Jo Jo Gunne was essentially a result of the dissolution of Spirit. After the commercial failure of Twelve Dreams of Dr. Sardonicus, Jay Ferguson (keyboards/vocals) and Mark Andes (guitar/vocals) set out to re-establish themselves as Jo Jo Gunne. This volume gathers the band's first two albums as well as three previously unissued recordings on a limited-edition CD release from Rhino Records internet intensive subsidiary, Rhino HandMade. As Jay Ferguson states in the liner notes for this reissue: "...there were probably three or four bands within [Spirit]. There was a jazz band. There was a blues band. And there was a rock band which Mark [Andes] and I sort of represented." Indeed, one of the undeniable qualities of Spirit were how those meta bands instantly evolve into a mega band. With the addition of Matthew Andes (guitar/vocal) -- sibling to Mark -- and Curley Smith (drums/vocals) the band was complete. Jo Jo Gunne's self-titled debut is undeniably heavier than Twelve Dreams of Dr. Sardonicus, though the band freely incorporate the blues and jazz techniques gleaned from Spirit. The bottleneck slide solos on "Run Run Run" as well as the slinky syncopation in "99 Days" prove the quartet had learned something from their Spirit tenure. The sound is completed when coupled with the seemingly instinctual improvisation that Jo Jo Gunne so aptly exhibits. Bite Down Hard -- the second album on this compilation as well as the band's subsequent long-player -- is a musically logical successor to Jo Jo Gunne although the lineup had been altered, replacing Mark Andes with Jimmie Randall (bass/vocals). The somewhat lazy and rollicking rhythms of the first album are once again successfully married to Ferguson's strong pop melodies. While "Ready Freddy" and "Take Me Down Easy" are reminiscent of their debut, a few other tracks -- most notably "Roll Over Me" -- indicate the synthesizer-laden direction the band will take on their next studio outing Jumpin' the Gunne.
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AllMusic Review by Lindsay Planer