John Symon Asher Bruce was born in Glasgow on 14th May 1943. So in 1993, Jack Bruce to you and me, reached the age of 50 and to mark the event two concerts were held, (thankfully recorded), on 2nd & 3rd November of that year at E-Werk, Cologne. Joining Jack over the two evenings was an awesome cast of musicians who had featured in his career. This latest re-mastered and re-issued CD from Esoteric Recordings gives us a chance to relive these memorable concerts.
Not one to conform to tradition, and rather than arrive on stage with a big impact piece, CD 1 opens with Jack Bruce seated at the piano to perform an emotive version of Can You Follow? which first appeared on Harmony Row (1971). Not content with this fantastic, if not rather low-key opening, JB remains at the piano and is joined by Gary Husband on keyboards and yet another great Jack Bruce/Pete Brown composition, this time around Running Thro’ Our Hands, and a slightly different spelling to that from that which appeared on the Out Of The Storm (1978) album.
In contrast to the subdued opening Cities Of The Heart cuts loose with the next two instrumental tracks, both taken from the excellent Things We Like (1970). Over The Cliff and Statues sees some great jazz infused interaction between Jack Bruce, Ginger Baker and saxophonist Dick Heckstall-Smith. The latter piece allowing Heckstall-Smith space for freeform expression, Baker a brief drum solo and a walking bass solo from Bruce.
Buddy Guy’s classic First Time I Met The Blues sees the line-up extended with Dave ‘Clem’ Clempson, the first of the guitarists to appear on the album. For those not familiar with song the track title says much. Nice version, but certainly the weakest track (for me at least) on this first CD.
Following this is another line-up change with Gary Husband (now on drums) and the wonderful Bernie Worrell on Hammond organ. The line-up is bolstered by Art Themen and Dick Heckstall-Smith on saxes and Jack’s son Malcolm on synths. The aptly titled (for me anyway) Smiles & Grins is a great groover and the version here is utterly fantastic. Always loved Jack’s bass work on the original, but his playing moves to a different dimension for this gig. Great track, great version… If that wasn’t enough, the tour-de-force that is Bird Alone is just spine tingling. Featuring a four piece line-up of Gary Husband, Clem Clempson, Bernie Worrell and of course Jack Bruce is ten minutes of great jazz rock music – and more.
Neighbour, Neighbour, (or the US version if you prefer, Neighbor, Neighbor), was a minor hit for Jimmy Hughes in 1966, but also performed by a number of UK jazz/R & B outfits of the era, including The Graham Bond Organisation, which of course included Jack Bruce, Ginger Baker Dick Heckstall-Smith. All three appear on this big band arrangement along with Simon Phillips taking over on kit, Clem Clempson, Bernie Worrell and the brass section of Art Themen, John Mumford (trombone) and Henry Lowther (trumpet). Born Under A Bad Sign receives a similar treatment and a nice solo from the somewhat overlooked guitar ‘hero’ Clem Clempson.
“We used to say in the sixties, “never trust anyone over thirty.” And I never planned to pass that great age. But I’m so glad to have been around to be part of the celebration that this record represents. And it is a celebration. Not so much of Jack Bruce the musician or survivor. I believe all the great people who took part in this event were celebrating the music and the wonder of music is that while you may grow older, music stays forever young. Thank you so much my wonderful friends. I know we’ll meet again soon – in the safest place in the world.”
JB Dec 10, 93
So we move onto CD 2 and once again we open with ballad. This time around a reprise of the Maggie Reilly/Jack Bruce duet from the recently released Somethin’ Els (93) and once again Clem Clempson turns in a fine solo and certainly one to match Clapton’s from the original album.
Jack Bruce returns to his earliest solo recording for the next two songs and performed here in the same order as appeared on Songs For Tailor (1969). Never Tell Your Mother She’s Out Of Tune receives the big band sound, whilst the timeless Theme For An Imaginary Western not only shows what a great songwriter JB is, but it is just one of those songs I never tire of hearing. Leslie West first sold me on the track, but here Jack Bruce returns it to its rightful owner. Oh… and yet another tasteful solo from Clem Clempson. We move forward five years to 1974 for the only track from Out Of The Storm, namely Golden Days. Another strong ballad and another duet, this time around with Gary “Mudbone” Cooper supplying the other voice.
Enter Gary Moore and let the party begin! Well that’s how it struck me. Pared down to a three piece with Simon Phillips on drums, Life On Earth taken from A Question Of Time (1989) bore all the hallmarks of Jack retuning to his ‘powerhouse trio’ roots with West Bruce & Laing! Wasn’t he in another band?
The final five songs should and will not receive an introduction here. Ginger returns to the stage and along the sadly missed Gary Moore perform four great versions of the Cream classics and much to the enjoyment of the audience.
The entire cast of musicians appear on the stage, with the notable absence of Gary Moore, for the fifth and final Cream song. Sunshine Of Your Love concludes this diverse and thoroughly entertaining CD. Over the years I have tired of this particular track, but the version here serves as a fitting finale.
Once again my hat is off to Esoteric Recordings for the re-mastering. I had heard that the quality was perhaps a little lacking, but for a live recording it impresses throughout. As always attention to detail is noted and the eight page booklet has comprehensive notes from Mark Powell.
01. Can You Follow? (1:56)
02. Running Thro’ Our Hands (4:13)
03. Over The Cliff (3:46)
04. Statues (7:37)
05. First Time I Met The Blues (4:47)
06. Smiles & Grins (9:48)
07. Bird Alone (9:56)
08. Neighbour, Neighbour (5:32)
09. Born Under A Bad Sign (6:17)
Total Time 53:52
01. Ships In The Night (5:20)
02. Never Tell Your Mother She’s Out Of Tune (4:19)
03. Theme For An Imaginary Western (6:00)
04. Golden Days (5:38)
05. Life On Earth (5:21)
06. N.S.U. (6:29)
07. Sitting On Top Of The World (6:52)
08. Politician (5:39)
09. Spoonful (9:13)
10. Sunshine Of Your Love (8:07)
Total Time 62:58
Jack Bruce – Bass, Piano & Vocals
Maggie Reilly – Vocals
Gary “Mudbone” Cooper – Percussion & Vocals
Gary Moore – Guitar & Vocals
Clem Clempson – Guitar
Dick Heckstall-Smith – Saxophones
Art Themen – Saxophone
Henry Lowther – Trumpet
John Mumford – Trombone
Bernie Worrell – Hammond Organ & Piano
Jonas Bruce – Piano & Keyboards
Malcolm Bruce – Acoustic Guitar & Keyboards
François Garny – Bass
Ginger Baker – Drums
Simon Phillips – Drums
Gary Husband – Drums & Piano
Pete Brown – Percussion & Vocals
Kip Hanrahan – Himself
Record Label: Esoteric Recordings
Catalogue#: ECLEC 22428
Year Of Release: 2014
Original Release: CMP (1994)