Ronald Shannon Jackson

Puttin' on Dog

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Originally issued under the title Pulse, this is more or less a solo Ronald Shannon Jackson record. Poet Michael Harper appears unaccompanied on "Those Winter Sundays" and with Jackson on "Bessie's Last Dance," the latter a rare success in the poetry-and-music category that has something in common with clarinetist Don Byron's later collaborations with spoken word artist Sadiq. Meanwhile, guest Onaje Allan Gumbs takes care of "Lullaby for the Mothers," an uncharacteristically sentimental solo piano piece that borders on new age territory. The rest of the album is all Jackson, though. The most interesting tracks are the ones where he sings (in the same rough, weathered, bluesy style as his occasional vocals in Last Exit) or speaks along with his drumming. He does the latter on "Raven," the album's 11-minute centerpiece, groaning out a surreal mix of wordless noises and quotes from Shakespeare and Edgar Allen Poe in tandem with his explosive drum rolls and fills; Jackson really seems to be out in his own world here. Elsewhere, there are several more straight-ahead solo drum tracks that, while being as well played as one would expect, aren't as engaging as "Raven," the New Orleans-flavored "Puttin' on the Dog" (sic), or "Slim in Atlanta." Due to its inconsistent nature, Puttin' on Dog is probably better left to established Jackson fans, but its unusual highpoints do make it worth hearing.

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