Top positive review
31 people found this helpful
beautiful and sometimes strange
on 31 March 2014
Jack Bruce returns to the fray with a challenging and superb album. His early solo work set the bar incredibly high. Harmony Row is one of the finest of all rock albums, with Songs for a Tailor and Out of the Storm not far behind. His more recent work received less aclaim and had fewer listeners, yet More Jack than God and Monkjack, for example, repay multiple listens and contain outstanding songs. Silver Rails comes after a gap of ten years during which Bruce has toured with his Big Blues Band and Spectrum Road, and released music with Robin Trower. Still, since Jack has had his health troubles his followers may have wondered whether more new songs would come.
The new songs are moving, they have something to say, sung from experience, and they make us feel it, there is superb musicianship and great musical variety. There is a progression from early reflective songs that consider love, addiction and mortality, (Candlight, Reach for the Night and Fields of Forever) to later songs showing compassion for victims of corporate political greed, military industrial terror, and deindustrialisation (Rusty Lady, Industrial Child, Drone). Hope seems to lie in the spaces where the human spirit persists away from power (Hidden Cities). The finest moments do not simply recreate familiar idioms but explore and surprise with their invention. The final songs - reworked Keep It Down and No Surrender rock out to speak of unquenched spirit after difficult and unpredicted life journeys.
Jack's voice sounds that of an older man, but remains, although at moments frail, unique and beautiful, an enduring instrument used with great skill to evoke passions. His piano on Industrial Child and Don't Look Now is a delight. His bass remains that of a master. The musicians such as his blues band colleagues Frank Tontoh, and Tony Remy, jazz drenched Spectrum Road partners John Medeski and Cindy Blackman Santana, illustrious guitarists Robin Trower and Bernie Marsden, and family members including Malcolm Bruce all rise to the challenge of music that takes strikingly diverse paths, songs starting in familiar genres (jazz, folk, rock, calypso/ska, blues) but twisting inventively and imaginatively away from the well-trodden track to evoke imaginative freedom. It is moving that Jack has included all his family on the record, a serious creative work. The lyrics from Pete Brown, in particular, are accessible and poetic, their reflective narratives complementing the music perfectly. Jack has cited David Bowie's The Next Day as an inspiration. Silver Rails deserves at least such acclaim. Here is a great artist whose many musical achievements deserve a wider audience. This record leaves us wanting more.