Monday, March 24, 2014

Review: Silver Rails - Jack Bruce


by Andy Snipper

It is ten years since the last solo album from Jack Bruce and, although he has been anything but quiet, work with Robin Trower and tours with his big band among other projects, it has felt as though he may have pulled up the shingle and retired to a home for those who were once superstars.

Silver Rails dispels all of those thoughts and sees him writing with Pete Brown again and making music that is remarkable for its quality and integrity but also damn fine to listen to. Welcome back Mr Bruce!

As befits a man who has been an icon and an original in a world of clones he has massed some great names alongside him here including Phil Manzanera, Robin Trower, Bernie Marsden and Uki John Roth on guitars, John Madeski on Hammond and Cindy Blackman Santana and Frank Tontoh on drums and collaborated with Pete Brown on most of these songs as well as working with Kip Hanrahan and Margit Seyffer. It all leads to an album that varies in style and tone but that is unmistakeably Jack Bruce.

The album opens with a jazzy and brass laden Candlelight and features Phil Manzanera on guitar laying down a solo that gets into the bones and suffuses the listener with warmth. The Hammond in the back provides richness but the star of the song is Bruce’s vocal – unmistakable and surprisingly powerful for a love song.

Reach For The Night is a Bruce/Brown collaboration and the spoken vocals are chilling – there are images of a life passing by, speeding to an inevitable end and filled with dread at that end. Derek Nash delivers a great sax solo but again it is Bruce’s vocals and some remarkable lyrics that steal the show.

In anyone else’s hands this might be a an overblown affair, all sweeping emotion and massive strings but Bruce understates the music and the result is much, much more than just another valedictory song.

And so it goes all through the album. It isn’t small or underplayed at any point but the album is scaled and paced perfectly to suit the song and there isn’t a moment when you feel that Jack Bruce is taking the easy route – just the right one.

Hidden Cities for example – 5 vocalists, all singing different parts and with Uli Jon Roth on guitar but it still has subtlety and pathos – think Colosseum at their best.

On Rusty Lady he teams up with Robin Trower for a jaunty little rocker along with son Malcolm but then moves on to Industrial Child which tears at your soul on a number featuring just Bruce on piano and Tony Remy on acoustic guitar. Follow that with Drone with Bruce massively over amplifying his bass to make a wondrous noise.

The album is as modern as it comes, full of classic references but never resting on any style or form to ease the listener’s passage. Track after track that hit the spot and show the musician that is Jack Bruce – he takes you on an emotional exploration and at the end you are drained and exhausted – it takes a great musician to that.

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