19 September 2010

CD RETRO REVIEW: Jakko M. Jakszyk - The Bruised Romantic Glee Club

(NB: this review was first published 17 January 2007)

Jakko M. Jakszyk has had a long and diverse career, careening wildly from pop/funk band Level 42 to Canterbury bands featuring Dave Stewart (Rapid Eye Movement), David Jackson, Peter Blegvad and John Greaves (The Lodge) and countless others. During the first few years of the 21st century he effectively replaced both Robert Fripp and any of a number of past vocalists in the 21st Century Schizoid Band, a group which reunited former members of King Crimson to recreate the band’s earlier material, with an eye toward future, newer compositions.

Jakszyk also has a fairly significant solo discography as well, with material ranging from singer-songwriter to pieces drawing heavily from his history and work with many of the legends of Canterbury progressive rock. Following the interruption in active work with 21CSB, Jakko began work on a new solo release, which would evolve into The Bruised Romantic Glee Club, a 2 CD set of new solo material and cover renditions of material which influenced Jakszyk during his formative years. The list of guest musicians on this release is lengthy and shows how well connected Jakszyk has been throughout his career:

Lyndon Connah, Gavin Harrison, Dave Stewart, Nathan King, Pandit Dinesh, Robert Fripp, Peter Sinfield, Mel Collins, Ian Wallace, Danny Thompson, Mark King, Hugh Hopper, Clive Brooks.

As befits such a project, the material is diverse, ranging from chamber renditions of classical material through heavy rockers with a distinct King Crimson tinge. Throughout, elements and washes of Canterbury-esque jazziness permeate, over which Jakszyk’s pleasing tenor vocals soar and twist, weaving a series of tales taken directly from his life’s experiences. Even the cover material has his distinctive stamp on them, rather than being simple regurgitations of the material.

The title track opens the album quietly, with plaintive, fragile vocals courtesy of Jakszyk and a pleasing, jazzy feel. Things do not remain thus for long, as schizoid, psychotically heavy sections with dueling saxophone and guitar blast the piece from potentially sedentary realms. “Catley’s Ashes” was one of the new compositions the band played. This is a phenomenal studio recording of the piece, with former King Crimson sax player Mel Collins providing some excellent wind playing, and Porcupine Tree drummer Gavin Harrison holding down the shifting, Crimson-like rhythm changes.

Several tracks on The Bruised Romantic Glee Club deal with Jakko’s childhood, as well as the loss of his parents. “Highgate Hill” hearkens back to Jakko’s birthplace. As Jakszyk has never spent much time there, in his mind the place has evolved in a nearly mythical way. The song is pretty straightforward musically, with nicely layered vocals and sweetly symphonic keyboards. “Forgiving” is a song for written too late to actually ask for the forgiveness that Jakko felt he needed from his father, while simultaneously forgiving him for the mistakes he made in his past. The song is built around a Robert Fripp soundscape, and is beautiful in its simplicity and emotional honesty. Also included in this series of reminiscences is “When We Go Home,” dedicated to the memory of his adoptive mother. Sweet, quiet and carefully constructed, the song is fragile and evokes longing, loneliness, and loss. Female vocals and lovely electric guitar courtesy of Robert Fripp add layers of depth and feeling to an already emotionally wrought composition.

The second disc in this set covers a number of songs that Jakszyk felt were influential or important to his musical education. A number of Canterbury bands loom large here, such as Soft Machine. “As Long As He Lies Perfectly Still (incorporating That Still And Perfect Summer and Astral Projection In Pinner)” is evidence of this. Based around a piece from Soft Machine 2, this medley also includes a section of original material from Jakszyk and Dave Stewart. In order to do this piece justice, Jakszyk assembles a veritable Canterbury super group, with Hugh Hopper (bass), Stewart (piano) and Clive Brooks (drums), along with sax and flute courtesy of Gary Barnacle. The performance is quick, engaging, and wholly honest to the Soft Machine original.

Additionally, Jakszyk covers a pair of Henry Cow tracks (“Nirvana for Mice” and “The Citizen King”), handling the intense complexity and construction with aplomb.

It should come as no surprise that this covers disc also includes some King Crimson material, considering his involvement with 21CSB. Two tracks from the band’s early days are recreated here, with the most interesting one being “Pictures Of An Indian City” – Jakszyk’s rendition of this King Crimson classic from 1970’s In The Wake of Poseidon. He completely reinvents the piece, with sitar replacing guitar, and original lyricist Peter Sinfield providing new lyrics for a new age. Connecting this new version to the old is an excellent soprano sax solo by Mel Collins, who recorded parts on the original studio version. An elegiac cover of 1971’s “Islands” (from the album of the same name) also features on this disc; while not as extensive a reworking as the original, adds to the original while remaining true to the work that it follows.

The Bruised Romantic Glee Club has much to offer even the most discerning listener. With material that ranges so widely (or wildly), there is certain to be something for everyone here. Highly recommended.

Track Listing CD 1:
Bruised Romantic Glee Club
Variations on A Theme by Holst
Catley's Ashes
When Peggy Came Home
Highgate Hill
No One Left To Lie To
Thing We Throw Away
Doxy, Dali and Duchamp
When We Go Home

Track Listing CD 2:
As Long As He Lies Perfectly Still (incorporating That Still And Perfect Summer and Astral Projection In Pinner)
Pictures Of an Indian City
Nirvana for Mice
The Citizen King
Soon After

Jakko M. Jakszyk: guitars, bass, keyboards, programming, balalaika, vocals
Gavin Harrison: drums
Danny Thompson: acoustic bass
Mel Collins: tenor, alto sax and flute
Gary Barnacle: sax, alto flute, flute, bass flute, piccolo, tenor and soprano sax
Dave Stewart: piano & keyboards
Ian Wallace: drums
Hugh Hopper: bass
Clive Brooks: drums
Robert Fripp: guitar
Lyndon Connah: piano
Nathan King: bass guitar
Pandit Dinesh: table, vocals
Caroline Lavell: cello
Helen Kaminca: viola
John Giblin: acoustic and fretless bass

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