Upon the release of Jakko Jakszyk's double-CD The Bruised Romantic Glee Club in 2006, the guitarist, composer, and singer had traveled in British prog and art rock circles for many years, including spearheading the King Crimson cover outfit 21st Century Schizoid Band with a number of Crimson alumni, but nearly a decade would pass until he'd get his dream gig as a key member of the 2010s' impressive touring KC reboot, documented on such releases as 2016's Radical Action to Unseat the Hold of Monkey Mind. Bruised well demonstrates Jakszyk's prog skills and makes it easy to hear why Robert Fripp would subsequently invite him to step into the KC vocalist role following the likes of Lake, Burrell, Wetton, and Belew (and even Haskell) -- note also that Jakszyk would appear on 2011's A Scarcity of Miracles by Jakszyk, Fripp & Collins before the massive new Crimson came together and hit the road. But also consider that 2006's Bruised is a bit of a, well, schizoid listening experience, as Jakszyk basically admitted in the liner notes. Jakko said he had originally envisioned the album as "largely instrumental with a couple of songs thrown in," but then life events -- including his father's death -- intervened, leading him to explore "some uncomfortable corners of the past" through song. As a result, the heartfelt original songs on the first disc stand at a fairly wide distance from the covers of '60s and '70s art rock classics on the rather short (35-plus-minute) second disc, vintage numbers from Crimson, Soft Machine, and Henry Cow performed with help from such cult figures as Dave Stewart, Hugh Hopper, Mel Collins, and Ian Wallace (Fripp and Ian McDonald show up on the first CD).
For those listeners eager to hear updated versions of prog, avant-prog, and art rock numbers from decades ago, the second disc is likely to hit the CD player first. And right off the bat, Stewart (just like during his own good old days) does his best Ratledge on "As Long as He Lies Perfectly Still" from Soft Machine's Volume Two. Crimson's "Pictures of a City" is transmogrified into "Pictures of an Indian City" (thankfully Jakszyk took the In the Wake of Poseidon route instead of attempting something like "21st Century Sanskrit Man") and emerges as an overall highlight, complete with all the requisite tight ensemble passages but now featuring Pandit Dinesh on tabla and Jakszyk on "sitar guitars." Henry Cow's "Nirvana for Mice" includes all the tricky parts a Leg End fan could hope for, thanks to Stewart's programming, and Jakszyk's David Torn-ish guitar is impressive in a new middle section. Meanwhile, Crimson drummer Ian Wallace brings sensitivity and subtlety to a reworking of the title track from Islands, featuring Collins on beautiful soprano sax where Marc Charig soloed on the original -- this actually improves on the original Crimson version, and there is genuine poignancy when one realizes that "Islands" is one of the late Wallace's final recorded performances.
The first disc is not without its pleasures that would have fit nicely on the second, particularly the instrumental "Catley's Ashes," with its intricate arrangement of saxes and guitars over a cruising 7/8 rhythm; it is reminiscent of "Mederno Ballabile," a killer tune from Italian avant-prog band Picchio dal Pozzo's Abbiamo Tutti I Suoi Problemi, which itself sounds like a warped mix of Zappa and Hatfield and the North. The mood turns a bit toward new age in the somewhat overly embellished piano/acoustic guitar instrumental "The Things We Throw Away," which has its lovely aspects particularly when viewed through the Canterbury-esque prism of a tune like Alan Gowen's "Arriving Twice" as performed by Gilgamesh or National Health. But elsewhere the influences -- echoes of David Sylvian and Peter Gabriel, for example -- are more polished and slickly "atmospheric" than anything Jakszyk drew from Volume Two, Poseidon, and Leg End. Ultimately, Henry Cow's "The Citizen King" and Jakszyk's "When We Go Home" really are from different musical universes. Nevertheless, while The Bruised Romantic Glee Club has a case of split-personality disorder, it's a fine showcase for the future King Crimson singer/guitarist (along with his stellar collaborators), and nicely set the stage for his higher-profile work to follow.