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John Paul Jones - The Thunderthief CD (album) cover


John Paul Jones


Heavy Prog

3.44 | 52 ratings

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4 stars People who have come across JPJ in their lifes usually realize that he is the most versatile musician in the rock scene, with only Mike Oldfield trailing behind. Funny how two musicians with similar talent end up in different roads. To understand JPJ's versatility I must recall a question usually done to him: - "What did you do before Led Zeppelin?" - "Well, I played in virtually every band."

At that time, pre 70's, JPJ and Jimmy Page worked as session musicians. After building the beast that Led Zeppelin came to be, JPJ had the freedom to choose any path he wanted to. For years, he became an arranger (R.E.M's Automatic for the People; Foo Fighters' In Your Honor) and a producer (Sara Watkins.) Prior to touring with Them Crooked Vultures and Seasick Steve (I love his handcrafted guitars and his blues,) JPJ embarked into the avant-garde rock scene, a process which started by touring with Diamanda Galás. A few years later came the two JPJ solo CDs, Zooma and the Thunderthief.

While Zooma is all about having songs to play bass live once again, The Thunderthief is JPJ having fun in studio. Yet, even when both albums can be branded as avant-garde rock, The Thunderthief is richer in variety. Don't get fooled, this is no masterpiece, it's just one of the most talented and captivating musicians in the rock scene doing his mojo. And the result is brilliant, funny, and musically felt but light-hearted. No need to be profound for JPJ, it is just not his style. Instead, we are offered with groovy, awe-inspiring, and sometimes intricate songs that make you wonder why he hasn't played them live.

The only three songs in the album that can be related back to Zooma are Leafy Meadows (including a solo by you "Kc"now who,) Daphne, and Shibuya Bop. These are all songs showcasing why JPJ is regarded as one of the most influential bassists in the rock scene. Shibuya Bop is my favorite of these three, because that bass line is just terrific. As regards, Leafy Meadows, I have yet to ascertain if JPJ uses his famous lap steel bass in this track, which you can see in any live rendition of Them Crooked Vultures "Noboby Loves Me Neither Do I." That's an jawdropping instrument crafted by Manson, JPJ's official luthier.

Then, there are two other instrumentals: the awe-inspring Hoediddle, and the classic folk song Down to the River to Pray. Hoediddle is just an amazing song I'd rather not spoil to you, just listen to it! Down to the River to Pray is JPJ showing why songs in the like of Going to California and That's the Way are Led Zeppelin fan favourites.

Finally, there are four song sang by JPJ himself, with his not so-nice yet lovely and acceptable voice. Lyrics are mostly absurd, and those four songs are quite diverse in style and atmosphere. Again: variety is the spice of life and the spice of this album. This album has songs from two rock styles widely regarded as opposites: prog and punk. There you have it, JPJ did it again for fun and that's partly what punk's about: having fun in the face of the old naysayers!

P.D.: there are two songs from this era not recorded in studio, but played live and well documented. First, JPJ's triple neck guitar solo. This is my favourite guitar solo, as JPJ uses the loop pedal to raise the bar in guitar soloing. Inspiring and fun. The second is one of the songs I regard as most avant-garde, Them Crooked Vultures' Highway 1. Just hear the magic of that song in TCV's single "Mind Eraser no Chaser." The Köln version of Highway 1, broadcasted by WDR's Rockpalast, is even better.

Emiliano | 4/5 |


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