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JACK BRUCE – SONGS FOR A TAILOR (Cherry Red/ Esoteric Recordings) (1969/ 2024) (26th July) (2 x CD + 2 x Blu Ray or 1 x RM g/f LP with fully restored artwork).

With remastering by Stephen W Tayler, the two CDs offer bonus tracks with alternative mixes and first/ second takes of some of the tracks, as well as instrumental demos of ‘You Burned the Tables on Me’ and ‘Escape to Royal Wood (On Ice) that would appear on 1971’s equally good “Harmony Row”. Also included are two Blu-Rays with 5.1 surround sound stereo mix and the “Rope Ladder to the Moon” documentary directed by Tony Palmer.

After CREAM split up, Bruce was working with drummer JON HISEMAN, saxophonist DICK HECKSTALL-SMITH and guitarist JOHN Mc LAUGHLIN on what was effectively his first solo album, “Things We Like” (in post-bop jazz mode) which, as it turned out, was not released until after “Songs for A Tailor”, in 1970. The aforementioned, apart from McLaughlin would appear on “Songs for a Tailor” along with guitarist CHRIS SPEDDING and drummer JOHN MARSHALL who would work together in NUCLEUS.

“Songs for a Tailor” demonstrated Bruce’s developing prowess as a songwriter working alongside lyricist PETE BROWN. He had studied Bach and Scottish folk music and was a multi-instrumentalist whose instruments included cello, piano and guitar in addition to the bass for which he was famous, and brought a broad spectrum of styles to an album characterised by oblique, poetic and at times satirical lyrics ( the jaunty but acerbic ‘Ministry of Bag’) to enduring tunes such as ‘Theme for An Imaginary Western’, a song that had been rejected by Cream: a marvellous exposition of life on the road with its memorable descending chords, and a number subsequently covered by MOUNTAIN, COLOSSEUM and GREENSLADE. ‘Boston Ball Game 1967’ has been aptly described as ‘experimental blues’ while ‘To Isengard’ was based on the theme music for a 1958 film “The Vikings” scored by Marco Nascimbene, with aside from the obvious “Lord of the Rings” reference, elements of free jazz in 3 / 4 time that included some appositely atonal electric guitar work from Spedding. ‘Never Tell Your Mother She’s Out of Tune’ was a complicated piece with five horns as confirmed by saxophonist ART THEMEN in the accompanying CD booklet, and a memorable one. Surprisingly ‘Weird of Hermiston’ and ‘The Clearout’ (the Polydor sampler track) were rejected for Cream’s legendary “Disraeli Gears” album, the latter for not being commercial enough, which is a surprise considering what a great vehicle for Jack Bruce’s powerful, soulful voice this elegant riff-rocker was, and is.

The album made #6 in the UK albums chart and #55 on Billboard, a reviewer in “Rolling Stone” magazine making rather a faux pas in panning it, as clearly it has stood the test of time very well. The poignancy of the music matches its dedication to ‘Genie the tailor’, Jeannie Franklin, costume designer for Cream who had tragically died in a car crash along with the young FAIRPORT CONVENTION drummer Martin Lamble

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