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JACKSON HEIGHTS

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Jackson Heights biography
There are a few misconceptions about the group Jackson Heights, the first of which was that it was mostly Lee Jackson's group (true at first, but hardly the case later on) and that the disappearance and split of THE NICE had been an acrimonious one. Indeed, Keith Emerson regularly dropped buy gigs to cheer on the mainly acoustic trio, and Emerson and main songwriter Brian Chatton had many family-related contacts. So when the famed trio did split, Lee dropped the bass guitar and picked his acoustic guitar and started writer songs in the singer/songwriter mode. So bassist Lee Jackson left and although he was warned about his vocal limitations, his ego got the better of him (in this regard, Emerson was not dephased when he hooked up with Greg Lake in ELP) and he chose to become lead singer of a quartet that consisted of old buddies Harcourt (guitars, kb), Tommy Slone (drums, perc) and Mario Tafia (bs, guits). Named after a NYC district, the group's debut album King Progress got a release on the Charisma label (The Nice's old label), but it didn't dent the charts despite its very poppish nature. Indeed, the songs were sometimes short pop tunes like some of those early The Nice tune, and there is even a rework of Cry Of Eugene on this album.

But the group was already falling apart and Lee Jackson had to rebuild it from scratch, this time much sturdier including songwriters Brian Chatton (ex-Flaming Youth where he played with Phil Collins) and John McBurnie, thus adopting the acoustic trio mentioned in the first paragraph. For the three albums they will make, ex-Crimson man Mike Giles will play drums when asked to, but will never tour with the band, as they were very much a sort of British CS&N on most songs, while some of the group's longer tracks still maintained a high musicianship. Both Fifth Avenue Bus and Raggamuffin's Fool have pleasant but unexceptional songs; none to bring enough attention for the group to develop a loyal following outside the Uni circuit. The group tried with their last album an ill-fated concept album about bands and groupies (a dimension Lee Jackson was always very aware of) called Bump & Grind, which would prove catastrophic (both in sales and arts) and the group wouldn't survive the album very long, especially knowing that Jackson was working on his private funds into JH.

Lee Jackson had been contacted by Swiss Wizz Patrick Moraz (ex-Mainhorse) to form a band, because he had the fi...
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JACKSON HEIGHTS top albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

2.84 | 15 ratings
King Progress
1970
2.88 | 15 ratings
5th Avenue Bus
1972
3.36 | 25 ratings
Ragamuffin Fool
1972
2.98 | 19 ratings
Bump 'n' Grind
1973

JACKSON HEIGHTS Live Albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

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JACKSON HEIGHTS Official Singles, EPs, Fan Club & Promo (CD, EP/LP, MC, Digital Media Download)

0.00 | 0 ratings
Doubting Thomas
1970

JACKSON HEIGHTS Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 King Progress by JACKSON HEIGHTS album cover Studio Album, 1970
2.84 | 15 ratings

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King Progress
Jackson Heights Prog Related

Review by Psychedelic Paul

4 stars JACKSON HEIGHTS were a four-album English band, named after their founder member Lee Jackson, the group's lead singer and guitarist and a former member of The Nice. Jackson Heights also happens to be the name of a multi-ethnic neighbourhood (or ghetto) in New York City. Jackson Heights' first album "King Progress" (1970) on the Charisma label failed to make much progress up the album charts and generated about as much interest as special guest appearances by Justin Bieber & Ariana Grande at a classic Prog-Rock concert. Hoping for a change of fortunes, Lee Jackson signed with the Vertigo label and put together a new line-up for the following three albums:- "The Fifth Avenue Bus" (1972); Ragamuffins Fool" (1972); & "Bump 'n' Grind" (1973). Jackson Heights never quite managed to reach the heights of success during their brief time in the spotlight and following the disbandment of the group in 1973, Lee Jackson went on to form the one-album band Refugee with keyboard wizard Patrick Moraz and renowned drummer Brian "Blinky" Davison. "Blinky" was another former member of The Nice power trio alongside Lee Jackson, and of course, the legendary Keith Emerson, who became almost as well-known for his knife-wielding stage antics as his masterful keyboard displays with the Prog-Rock supergroup ELP.

"King Progress" opens in bright and lively style with "Mr Screw", a song with an upbeat uptempo Funk-Rock groove to it. The "Mr Screw" of the title refers to the British slang for a prison officer, and the angry prisoner (singer) sounds like he has an axe to grind about prison conditions, although they can't be nearly as bad as sitting through an entire series of Prisoner Cell Block H. That really would be cruel and unusual punishment. The song has an underlying air of menace about it, a bit like the kind of underlying air of menace you might experience if you walked into a Las Vegas Casino run by Robert De Niro, while in the backroom, Joe Pesci is busy beating some poor unfortunate gambling cheat's face into a bloody pulp, just before putting his head in a vice and then taking him for a long midnight drive out into the desert..... Well, maybe "Mr Screw" is not quite as menacing as that.

It's time now to light up a joss-stick and chillout to the far-out psychedelic vibes of "Since I Last Saw You", a song with a dreamy and laid-back mellow groove. This song is as cool, calm and collected as Bono from U2 with his wrap-around shades and slicked-back hair, although if Bono really IS that cool, why did he name himself after a dog biscuit, and why does he wear sunglasses at night!? ..... Anyway, "Since I Last Saw You" is a song that floats along melodiously on a wispy purple haze of swirling smoke from a middle-eastern hookah or shiska pipe. It's the kind of tripped-out psychedelic music you might have heard playing in the groovy Haight-Ashbury district of San Francisco back in the "Summer of Love" year of 1967. If you're in the mood for crossing your legs in the lotus position in preparation for a long laid-back session of transcendental meditation - or even tantric sex if you're feelin' really adventurous and have a willing partner - then this is the song for you.

The weather outlook is sunny and warm for our next song..... If you're a sun worshipper, then you might just be a "Sunshine Freak", because that's the title of the third song on the album. If you've ever wanted to experience the lovely feeling of a warm Summer Breeze making you feel fine, and blowing through the jasmine of your mind, then you can do it right here from the comfort of your armchair with this glorious burst of radiant Sunshine Pop. You don't even need any Warp Factor 7 suncream to enjoy this song and there's absolutely no risk of going red in the sun like the B-52's "Rock Lobster". This vibrant Folky Pop number is flying high like the Byrds, only without the jangly sound of Roger McGuinn's twelve-string Rickenbacker guitar, and if you're lucky enough to be listening to "Sunshine Freak" while the sun is shining outside, then throw open the patio doors and Let the Sunshine In during this present-day Age of Aquarius.

And now we arrive at the title track: "King Progress". It's an old-fashioned, plaintive Folky ballad with a somewhat melancholy air (aren't all ballads melancholy by their very nature!??), featuring gently lilting guitar strings, mournful cellos and sweeping violins. The music has something of an Elizabethan feel to it, which could be down to the sound of a crumhorn. It's the kind of medieval madrigal that might have been played at some great merry-making banquet in Elizabeth 1's or Henry VIII's time. Yes, this charmingly sweet ditty is a real feast for the ears. Picture the lavish scene where copious amounts of food and wine have already been consumed and half-eaten chicken legs are being carelessly thrown over the shoulder, accompanied by the sound of breaking glass, as empty wine glasses are thrown into the blazing hearth fire with gay abandon. Not to mention lusty wenches who are ready, willing and able to be bedded down for the night to the accompanying sound of creaking rusty bedsprings. Well, one always lives in hope.

There's no doubt about it, the fifth song "Doubting Thomas" is a rompin' stompin' Folk-Rock knees-up from beginning to end, in the best traditions of some of Bob Dylan's livelier Folk-Rock numbers, and as an added bonus, the song features a Dylan- style harmonica solo too. This uptempo country-tinged melody bounces along merrily on its way for over four minutes. It's hardly the kind of authentic country music you might hear played at the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, but then again, these are country boys from the back streets of London, England. The playfully silly lyrics leave one in no doubt that "Doubting Thomas" is not to be taken too seriously:- "Is this another tale of Doubting Thomas?, Very devious man is he, Keeps his goldfish in the bathtub, His sister's strange, a sight to see, Fight for territorial waters, He has a bit tiny taste of ass, His wife is frying him piranha, We think they're smarter with the bass." ..... As you can see, the lyrics make no sense whatsoever, but it's all jolly good fun at the end of the day and the party atmosphere sounds like a wonderful time was had by all involved.

If you've ever suffered from sleepless nights, then you'll certainly be able to relate to the next song: "Insomnia". This dreamy downtempo number with its spaced-out laid-back ambience might even help you drift off to sleep and "trance-port" you to a land of blissful sweet dreams. Just kick off your shoes and lie back and think of England as you listen to this marvellous piece of music from a bygone era a half-century ago, when up-and-coming British bands like Jackson Heights were recording albums of this high calibre on a regular basis. In fact, comparing this gorgeous slice of musical nostalgia with some of the mindless Pop we hear played regularly on the radio today, is a bit like comparing an exotic ride on the Orient Express from London to Istanbul with champagne and caviar, to a British Rail cattle-class trip from London to Scunthorpe with bread and water. It's really no contest at all.

And so, alas dear friends, we've reached the seventh and final song on the album: "Cry of Eugene", an absolutely beautiful album highlight. This is a classic case of saving the best song until last, so get ready to experience eight minutes of musical magic and sheer delight with the echoing sound of a guitar soaked in reverb, bathed in a virtual aurora borealis of vibrant psychedelic colours. This calming and hypnotic music is a hauntingly beautiful psychedelic relic from the sixties and a true lost album treasure in the wonderworld of prog. This moody and magnificent piece of music reminds one somewhat of some of the early classics from the Moody Blues, only without the haunting sound of the mellotron. This is what REAL music sounds like, unlike much of the instantly forgettable Pop of today (Britney Spears or Justin Bieber, anyone?), which is about as interesting to listen to as hearing the latest BBC Radio 4 Shipping Forecast for the state of the sea at Dogger Bank.

Jackson Heights have risen from the ghetto and made a very impressive entrance onto the world stage with "King Progress", an awesome album that stands out as much from some of the mediocre music of today as the magnificent Taj Mahal palace in Agra (not the local Indian restaurant) would stand out in the ("grim up north") mining town of Barnsley in South Yorkshire.

 Bump 'n' Grind by JACKSON HEIGHTS album cover Studio Album, 1973
2.98 | 19 ratings

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Bump 'n' Grind
Jackson Heights Prog Related

Review by beebfader

4 stars Bump'n'Grind (1973) Esoteric ****

Compact at 33 minutes, this is the most pop orientated of the three albums with lavish production values, and colourful, `baroque-pop' arrangements, and although quite what they were aiming for is hard to tell, it is fine music by anyone's standards. This really shines on a god hi-fi !

The title track is anything but the dirty pub rock that the name seems to suggest, instead being a sweeping majestic widescreen tune, with McBurnie's vocals easily recognisable as the voice of (Patrick Moraz')`Story Of I' at the fore against full string arrangements. `It's A Shame' is a beautiful divorce ballad (if there is such a thing) with a really memorable tune and perhaps Lee Jackson's best vocal, ably served by a lush arrangement once again. `Public Romance' is especially remarkable for featuring a cornucopia of keyboards including a stunning solo played on Keith Emerson's loaned Moog by Brian Chatton, and more `Melletron' (which is mis- spelt on every album as per the original sleeve notes !).

This album closed out their career and Jackson subsequently attempted to resurrect The Nice formula with Patrick Moraz in the keyboard hot seat with Refugee, only to have his hopes dashed again as Moraz did a runner for a short lived stint with Yes. The three albums on display here demonstrate that while Jackson Heights were eminently listenable, they were always going to fall between several stools. This is not to say however that with a retrospective glance and an appreciation of that melting pot that was the early seventies London music scene, there is much to appreciate here. Even albums like this which totally failed commercially offer up standards in writing, performance and production which are seldom matched today.

 Ragamuffin Fool by JACKSON HEIGHTS album cover Studio Album, 1972
3.36 | 25 ratings

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Ragamuffin Fool
Jackson Heights Prog Related

Review by beebfader

4 stars `Maureen' starts the album stridently, with a slightly tougher and more upfront vocal sound than the preceding album, although to say this was a stab at the charts would be underestimating the sophistication on offer here. There are delightful Piano and Mellotron breaks amongst Yes-like harmonies, (and in fact even a direct steal of an ending from Yours Is No Disgrace, can you spot it?). Once again, triple vocals are in evidence here and this is fine accomplished music, vocal and song-led with much to hold the interest throughout.

At times they are good enough to challenge Crosby, Stills and Nash, whom they had obviously been listening to. There is something refreshing and unpredictable about the writing, the vocals (again three way between McBurnie, Chatton, and Jackson) and the piano, mellotron and acoustic guitars once again framed by the immaculate drumming of Michael Giles.

As well as varied and inventive song based material, `Catch A Thief' is a rare jazz based piano workout and while Brian Chatton is no Keith Emerson, it works well enough. Interestingly there is also a version of Lee Jackson's `Chorale' from `Five Bridges' recorded, probably the way he wanted it to be. It's terrific, with added choral work and Mellotron strings which really flesh it out and make it special.

Overall `Ragamuffin's Fool' could be said to be a little more jovial and `good time' than it's predecessor, defining a kind of eccentric English song-writing based rock where bands pretty much did what they liked , had fun, and worried little about record company balance sheets. This music was never going to change the world, but it is entertaining enough to hold the attention throughout.

 5th Avenue Bus by JACKSON HEIGHTS album cover Studio Album, 1972
2.88 | 15 ratings

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5th Avenue Bus
Jackson Heights Prog Related

Review by beebfader

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.

 King Progress by JACKSON HEIGHTS album cover Studio Album, 1970
2.84 | 15 ratings

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King Progress
Jackson Heights Prog Related

Review by Tom Ozric
Prog Reviewer

2 stars Mr Gruff - Lee Jackson, and his post-Nice outfit Jackson Heights. More of an abhorration of The Nice, than anything. Jackson opting for a Folky, Soft-Rock direction, only lightly hinting at anything Progressive. Indeed, the (almost) footnote of the sleevenotes read - For Lee to 'go acoustic' is rather like a writer taking up the quill after years on a typewriter.... I say that the writer should've stuck with the typewriter in this case.... I prefer Lee playing his Left-Handed 'Teardrop' Cello Bass thingy, rather than Acoustic Guitars and Harmonica, but that's just me. There are moments here that are worthy, like the 7min minor- key 'Since I Last Saw You', beautifully haunting and pastoral - the tranquil guitar lines are quite memorable, the almost Psychedelic and late-60's sounding 'Sunshine Freak', and, for interest's sake, the lengthy, 'armchair' version of the track 'Cry Of Eugene', originally a pleasant piece by Emerson and Co., transcribed perfectly for Jackson's acoustic setting. As for the rest of the tunes, Doubting Thomas features Drummer/Percussionist Tommy Slone's 'Abdominal Percussion', adding an original whimsy to the proceedings, and the album opener 'Mr Screw' is indicative of this 'new' path Lee has chosen to pursue. Fortunately, Lee improved upon his formula for the next release. This album is just for the curious, tracking routes of their favourite artists (Who ?? Lee ???).
 Bump 'n' Grind by JACKSON HEIGHTS album cover Studio Album, 1973
2.98 | 19 ratings

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Bump 'n' Grind
Jackson Heights Prog Related

Review by Sean Trane
Special Collaborator Prog Folk

2 stars 2.5 stars really!!!

Fourth and last album for JH, and apparently it was commonly agreed that this was to be the make or break album. The usual trio (armed with two ex-crimson drummer as Ian Wallace joined-up Giles) intended as concept was the lives of the ladies in a cabaret, but apparently the concept diverged into a complete extravaganza with tons of extra musicians once the label got excited about the project and over- did their part with a luxurious sleeve.

Starting on seagulls and piano into I Could Be Your Orchestra or its string-overloaded follow-up Spaghetti Sunshine, this album seems to be filled to the brim with the whole kettle of prog clichés, but then again, this might be a proghead's easiest way to get into JH. Classically trained Brian Chatton, constantly pushed by his buddy Keith Emerson, he obviously explodes into this album (he hadn't written anything on FAB, then did his bit in RF), but here seems to take on the lion's share in terms of songwriting

Again, when these big projects get on a roll, with the label's consent, it's usually the opposite returns that comes back in return. In the same genre than Bump And Grind, I can think of Audience's Lunch (mega project that broke the band up) and Stackridge's Mr Mick (also a mega project, but apparently botched up by the record company for not releasing the tracks correctly and consequently broke up the band), and indeed Jackson ended up broke with a group whose forces fled them. Swiss wizz Patrick Moraz would then step in and save the day for Jackson .

 Ragamuffin Fool by JACKSON HEIGHTS album cover Studio Album, 1972
3.36 | 25 ratings

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Ragamuffin Fool
Jackson Heights Prog Related

Review by Sean Trane
Special Collaborator Prog Folk

3 stars Again released on the Vertigo swirl label, JH's third effort at least managed a very promising artwork spread over a gatefold (and posters), but alas the musical propos didn't follow the hopes the fantasy drawings were hinting at. Still reduced as a trio live and inviting a drummer (amongst other musicians) in the studio to beef up their sound. Compared to the previous album, keyboardist Brian Chatton is also involved in the songwriting, which makes them a full and equal trio, but the overall sound of the group won't be altered too much, still hovering on a soft folk rock with west coast influences (CS&N or America or Bread etc..., even some Steely Dan) but without any trace of country rock. Again Giles plays on most tracks (bar two), but he rarely shows what he was up to in Crimson, no anymore than Jackson shows his The Nice chops.

Musically and sonically, RF is quite close to FAB in many regards and it's certainly not the string arrangement on the would-be single of Maureen (the opening track) that will recuse that statement. The following Your Beauty does however spell some kind of proggy ambiance and is linked to As She Starts, both tracks hovering around The Guess Who and Steely Dan. In the same realm, Bebop is a nice tidbit (mellotrons detected >> yummy!!!). Other tracks like Chips And Chicken or the title track to Poor Peter and Bellyful Of Water were ranging from Honky Tonk to hillbilly roadside blues and fun roll-out rollicking rock.

Catch A Thief could almost be a good The Nice track, relying on a wild piano, while Chorale IS a The Nice track (a part of the Five Bridge Suite) with Jackson singing almost Gabriel-like. But most of the second side's tracks remind in some ways the short crazier and zanier The Nice tracks from their first two albums.

Again very deceiving an album, JH was now standing its last leg and everyone decided that they should try out for a full blown-out extravaganza, with full deluxe works; which on the view of the first three albums has me guessing why in the world would someone risk so big with so few in hand (a little more on paper though). In either case RF is a slight improvement on FAB, probably the closest to The Nice in spirit and the album by which you'd want to start to investigate, should you really wish to do so!

 5th Avenue Bus by JACKSON HEIGHTS album cover Studio Album, 1972
2.88 | 15 ratings

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5th Avenue Bus
Jackson Heights Prog Related

Review by Sean Trane
Special Collaborator Prog Folk

2 stars 2.5 stars really!!!

Having had to rebuild his group from scratch, contemplating their debut album 's little catastrophe, Lee wisely sought some more songwriters in the person of John McBurnie (guitars and percussions and vocals) and also Brian Chatton (Kbs and vocals). So not only Lee made space for a real songwriter, but accepted shared vocal duties, he picked up his bass again and would call upon ex-Crimson drummer Mike Giles to play drums on their future three records, even though he and McBurnie handled percussion instruments as well. Finding a record deal on the legendary Vertigo Swirl label, they came up with one of the ugliest ever artwork on this label (with Lee's face enlarged in the bus entrance. Musically fairly different than their debut album, Fifth Ave Bus is more to do with CS&N than with The Nice or any other prog group around, although on the odd song, they could play up a proggy storm, especially with Giles drumming it up.

The huge majority of the songs are written by guitarist McBurnie, and his feeling has a definitive west coast pop/rock like the afore-mentioned trio, but without Young and most of them shall not raise the proghead's eyebrow, except for the percussion middle section Dog Got Bitten or the middle section of the lengthy Sweet Hill Tunnel, where Chatton shows his keyboard palette, the wind noises allowing some ambiance to take hold and the excellent interplay between Chatton's palette, Lee's bass and Giles' drums. The last point of interest is the closing Pastor Roger, which has a Family feeling, partly induced by the vocals Chapman-esque lead vocals (Jackson trying to have some range and coming up with screeches), but nowhere is there any kind of hint of instrumental mastery throughout the album, even in the Giles participations. It might amaze you to find that it is guest musicians pulling the electric guitar solos or the excellent piano just mentioned above (Lawrie Wright, also writer of one other track); which has me wondering exactly how these guys managed on stage. apparently they appeared as a purely acoustic "folk" trio (there is a bit of that), in which case soloing became unneeded.

Although I've only heard once their debut long ago (which is why I didn't review it), it's difficult for me to say whether FAB is an improvement on KP, but their singer/songwriter stuff is a bit of a change although both albums remains in the soft folk rock domain. With only small art rock glimpse to show for The Nice's former greatness and a very different stage allure, appearing as an acoustic trio, JH was heading nowherte and it was getting there fast.

Thanks to Sean Trane for the artist addition.

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