Published on 25th March 2014
Jack Bruce – Monkjack
After the distinctly dark times towards the end of the 70s the beginning of 80s marked an up turn for Jack Bruce (JB) and kicked off by the splendid release of I’ve Always Wanted to Do This, under the name Jack Bruce & Friends with Billy Cobham, Clem Clempson and David Sancious. Although the band toured extensively to promote the album the project wasn’t financially viable and disbanded in the same year. During the 80s JB would form a number of collaborative ventures, notably with Robin Trower (BLT) and the short lived A Gathering Of Minds with Billy Cobham and Allan Holdsworth. Jack also continued to work as session musician and again notably with Jon Anderson, Gary Moore and Cozy Powell. He also appeared on Soft Machine’s Land Of Cockayne (1981) and also added, somewhat unusually, vocals to an Allan Holdsworth album, 1983’s Road Games. However his solo output during this decade was confined to the rather obscure Automatic (1983).
The 90’s marked somewhat of a rebirth for Jack Bruce and his first solo album of the decade Somethin Els (1993) finally came to fruition. The album featured many guest appearances including Eric Clapton and Maggie Reilly – read Roger Trenwith’s review HERE. In the same year and as part of his 50th birthday celebrations JB would unite with an impressive cast of musicians for a concert in Cologne which would later be released in 1994 as Cities Of The Heart.
The last in this trilogy of releases is 1995’s Monkjack album, originally released on the ill fated German CMP label, this is a warm and intimate album is performed by Jack Bruce on piano and vocals and Bernie Worrell on Hammond B3. The album covers material dating back to Jack’s 1969 debut, Songs For Tailor, with Weird From Hermiston and wonderful Folk Song from Harmony Row (1971).
Monkjack also includes material written for the album and collaborations with Kip Hanrahan, Pete Brown and David Hart and a cover of the Willie Dixon/Eddie Boyd classic Third Degree. Full of power and emotion Monkjack is captivating album that comes across as album that Jack Bruce wanted and perhaps needed to make. This can be heard throughout and as can be detected in the achingly restrained instrumental Shouldn’t We Leading or in to the heartfelt David’s Harp.
It’s been a long time since I’ve sat down and listened to this album and if memory serves I was disappointed when I first bought it. Listening now Monkjack, lights off – headphones on, is a completely different experience. The warmth and emotion in Jack Bruce’s voice, accompanied by piano, is just a wonderful and Bernie Worrell’s contribution is subtlety personified This is an warm, intimate album and listening, as describe, I imagined a small theatre setting, subdued lighting, an attentive audience and just the two men as the focus.
The new songs I wrote were constantly developing, rather than being in standard verse, chorus, verse form. I always liked that continuous evolving form, and I suppose that style of writing began with “As you Said” back in the Cream days. With “Monkjack” I wanted to take that idea of continuous development a stage further. Jack Bruce
And that’s it really. Great songs, great music, great players, fantastic atmosphere – do you really need anything else?
So no bonus material for this release, but to be honest it doesn’t need any, and the mood could quite easily have been destroyed by padding out the CD for the sake of “added value”. Kudos to Esoteric Recordings for re-mastering and reissuing these somewhat “lost gems”. As we have come to expect from this label the album comes with detailed liner notes, courtesy of Mark Powell this time around and as always the re-mastering and attention to detail are top notch.
In the space of three years Jack Bruce released three strikingly different albums – a testament to the man and his music. However the story doesn’t end here and even now in his early 70s and as I write this review, JB is currently on tour promoting his latest studio album, Silver Rails, which was released through Esoteric Recordings yesterday…
01. The Food (4:08)
02. The Boy (3:52)
03. Shouldn’t We (2:57)
04. David’s Harp (3:50)
05. Time Repairs (3:32)
06. Laughing On Music Street (7:54)
07. Know One Blues (2:15)
08. Folksong (5:17)
09. Weird Of Hermiston (3:21)
10. Tightrope (5:38)
11. Third Degree (3:35)
12. Immortal Ninth (5:07)
Total Time – 51:26
Jack Bruce – Piano & Vocals
Bernie Worrell – Hammond B3
Record Label: Esoteric Recordings
Catalogue#: ECLEC 2429
Year Of Release: 2014
Original Release: 1995