Exhilarated by the simple joys of the Jonathan Demme movie Storefront Hitchcock, the celebrated Mr. H demonstrates more of the straightforward, idiosyncratic charm and scrumptious tunes that made his film such a surprise. And what a fine piece of work! Without altering his established formula, it's clear the one-time Soft Boys leader has hit on a good vein. No need for lush production, even if it worked well on some of his earlier '90s albums such as Perspex Island. Jewels just collects all his strengths. On the folk-rock numbers such as the strident "Mexican God," Hitchcock relies on a six-string acoustic and some light percussion. For the more lithe pop of "Sally Was a Legend," it's all restrained electric guitar and nimble, unobtrusive bass and drums to keep it smooth. A darker, scratchier, more foreboding '60s rock arrives on the low-down stomp of "Antwoman," or the more zippy, neo-Stones rockers "Elizabeth Jade" and "Viva! Sea-Tac." Lastly, a new, studio version of Storefront Hitchcock's solo-unplugged "I Don't Remember Guilford" is fleshed out with a somber piano, lugubrious violin, and old-West harmonica to make the tune sparkle even more. He has plenty of help, too. While fans are celebrating the return of original Soft Boy Kimberley Rew on two tracks for the first time in 18 years, Hitchcock also commandeered a squadron of reverent co-conspirators in other cities to make a good LP into a first-rate one. Three-quarters of the Young Fresh Fellows along with R.E.M.'s Peter Buck are unmistakable on a trio of Seattle-recorded tracks, especially "Elizabeth Jade." Elsewhere, guitarist Tim Keegan of Homer reprises the sidekick color-man role he played in the film, and who wouldn't want Grant Lee Phillips and Jon Brion to sit in on some L.A. sessions? More than two decades after first launch, Commander Hitchcock is still firing super-creative rockets. Jewels indeed.
AllMusic Review by Jack Rabid