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Jakko M. Jakszyk - The Bruised Romantic Glee Club CD (album) cover


Jakko M. Jakszyk


Canterbury Scene

3.65 | 44 ratings

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4 stars Welcome to one of the most obscure gems released in the last few years - courtesy of a musician who, in spite of his decades-long career and impressive curriculum, is still thought of as a sort of young whippersnapper. In fact, Jakko M. Jakszyk is almost 51 years old, and has shared a stage or a recording studio with many a revered protagonist of the progressive rock scene. Unfortunately, most of the bands he has played with over the years are of the positively obscure kind. Before he joined the 21st Schizoid Band in the role that was of Robert Fripp, Jakszyk had been little more than what in my native Italy we would term as an 'illustrious unknown', in spite of his short-lived tenure in a relatively high-profile band like Level 42.

Much like its author, "The Bruised Romantic Glee Club" (released in 2006 to a lot of critical acclaim, and become unavailable soon afterwards, due to the record label going under) enjoys cult status among prog fans, though not many people have been able to listen to it. I was lucky to find a copy (at a very inviting price too, considering it is a double album) in one of the music stores I used to visit regularly when I lived in Rome. And what a great purchase indeed.. The album is an offering most dedicated prog listeners will be able to appreciate, with all the trademark features of our beloved genre, plus a healthy (though not excessive) dose of melody and accessibility. Moreover, fans of cover versions will be absolutely delighted by the contents of CD2 - a stunning collection of classics by the likes of King Crimson, Soft Machine and Henry Cow, performed by some of the stalwarts of the original Canterbury scene.

Right from its cover, a gorgeous, muted snapshot of Jakko walking on Brighton beach at sunset, "The Bruised Romantic Glee Club" is a thoroughly classy package. Everything - the pictures, the detailed liner notes, the graphics, the music - is designed to appeal to listeners of sophisticated tastes, who look upon an album as a complete experience. I would not hesitate to call it a beautiful album, not only on account of the very accomplished nature of the music contained within, but also of the stories behind each of the song. Like many Canterbury albums, it has a very personal, intimate feel, as conveyed by the title itself.

From even a casual reading of the liner notes, Jakko comes across as a very sensitive, vulnerable human being, consequently bruised by life, but keeping up his optimistic side. Some of the stories attached to individual songs are very moving indeed, especially those related to his family. As many adopted children, he got to meet his real mother much later in life, not long before her untimely death. This part of his life story is the subject of the haunting instrumental "When Peggy Came Home", dedicated to the burial of his natural mother's ashes in her birthplace in Ireland; while the following song, "Highgate Hill", is centred around Jakko's own birth in a hospital in the titular area of London.

Musically speaking, the first CD features a number of songs and instrumental tracks performed by Jakszyk and a handful of high-profile guest musicians - namely Porcupine Tree drummer Gavin Harrison, Mel Collins, former Level 42 bassist Mark King, double bass legend Danny Thompson, and even His Majesty Robert Fripp. Canterbury keyboard king Dave Stewart also performs on one track ("Doxy, Dali and Duchamp"), as well as on most of CD2. Comparisons to other bands or artists are anything to easy to draw - I have read one review comparing some of the songs on "The Bruised Romantic Glee Club" to David Sylvian's output, and I find myself in agreement with such a remark. Though Jakko does not have Sylvian's distinctive voice, I find his vocals are the perfect foil for the album's elegant, somewhat understated musical mood. I could also sometimes hear echoes of Jakko's current band, The Tangent, especially their more Canterbury-inspired tracks.

On the other hand, there is a distinctly jazzy feel running through the album, both in the songs and in the instrumentals. The marvellous "Catley's Ashes", driven by Mark King's pneumatic bass, is richly laced with Mel Collins' masterful saxophone; while the melancholy "The Things We Throw Away" features Jakko's long-time friend and former bandmate Lydon Connah, and the majestic "Srebrenica" is based on the traditional music of Serbia. Infused with sadness and loss, the atmospheric, rarefied "When We Go Home" (dedicated to the artist's adoptive mother, Camille) features Fripp on electric guitar, as well as Camille's own recorded voice.

All the songs are of consistent high quality, with a particular mention for the title-track and the already mentioned "Highgate Hill". Admittedly, they sometimes border on pop, but we are talking about an adult, well-rounded kind of pop, and definitely not about anything overtly easy or commercial. Jakszyk also deserves kudos for his skills as a lyrics writer, something not precisely common in the prog world. While he lays his soul bare, he hardly ever descends into mawkishness, and occasionally injects some humour in the overall wistfulness of his musings.

There is not much that can be said about CD2, if not that it is quite magnificent. The quality of the 'raw material' alone would guarantee excellent results, but what really makes these versions special is the obvious love lavished on them by both Jakko and his distinguished guests. It would be very hard for me to pick out a highlight, though the cover of Henry Cow's "The Citizen King" is nothing short of stunning, capturing the blend of wistful beauty and biting irony of the original to perfection. Jakszyk's Oriental-tinged take on King Crimson's "Pictures of a City", featuring Indian percussionist Pandit Dinesh (another former collaborator of the artist), also wins points for inventiveness; while "Islands", remarkably faithful to the original, fits perfectly within the album's stylishly melancholy atmosphere.

As I have already stated at the beginning of my review, it will be probably next to impossible for people to get hold of this album, at least for the time being. However, should you find it second hand, or in the bargain bins of some music store, do not let it escape your clutches. "The Bruised Romantic Glee Club" can be easily counted as one of the best releases of the first 9 years of the new millennium, a prog album that pays homage to a glorious past, and at the same time feels thoroughly modern. With its intimate, confessional quality, and lush, tasteful music, it should appeal to most prog fans, except those who hate anything resembling melody. Four well-deserved stars, with a 'virtual' half one given out as a bonus.

Raff | 4/5 |


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