on the extended closer, "Cool Down Boy." Issued in 1982, Guts for Love unfortunately winds up this set on a down note; the album was a good bit slicker than Escape Artist and featured a few dance-friendly tunes that were clearly written with airplay in mind, but lacked the smarts and dramatic tension of Jeffreys' best music. However, Jeffreys' vocals are in splendid shape, and a few songs like "American Backslide," "El Salvador," and the title cut confirm he could still deliver first-rate material. Even with the uneven Guts for Love, this is a fine collection of some of Jeffreys' best work, and given that Rock & Roll Adult has been out of print for years, this should be a welcome release for longtime Garland Jeffreys fans.

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