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Songs for a Tailor

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Album Review

After nearly a decade as a primary fixture on London's seminal electric R&B scene in groups such as Blues Incorporated, John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers, and Cream, Jack Bruce (bass/keyboards/vocals) commenced his solo career with the release of Songs for a Tailor (1969). Bruce's decision to temporarily can the decidedly jazzier tunes that he had recorded the previous year with John McLaughlin (guitar), Jon Hiseman (drums), and Dick Heckstall-Smith (brass/woodwinds) proved to be a shrewd artistic decision. After having recently exited Cream, Bruce establishes his own identity with this collection of more inclusive songs, rather than the instrumentally intensive sides that would eventually come out as Things We Like (1970). Bruce exhibits his versatility as a multi-instrumentalist and, along with collaborator Pete Brown (lyrics), his prowess as a songwriter. Interestingly, a majority of the titles are executed by compact power trios. The personnel includes Chris Spedding (guitar), Hiseman, and Felix Pappalardi (vocals/guitar). Although comparisons to Cream are perhaps inevitable, the diversity of musicians as well as the strong arrangements of equally inspired material give these a distinct feel. From right off the bat, Bruce's inimitable and undulating basslines thrust the groove on the cryptically titled lead track, "Never Tell Your Mother She's Out of Tune." The lineup is of considerable note here, as a subdued George Harrison, under the alias of L'Angelo Misterioso, joins Bruce, Hiseman, Harry Beckett (trumpet), Henry Lowther (trumpet), Heckstall-Smith, and Art Theman (sax). The off-kilter intro lands into a heavy rocker with prominent brass augmentation, recalling the punctuation of Chicago's fusion of jazz and straight-ahead rock & roll. This directly contrasts the other two cuts with the horn section. The R&B vibe on "Ministry of Bag" is agile and funky, much like the bluesy Bay Area blend from the Electric Flag or Cold Blood. In the same vein, "Boston Ball Game 1967" is another inspired brief flash of jazzy rock — clocking in at under two minutes. One obvious standout from the respective three-piece combos is Bruce's definitive reading of "Theme from an Imaginary Western." The song's earthy quality is not unlike that which permeates the Band's debut, Music from Big Pink (1968). "Weird of Hermiston" and the uptempo and trippy "Tickets to Waterfalls" both feature Bruce on organ, providing a slightly psychedelic feel à la Traffic. [In 2003 Songs for a Tailor was issued with digitally remastered sound and four previously unreleased supplementary sides: demo and alternate mix versions of "Ministry of Bag" as well as alternate mixes of both "Weird of Hermiston" and "The Clearout."]


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 and into the 21st century, Bruce remained a supreme innovator, pushing...
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Songs for a Tailor, Jack Bruce
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