I thought, “This must be another ‘jack-your-body’ House music album,” the first time I paused to parse the outside art work of “Overtones” from Just Jack [Mercury 9859723]. Well, that is when the old adage about “judging by its’ cover” kicked-in. There is no House music specifically on here, but you can tell that Jack has paid attention to American R&B, hip hop and club music. One of the main things I notice is that the lyrics stand-out poetically and Jack has a well-versed vocabulary. I read that he is into literature, so therefore books inspire his hooks! I wish more artists would express similar scruples here in the age of the internet.
I love the dreamy beginning of “Writer’s Block” the opening number whose title I can relate to, having experienced it often, and even while penning some reviews in this space. In fact I’m not sure which appeals to me more – the title, the song, or the superhero girlfriend references. Jack (Allsopp)’s understated vocals of catchy lyrics are positively pleasing; this might be my favorite track right-off-the-bat!
The lively and jazzy horns on track two, “Glory Days” make it radio ready for the “smooth” formats; I thought “Disco Friends” would be an uptempo ode to the seventies dance music, but instead I realize it is a mellow, Michael Franks-style tune with added vocoder effect dropped in the middle. More under your flat tire lift tool is the next track, and while it begins by incorporating breaks, the ensuing wide open jam and subtle reggae guitar squints me pupils because of those “Stars In Their Eyes” – the beat of which sounds like it should have the title of the previous cut until they insert a Busta Rhymes-type hip hop beat midway through the cut. His creativity tricks us because the titles so far imply something different from what he delivers musically, and in fact, his voice constantly invokes the – dare I compare again - Michael Franks comparison to my eardrums.
“Lost” is picturesque with its’ introspective monologue narrative behind old-style science fiction/horror movie intro depicting skulking mystery along dampened and foggy night lit cobblestone streets. Again the poetry is noticeably striking, and climaxing with full- band sound orchestration and a ballsy baritone sax-led fade. I could see the credits roll on that one. I wonder if “Hold On” was suggested to Jack by the prototypical person who is over fifty years of age, is all... I dig the halting funk beat of the “Symphony Of Sirens”, and suspect the wailers he kicks it about are of the female and not the warning kind. With added hint of salsa keyboards on these and other random worldly syncopations added, I now realize that I’m jacked-up because this cat is capable of just about anything. “Life Stories” and smooth jazz radio: a winning combination as he continues to tell us stories.
When on number eleven his jeremiad lyrics say, “its anotha Morning Morning...” you’ll conjure all of those images from when you’ve had a beautiful intimate night after a party and slept-in, only to awaken startled that your guest has to suddenly leave, to dragging yourself on a drive to work on a dark cloudy morn when you know you could still be in the sack.
Another surprise on my CD copy at least, is a curiously –lo-n-g silence after the slow jam with apparent cello fade “Spectacular Failures”, track twelve that I would like explained.I reached-out to Jason the press release contact person about this to no avail. Were they giving us an example of said faux pas? It is several minutes before an unknown uptempo mystery ‘bonus” song appears. What’s up wit dat?? Thus ending the album on a weird note like the artwork on the cover, I guess. A one point deduction.
The title “Just Jack” implies a solo performer, but he has his own beanstalk; Allsop, just the leader of his band of musical merry men, is totally capable of doing it all if necessary. It is the rebellious Jack that I admire, with rhymes that area on time and hopefully intact by the time they make it across the great pond from his London base where, it always seems to this reporter, that they have no trouble with the truth no matter how much its’ education initially stings. Whenever I write this much about music, it must be interestingly good, therefore Jack be nimble, Jack be quick, Jack jumps over four star candlesticks.