JACK BRUCE – SILVER RAILS – REVIEW BY MS. MARCI
Cherry Red Records
Review by Ms. Marci
I must confess from the start, being a singer/bassist myself, I am a HUGE Jack Bruce fan! He was an inspiration to me from the first time that I heard him in the mid/late-1960s. When I was informed that he had a new CD, I wanted “IN” on reviewing it. On the other hand, if his new CD didn’t live up to what I hoped for, you all would know about that, too! As I listened to a preview on his website I was immediately struck with the power and presence of his voice. I thought, “Wow…he still got it!” Now, listening to the entire CD, Silver Rails, I am even more impressed with the staying power of this gifted man. Mr. Bruce penned all of the songs on this CD. His wife, Margrit Seyffer, co-wrote “Candlelight,” and Kip Hanrahan co-wrote “Hidden Cities.” Pete Brown co-wrote the remaining seven tunes. You may recall that Brown and Bruce co-wrote most of Cream’s single releases including the hits, “Sunshine of Your Love,” “White Room” and “I Feel Free.” The song “Drone” was written solely by Bruce.
This CD is also a bit of a family affair as his daughters, Aruba Red and Kyla Bruce sing backing vocals and his son Malcolm Bruce plays guitar. Also part of this masterpiece of a recording is Robin Trower of Procol Harum fame, on guitar, and Cindy Blackman Santana (an ex-Connecticut woman, I might add) on drums. You may be asking yourself about her last name, and YES, she is Carlos Santana’s wife! (the guitarist, not the baseball player) When reading the song titles, you may also notice that two songs, “Keep It Down” and “No Surrender” were on previous recordings. Make no mistake, these are no rehashed versions.
This CD begins with the song “Candlelight.” A short drum accent, Phil Manzanera on guitar, and a full horn section set the stage for Bruce’s commanding, unmistakable voice and suddenly you know you are in for a magical musical journey! He literally breathes life into the lyrics, “I wish you could shine a healing candlelight over her life and mine. We suffer so much pain under the sundown’s evening wing!” Track two, “Reach For The Night” begins with Bruce playing a plaintive piano intro. He starts out half speaking the lyrics, and then the melody slowly builds. Bruce sings, “I used to be somebody in the general scheme of things. I built myself a folly ‘cause it looked like it had wings.” In the center of this song are well executed solos by John Medeski on Hammond organ and Derek Nash on tenor sax. The lyrics that spawned the title of this disc follow in the last verse, “Now my train can still sing along those silver rails.”
Up to this point, the songs were a little laid back, but “Fields of Forever” kicks it up a notch on an up-tempo tune with Bruce on vocals, piano and bass guitar. Once again, we enjoy the sound of the full horn section, embellished with Bruce on piano. He performs all the vocals on this tune. The chord changes and arrangement were downright refreshing! Track four might be identified as “something completely different!” It’s almost a chant as he is joined by four other vocalists that include the aforementioned Aruba Red and Kyla Bruce weaving a familial timbre. The fifth track, “Don’t Look Now” takes a sharp turn as a ballad/waltz. Bruce adds a soft touch to this song with a melodic piano intro. His vocals really stand out in this offering as he covers many stylings and octaves!
The next cut, “Rusty Lady” is a light hearted, up-tempo tune with riffs reminiscent of his days with Cream. Bruce really drives the vocals home and made me “LOL” when I heard him emphasize lines like, “But when she went and missed my G-spot…” and, “It was Winston in drag without the cigar!” Track seven, “Industrial Child,” is humble in its instrumentation with Bruce on vocals while playing softly on the piano and Tony Remy on acoustic guitar. Its mournful melody is haunting as it tells of the plight of those who once had a future working building ships, but, “So many people without a chance, lost their dance…big ships stopped berthing.”
The power trio styling of “Drone” made me want to shout, “Far out, man!” Bruce begins track eight with the buzzing of a fuzz-wah on his Warwick Jack Bruce Signature Model, modified fretless 4-string bass. He also accompanies himself on guitar and is joined by Milos Pal on drums. As I read the lyrics, I thought about our current situation with unseasonable weather, “I saw a bumble bee today. He shook his head and turned away. The daffodils looked cold and wan. I wondered where the spring had gone.” As I mentioned before, the ninth track, “Keep It Down” was on a previous recording, “Out of The Storm.” I was especially impressed with the presence in Bruce’s vocals in the Silver Rails version…very commanding!
The final cut, “No Surrender” was also previously released, but once again, Bruce breathes new life into this song. The usual suspects of instrumentation are present; drums and guitar, but also features Bruce on bass and a fascinating instrument called a “Melotron.” I would recommend that you do an internet search of this device. It’s quite amazing and Bruce uses it to its highest potential! This tune has a power trio approach to it as well. His vocals are outstanding! He carries you on a journey through this song, then, to a sudden stop as this song is punctuated by its title, “No Surrender!” I believe that this is one his Jack Bruce’s finest works. Buy it…you WON’T be sorry!!!