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Jack Bruce - Harmony Row CD (album) cover

HARMONY ROW

Jack Bruce

 

Jazz Rock/Fusion

3.68 | 45 ratings

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dreadpirateroberts
4 stars Another wonderful jazz-rock and progressive-pop record from Jack Bruce.

Reducing the backing band from his debut to guitarist Chris Spedding and drummer John Marshall, Jack Bruce continued to play a wide range of instruments himself for his second solo album Harmony Row. If not as commercially successful as his debut, it remains a more satisfying album on many levels.

Tonally Harmony Row occupies similar territory for 'Songs for a Tailor,' with Bruce's piano featuring heavily, usually more prominent than his trademark 'busy' bass. The album weaves a range of moody pieces into a more cohesive collection, aided by the fact that the spangled ferocity of some of Spedding's playing has been eased off. Without a brass section too, the album has a bluer feel, though 'You Burned the Tables on Me' still cooks and there's a tension within 'Morning Story', whereas the blues-rock of 'A Letter of Thanks' gives way to more rock than blues.

This time too, the shorter songs are more thematically consistent with the other pieces. 'Can You Follow' is a beautiful introduction and companion piece to 'Escape to the Royal Wood' for instance. Brown's lyrics are a little more direct, constructing a narrative more often than referencing literature. Only on "Smiles and Grins' (another standout) does an almost disturbing circus feel come to the organ and we see the structure become more fluid than other songs, with a bit of an extended bridge and an instrumental outro. While 'Veronica Sage' misses the mark for me, 'The Consul at Sunset' does not - and showcases Jack Bruce's ability to support a lead vocal with some effective backing. It's languid piano chords are backed by acoustic guitar and percussion, rather than a full kit, and works as a pleasant island getaway.

Once again, this is a four-star album for me, and while it lacks the broader palette that his previous record is drawn from, the consistency of 'Harmony Row' is a real selling point. Overall if you like your pop to have a bit of jazz or to take chances with both structure and genre, then you will enjoy this - it's quite heartfelt at times but conceals a really satisfying approach to songwriting.

dreadpirateroberts | 4/5 |

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