Jo Jo Gunne

Bite Down Hard

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Bite Down Hard is more aggressive hard pop from Jay Ferguson, the ex-Spirit member's keyboards and songs dominating the groups second LP. It's boogie rock much like Edgar Winter's White Trash, borderline Southern rock by way of the West Coast a year after the group's well-crafted hit single "Run Run Run" and four years before Ferguson would find his way to "Thunder Island." As the three-piece Spirit featuring Randy California and Ed Cassidy needed the elements that John Locke and Jay Ferguson brought to the table, so too Jo Jo Gunne lacks the eccentricities of Cass and California. "60 Minutes to Go" is a perfect example; it is a riff that Willie Alexander released on MCA as "Rock & Roll Riff #78," but Alexander instills the left-field stuff that puts it over the top. The same riff in Ferguson's hands is blasé. The really strange thing is that it is highly improbable that either musician heard of the other, and that even some of the melody of the verse is similar is remarkable. Bill Szmczyk does an good job of capturing the sound with his engineering/production work, but where the Staehely Brothers' version of Spirit showed immense promise, the Spirit three piece and Jo Jo Gunne fragments from the original model are clearly two halves of a whole. The psychological games and infighting which makes for great rock & roll are missing from the post-12 Dreams of Dr. Sardonicus work. Bite Down Hard doesn't, and if it did just a little bit harder, it would work. "Special Situations" and "Take Me Down Easy" are pleasant enough, but so what? The album doesn't demand repeated spins because emotion is totally lacking.

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