The Jack Bruce Albums


PT 1 – The Solo Albums

Graeme’s disclaimer:  I am obviously a great Cream fan and I have avidly followed their individual careers (must be imprinted in my brain).  Eric has been hugely successful and I love a lot of his work but a lot I don’t find interesting at all.  Ginger has done lots of interesting and eclectic stuff and some dross –but the volume of output over the years has been light on.  Jack has followed a varied and interesting road moving between Jazz, Rock, some Pop and Jazz-Rock and Rock-Jazz.  But it has always been Jack Bruce, even with the failures – always an interesting and masterful musician.  For me he is one of the ones I always come back to and find something new or, at the very least, something affirming about music.

In recorded order:

Things We Like

Don’t be fooled by the cover – this is Jazz, Modern Jazz (lots of key and chord changes, polytonality and no vocals).  I didn’t like it when I bought the LP – I wasn’t attuned to acoustic Jazz. Over the years, even after my brain become Jazz attuned, I couldn’t get into it.  

The remaster has blown me away – and I know why.  About 10 years ago I clicked with and got into Charles Mingus – a compositional bass player.  On “Things We Like” Jack is in full compositional lead bass mode a’ la one of his influences.  His band consists of Jon Hiseman on drums, Dick Heckstall-Smith on Tenor and Soprano Saxophones and John McLaughlin on guitar (except for a few tracks).  It was recorded over three days in August 1968 before Cream’s farewell tour.  This exercise shows Jack’s feelings in relation to that tour, especially his reverting to acoustic bass.

The acoustic bass is on its own in the right channel, drums and guitar left, saxes centre.  The sound is one of bass/drums interaction with the saxes soloing between them – musically and sonically.  A less confident player then Dick, would have been swamped.  John adds rhythmic fills and some solo work but is clearly the lesser party.  In fact he was a late addition to the session after Jack invited him in so he could earn some money to pay for an air ticket to New York.  John had been invited to join Tony Williams’ new band – he was to return the favour to Jack by getting him on board Lifetime in 1970.

The sound is live and clean with the bass distant miked (not bass direct) and all live recorded to 4 track (one per instrument).  While Mark Powell has, thankfully, been faithful to Jack’s original mix it causes a minor but annoying effect.  Hiseman's drums (he's using a single kick drum and single top tom), particularly the ride and crash cymbals, leak into the sax and bass mikes.  With the drums all mixed left it makes him sound like a left handed drummer (now with miracle of modern computer technology I did a channel swap and burnt new versions – no problems and no effect on the overall sound). 

The set includes a bonus track which had originally been excluded because of the usual LP time restrictions.  The Dick Heckstall-Smith penned tune of “Ageing Jack Bruce…” is a very worthwhile addition.  Strangely Mark Powell took the opportunity to provide his own mix – bass right, drums & saxes centre, guitar left - correction (thanks Bob Elliott) - this is the original mix as Mark has remastered from the 2 track Master Mix.  I prefer the other mix as the drums mask detail of Dick’s sound.

Recommendation:  If you don’t like modern jazz then skip it.  If you do give it some listening – it is more rewarding then you think on first listening.  Interesting but not indispensable Jack Bruce.

Songs For a Tailor

© 2003, Graeme Pattingale