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Harmony Row

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Album Review

Named after a street in Jack Bruce's childhood home of Glasgow, Scotland, Harmony Row (1971) was the bassist's third solo long-player, returning him to his blues-infused rock & roll roots. The disc boasts collaborative efforts from Pete Brown (lyrics), Chris Spedding (guitar), and Soft Machine/Nucleus drummer John Marshall, replacing Jon Hiseman (drums). As Bruce recalls in the liner notes to the 2003 CD reissue, much of "the album was recorded with me [read: Bruce] playing the piano, guitar and drums [and] also playing live in the studio." Bruce adds, "I'd do overdubs later and sometimes the live vocal that I recorded ended up as the finished vocal." In the absence of the horn section featured on Songs for a Tailor (1969), these sides are much more compact and instrumentally sparse. It also gives an opportunity for Bruce — as a multi-instrumentalist — to temporarily break away from his regular electric bass duties. A case in point is the plaintively poignant opener, "Can You Follow?," with Bruce accompanying himself with some well-crafted piano lines and interesting modal chord progressions. It perfectly preludes the nimble rocker "Escape to the Royal Wood (On Ice)." The words were a reflection of Bruce's marriage, with distinctly regal imagery inspired by a "couple of pantomimes staged on ice and [they] hit me emotionally," Brown comments in the notes of the 2003 CD reissue. The raucous "You Burned the Tables on Me" could have easily been a contender for Cream, as it sports a strong vocal presence and catchy frenetic tempo, much in the same way that "Swlabr" had on Disraeli Gears (1967) or "N.S.U." did as far back as Fresh Cream (1966). "Morning Story" is slightly progressive with a driving rhythm and intricately layered arrangement. The pastoral "Folk Song" has an organic acoustic quality that would not have been out of place from Procol Harum or any number of Canterbury prog rock groups such as Caravan or Matching Mole. Emerson, Lake & Palmer could have done significant damage to "Smiles and Grins" with its aggressive attitude and prominent swirling keyboards. [There are five recently unearthed bonus tracks included on the 2003 CD reissue. Among them are early stabs at "You Burned the Tables on Me" with Bruce on electric piano and a demo of "Escape to the Royal Wood (On Ice)" without lyrics, as well as both an incipient reading and first take of "Can You Follow?," which was initially titled "Green Hills."]

Biography

Born: 14 May 1943 in Lanarkshire, Scotland

Genre: Rock

Years Active: '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

Although some may be tempted to call multi-instrumentalist, songwriter, and composer Jack Bruce a rock & roll musician, blues and jazz were what this innovative musician really loved. As a result, those two genres were at the base of most of the recorded output from a career that went back to the beginning of London's blues scene in 1962. In that year, he joined Alexis Korner's Blues Incorporated. Throughout the following decades...
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Harmony Row, Jack Bruce
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