Jack Bruce - Smiles & Grins, Broadcast Sessions 1970-2001 [4CD/2BLU-RAY Remastered Boxset]

Jack Bruce – Smiles & Grins, Broadcast Sessions 1970-2001 [Remastered Boxset]

The word ‘legendary’ tends to get bandied around a little too freely, often applied to bands and artists who have merely managed to create a bit of a buzz! Well, the word is definitely warranted when discussing Jack Bruce. Travelling from his native Glasgow to London to pursue his love of jazz and blues in the sixties, Jack cut his teeth with stints in bands such as Alexis Korner’s Blues Incorporated, The Graham Bond Organisation and John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers. Then Bruce was approached by Ginger Baker and Eric Clapton to form a new band, Cream in 1966, and the legend was born. Cream was of course short lived, but their influence was undeniable.

This box set, Smiles and Grins – Broadcast Sessions 1970-2001, covers Jack’s subsequent solo career, with the bulk coming from the seventies. If this sounds vaguely familiar, you’re probably right. Quite a lot of the material gathered here has been available before, notably on Spirit, the Polydor 2008 3CD set, also put together by Mark Powell who is responsible for this latest release. This set however is even more extensive, including a fourth CD with a BBC Sounds of the Seventies session, and additional Jazz in Britain cuts, and two Blu-Ray discs with BBC video content from across the years. There’s also a much expanded accompanying booklet, so this really is a more substantial set for fans of the sadly missed icon that is Jack Bruce.

So what’s included? The first disc contains the BBC Radio 1 In Concert performance from August 1971, which is as it appeared in the Spirit box, but with the between song introductions by Alan Black restored. Whether you prefer to hear the music without the intros is a matter of taste, but he does provide some interesting insights into the songs. Chris Spedding proves to be an underrated player on guitar, and a great foil for Jack’s exploratory bass runs. John Marshall provides expressive drumming, and Graham Bond plays organ. Bruce also doubles up on piano on some tunes, such as the marvellous Smiles & Grins outro, and the superbly crafted Folk Song. In fact, one of the joys of ploughing through this box is being reminded of the classic songwriting partnership between Bruce and lyricist Pete Brown. Many songs are well known, such as the cinematic Theme For An Imaginary Western or some of the Cream classics, but there are many often overlooked beauties, and Folk Song, originally from Harmony Row, is one of them.

*Not the version from this compilation

This set also underlines, if anyone needed reminding, what an amazing voice Jack Bruce possessed. He is instantly recognisable with his wonderful bluesy wail, and I never tire of hearing it. With the wealth of material in this set, which I’ve listened to extensively, that’s just as well! The one nod to Cream in the 1971 In Concert set is the relatively obscure We’re Going Wrong, another fine song rarely heard live.

Disc 2 contains the 1971 Sounds of the Seventies session which was not included in the Spirit box. Many of the songs duplicate those in the In Concert disc, but the addition of Theme for an Imaginary Western is very welcome, and surely one of the greatest Bruce/Brown compositions. The rest of disc 2 contains a number of cuts from the Jazz in Britain session from 1971, where Jack teamed up with John Surman on sax and Jon Hiseman of Colosseum fame on drums to explore Jack’s jazz improvisational side. Whilst Walkabout takes the improvisation to extremes, at over 27 minutes long, the session shows another aspect of Bruce’s musical talents, and again includes several songs not released before on CD.

Disc 3 contains the legendary (there’s that word again) Old Grey Whistle Test concert from 1975, which also appears on the first Blu-Ray disc in video form. Jack is in fine form, and his band includes ex-Rolling Stone Mick Taylor on guitar, two keyboardists in Ronnie Leahy and Carla Bley, and Bruce Gary on drums. There are great versions of Morning Story and Without A Word, a cover of Tony Williams’ Spirit, a jazz rock instrumental, and finishing with a storming version of Smiles & Grins. Carla Bley’s mellotron gives it a prog flavour, although many of Jack’s songs are actually unusual in construction, and truly progressive in nature. He rarely wrote ‘normal’ easy listening material thankfully. The disc is completed with a couple of 1978 Jazz in Britain songs, again with Surman and Hiseman, the same line up as in ‘71.

CD 4 highlights the Jack Bruce & Friends band from 1977, a tight unit with Hughie Burns on guitar, Tony Hymas on keys and Simon Phillips on drums. This line up had more of a jazz rock edge, giving a different slant on old staples like You Burned The Tables On Me. Much of the set comes from Bruce’s album How’s Tricks, including the title track, Madhouse, Times, Baby Jane and Lost Inside A Song. The disc is rounded off with Twenty Past Four, again from the Jazz In Britain session of ‘78.

The video content is all interesting. Aside from the previously mentioned ‘75 OGWT concert, there is a set from 1981 from University of Surrey featuring Clem Clempson on guitar and occasional bass, David Sancious on keys and occasional guitar, and Billy Cobham on drums. It’s another lovely nugget with some beautiful moments, including a gorgeous Theme For An Imaginary Western, a riotous White Room, the almost Steely Dan funkiness of Hit and Run, and a rousing Politician featuring Clempson and Sancious duelling on guitar. Elsewhere we have rare footage of Tony Williams’ Lifetime live in 1970, and at the other end of the chronological scale, film of Bruce’s appearance on Later With Jools Holland in 2001.

So, overall, this is a super package of Jack’s solo work across the years, the booklet pulling it all together very nicely, so full marks to Mark Powell for diligently assembling the content. If you already own Spirit, you’ll have to judge how badly you need the extras in this box. If you don’t own that, and you have any interest in the legend that is Jack Bruce, then it’s a no brainer and you need this release. All the pivotal moments in his solo career are covered to some degree, and the music is some of the best crafted and performed rock and jazz of the last century. Anyone who thought his best years were in Cream needs to have a swift rethink.

CD 1

~ BBC Radio 1: In Concert 29/8/71
01. You Burned The Tables On Me (5:25)
02. Smiles & Grins (6:36)
03. Folk Song (5:33)
04. A Letter of Thanks (4:32)
05. We’re Going Wrong (4:50)
06. The Clearout (7:16)
07. Have You Ever Loved A Woman (6:19)
08. Powerhouse Sod (18:20)
09. You Sure Look Good To Me (7:21)

CD 2
~ Radio 1 Sounds of the Seventies 20/7/71 (1-5) | Radio 3 Jazz in Britain 10/8/71 (6-11)
01. Theme For An Imaginary Western (4:44)
02. You Burned The Tables On Me (4:14)
03. Folk Song (4:24)
04. A Letter of Thanks (3:35)
05. The Clearout (3:24)
06. Baru (4:57)
07. Powerhouse Sod (7:55)
08. Oom Bham She Bam Bom (7:02)
09. Jack’s Gone (4:05)
10. Clearaway (5:35)
11. Walkabout (27:51)

CD 3
~ Old Grey Whistle Test 6/6/75 (1-8) | Jazz In Britain 4/9/78 (9-10)
01. Can You Follow (2:19)
02. Morning Story (5:19)
03. Keep It Down (5:24)
04. Pieces Of Mind (6:04)
05. One (6:35)
06. Spirit (7:34)
07. Without A Word (8:56)
08. Smiles & Grins (12:28)
09. Fifteen Minutes Past Three (7:13)
10. Ten To Four (7:37)

CD 4
~ BBC Radio 1 In Concert 30/4/77 (1-11) | Jazz In Britain 4/9/78 (12)
01. Madhouse (6:41)
02. Without A Word (6:17)
03. Times (5:07)
04. Baby Jane (2:47)
05. Born Under a Bad Sign (4:59)
06. Lost Inside a Song (4:46)
07. Something To Live For (5:27)
08. How’s Tricks (5:20)
09. Spirit (7:41)
10. Out Into The Fields (6:44)
11. You Burned The Tables On Me (6:31)
12. Twenty Past Four (12:14)

Blu-ray 1
~ Lifetime – Beat Club, Bremen 24/11/70 (un-broadcast performance)
01. Smiles & Grins i Devotion / ii Smiles & Grins reprise / iii Dance of Maya
02. One Word
~ Old Grey Whistle Test Concert 6/6/75
03. Can You Follow
04. Morning Story
05. Keep It Down
06. Pieces Of Mind
07. One
08. Spirit
09. Without A Word
10. Smiles & Grins

Blu-ray 2
~ Old Grey Whistle Test – In Concert, University of Surrey 9/6/81
01. White Room
02. Hit and Run
03. Soul Blues
04. Living Without Ja
05. Dancing On Air
06. In This Way
07. Theme For An Imaginary Western
08. Politician
~ B.A. in Music 30/8/82
09. Theme For An Imaginary Western
~ Later With Jools Holland October 2001
10. 52nd Street
11. Sunshine of Your Love

~ In Concert 29/8/71:
Jack Bruce – Vocals, Bass, Piano
Graham Bond – Keyboards, Sax, Vocals (Have You Ever Loved A Woman)
Chris Spedding – Guitar
Art Themen – Alto Sax
John Marshall – Drums

~ Sounds of the Seventies 20/7/71:
Jack Bruce – Vocals, Bass, Piano
Graham Bond – Keyboards
Chris Spedding – Guitar
John Marshall – Drums

~ Jazz in Britain 10/8/71:
Jack Bruce – Bass Guitar, Upright Bass, Vocals (Powerhouse Sod)
John Surman – saxophones
Jon Hiseman – drums, percussion

~ Old Grey Whistle Test 6/6/75:
Jack Bruce – Vocals, Bass, Piano
Mick Taylor – Guitar
Carla Bley – Keyboards, Mellotron
Ronnie Leahy – Keyboards
Bruce Gary – Drums, Percussion

~ Jazz in Britain 4/9/78:
Jack Bruce – Bass Guitar, Upright Bass
John Surman – Saxophones
Jon Hiseman – Drums, Percussion

~ In Concert 14/4/77:

Jack Bruce – Vocals, Bass, Piano
Tony Hymas – Keyboards
Hughie Burns – Guitar
Simon Phillips – Drums, Percussion

~ Lifetime – Bremen, 1970:
Jack Bruce – Bass
Tony Williams – Drums
John McLaughlin – Guitar
Larry Young – Keyboards

~ Old Grey Whistle Test 9/6/81:
Jack Bruce – Vocals, Bass, Piano
David Sancious – Keyboards, Guitar
Clem Clempson – Guitar, Bass, Backing Vocals
Billy Cobham – Drums

~ Later with Jools Holland Oct 2001:
Jack Bruce – Bass, Vocals
Vernon Reid – Guitar
Bernie Worrell – Organ
Horacio Hernandez – Drums
Robby Ameen – Drums
Richie Flores – Percussion

Record Label: Cherry Red Records
Catalogue#: ECLEC62852
Country of Origin: U.K.
Date of Release: 29th March 2024

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