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Jackson Heights - 5th Avenue Bus CD (album) cover


Jackson Heights


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2.88 | 15 ratings

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4 stars The Fifth Avenue Bus' (1972) Esoteric ****

Esoteric continue to surprise with their rehabilitation of more forgotten gems from rock's golden age, this time with the three Vertigo label releases from Jackson Heights, of which this is the first. (They previously made one album for Charisma, `King Progress'). Surprise is certainly the operative word here; this is music of exceptional quality.

Lee Jackson was the bassist and vocalist in celebrated classical rock pioneers The Nice, who was pretty much left high and dry when Keith Emerson had bigger ideas and formed ELP. One would assume that Jackson Heights would consist of Jackson and backing guys, so the first surprise is that the vocals are shared between three, and that this blend is one of the group's major strengths. It is also interesting to learn that on vocals and guitars is one John McBurnie who would later turn up as vocalist/co-writer on Patrick Moraz's unstoppable `Story Of I' and successor `Out In The Sun'. The core trio is completed by Brian Chatton an equally capable keyboardist/vocalist.

This trio went out on the road without a drummer, an economic necessity, as well as perhaps a desire to distance themselves from the full-on organ driven electric assault of The Nice. In the studio however it was a different story and it is an extreme pleasure to hear the mighty and unmistakable Mike Giles (King Crimson) performing on Drums throughout. For family tree fans it's a parallel Nice/King Crimson pairing to show that it wasn't all about what Emerson and Lake did next.

The first thing to remark upon about the music itself is that it is sophisticated, highly listenable and extremely well recorded. It is one of life's eternal mysteries why records recorded in 1972 sound better than they do today. Excellently constructed music, crisp acoustic guitars, beautifully recorded vocals and punchy drums make this a joy to listen to. For fans of adventurous, timeless music, this is a great listen, it is difficult to find comparisons but if you enjoy the McDonald and Giles album, this will be right up your alley. It eschews the traditional bombastic elements of the genre and concentrates on warm, immaculately arranged and played songs which rarely lose focus and sound extremely fresh today.

beebfader | 4/5 |


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