After the travails of getting out his breakthrough solo album, Ghost Writer, in 1977, New York-based rock singer/songwriter Garland Jeffreys managed a quick follow-up with 1978's One-Eyed Jack. This is a high-profile effort that found producer David Spinozza taking the cream of New York's A-list session musicians into Atlantic Studios, including drummers and percussionists Steve Gadd and Ralph MacDonald; keyboardists Don Grolnick and Dr. John; guitarists Jeff Mironov, Hugh McCracken, and Spinozza himself; a horn section including David Sanborn and the Brecker Brothers; and background singers such as David Lasley, Phoebe Snow (who duets with Jeffreys on "Reelin'"), and Luther Vandross. That's some high-priced talent capable of getting whatever groove Jeffreys and Spinozza had in mind, starting with the funky disco feel of leadoff track "She Didn't Lie." Of course, with a singer/songwriter, the issue is at least as much the songs themselves as the playing of them, however, and as an LP One-Eyed Jack is a tale of two sides. The first side contains the lighter, more pop-oriented material. Jeffreys' spunky urban persona and his sense of racial conflict are as apparent as ever, but on the first batch of songs he focuses more on the search for love. The second side is far more personal; musically, it features more rock & roll and reggae, and lyrically it examines the songwriter's sense of being out of place in the world. "Scream in the Night" finds him in Los Angeles instead of home in New York. In his adaptation of Bob Marley's "No Woman No Cry," Jeffreys locates the "government yard" in New York town as well as Trenchtown. The rocker "Oh My Soul" recalls a Catholic upbringing in Brooklyn and ends in a child's confession of his sins. A bigger sin is recalled in "Desperation Drive," as Jeffreys recounts overcoming addiction. "Been There and Back" closes the album by bringing things up to the singer's older-but-wiser maturity and even seems to comment on the hoopla that greeted Ghost Writer when it finally came out. "Thanks for all the great reviews," Jeffreys sings, "Now show me some cash." One-Eyed Jack probably couldn't have lived up to its predecessor, and it doesn't, but it is further evidence of a songwriting talent (not to mention a singing ability that mixes Dion with Mick Jagger) deserving of more notice than it has gotten so far.
AllMusic Review by William Ruhlmann