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Jack Bruce - Harmony Row CD (album) cover


Jack Bruce

Jazz Rock/Fusion

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Crossover & JR/F/Canterbury Teams
4 stars This is one of the most progressive of all of the Jack Bruce albums I own. In fact, most of this album has something of a Caterbury Scene feel to it. If you are familiar with Jack Bruce's piano / vocal compositions, there are a few here. Can You Follow? has become a concert staple for Bruce (at least he performed that one each time I saw him), and is indicitive of the free form sound these ballads have.

Songs utilizing the trio on this album have a more traditional Canterbury-tyoe sound, highlighted on songs like Escape to the Royal Wood (On Ice). I especially like Chris Speddings performance throught this disk. And Bruce's bass playing is, well, Jack Bruce-like.

Sadly, I own only the original Polydor CD release of this album, so it is sorely in need of a remix, and it does not include the bonus tracks. But, still, this is a great album.

Report this review (#235432)
Posted Thursday, August 27, 2009 | Review Permalink
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.

Report this review (#613547)
Posted Friday, January 20, 2012 | Review Permalink
Mellotron Storm
3 stars Jack Bruce was of course part of the legendary power trio CREAM that thrilled audiences in the latter half of the sixties. This is Jack's third solo album released in 1971. What actually drew me to this one was the lineup. A trio including John Marshall (NUCLEUS, SOFT MACHINE) on drums and Chris Spedding (NUCLEUS) on guitar. Jack is an impressive bass player and he can sing too. The music here is of the fairly straight forward singer songwriter style with piano and vocals dominating. A disappointment for sure as I was anticipating that the focus would be on the instrumental work, but it's not. This is almost Folky at times and the Jazz / Fusion roots of Spedding and Marshall are no where to be found.

"Can You Follow" is mellow with piano and vocals. "Escape To The Royal Wood (On Ice)" is a top three for me. Piano and drums early as the vocals join in. An uptempo tune that reminds me of the STRAWBS. I like the bass and vocal melodies 2 1/2 minutes in. "You Burned The Tables On Me" is uptempo with the vocals and piano standing out. "There's A Forest" is laid back with piano and vocals. "Morning Story" is another top three. Just a great sound here then it settles back as the vocals and piano stand out. "Folk Song" is mellow with reserved vocals.

"Smiles And Grins" is finally a song where there's some focus on the instrumental work. Well that is until around 1 1/2 minutes in when the vocals arrive. Nice bass and drum work before 3 1/2 minutes when the vocals stop for a short time. "Post War" is my final top three. A bright tune with good lyrics and the guitar is interesting too here. "A Letter Of Thanks" is different as the vocals are almost theatrical. "Victoria Sage" opens with vocals and piano then it picks up with organ and a beat a minute in. The vocals and piano continue. "The Consul At Sunset" has a Spanish vibe to it and i'm not a fan.

Well some good songs here for sure but for the Prog fan i'm sure you'll be left wanting.

Report this review (#819909)
Posted Thursday, September 13, 2012 | Review Permalink
Sean Trane
Prog Folk
3 stars Third album from JB, but this time, he drops the Colosseum connection to snatch some Nucleus (Ian Carr's band) members, just at the time where the band's original line-up was imploding. To say the least, despite both having played on JB's Tailor album, John Marshall and Chris Spedding are relatively odd choices, given the album's shorter song format. I've always failed to see the link of the album's relatively positive title and its dreary artwork, and to be honest, the album's all-too-wordy nature (it seems that Pete Brown was never this loquacious) always discouraged me of investigating further. As usual, JB sings, plays keys and bass.

A few songs have a hard time hiding their inspiration (or is it that they inspired someone else's?) and sometimes, JB evens sounds a tad Cat Stevens-ish in Folk Song; while some songwriting is definitely kistchy and disputable: Royal Wood and the closing almost-stinky Spanish-crooner Consul At Sunset. And it's in the simpler more RnR songs that JB's often-too busy bass playing is mostly evident, as Letter Of Thanks proves. Among the album's highlights is the impressive and adventurous Morning Story, and while the vocals of Smiles And Grins might just be a little rough/harsh, the playing is brilliant.

Harmony Row has always been an album I've felt uncomfortable with, partly because it isn't all that accessible, too much all over the map, and even noisy in parts. To be honest, if it wasn't for the album's two longer songs, I'd give it a much smaller rating.

Report this review (#1156990)
Posted Thursday, April 3, 2014 | Review Permalink

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