Design By Humans
Published On: Mon, Apr 21st, 2014

Jack Bruce: Silver Rails

jack bruceJack Bruce
Silver Rails
(Esoteric Antenna)

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Jack Bruce, the dean of bass guitar, has released Silver Rails, his first solo album in ten years. It’s well worth the wait.

Bruce’s voice is shakier, more weathered (sometimes he sounds like the cowardly lion from The Wizard of Oz), but after all, he’s 70 and still adjusting to a new liver. But he can still hit those operatic notes that made him such an affecting, distinct vocalist.

Among the guest guitarists are frequent collaborator Robin Trower, Phil Manzanera (Roxy Music), Bernie Marsden (Whitesnake), and Bruce’s son, Malcolm. The album also reunites Bruce with Pete Brown, the lyricist for many of Cream’s classic tunes.

Trower guests on “Rusty Lady,” a satire about Margaret Thatcher, which plays off Bruce and Trower’s R&B influences. Trower’s expressive, gritty riffs and Bruce’s sly vocal show the duo is still in touch with their bluesy roots.

Bruce’s foreboding vocal, John Medeshi’s fleshy Hammond and Derek Nash’s after-hours tenor sax highlight the dark “Reach for the Night.”

Reminiscent of “Lost Inside a Song” from Bruce’s album How’s Tricks?, the ballad “Don’t Look Now” is cemented by the interplay between Tony Remy’s pristine guitar work and Bruce’s brooding piano.

“Drone” pushes Bruce’s musical boundaries, translating the hum of a bumble bee into musical language. It’s a track that would have been at home on his techno album, Automatic, yet stands on its own through Bruce’s fat synth bass and the unexpected sound of an attacking Stuka dive bomber.

One of the few disappointments is “Hidden Cities.” Uli Jon Roth’s heavy metal guitar intro apes “Iron Man” and the herky-jerky arrangement conjures up Bruce’s more verbose work on Songs for a Tailor.

Eclectic, edgy and above all, excellent, Steel Rails signals that Jack Bruce’s solo career is back on track.

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Jack Bruce: Silver Rails