Style : Progressive rock.with touches of neo, fusion and AOR
Rating : 3.75 / 5
Summary : Quality, relaxing music from a Canadian one-man act that will find its way into many collections
Today’s progressive music business, as we know, was spawned from the prog scene of the 1970s. From a business perspective, the two eras have precisely nothing in common. One of the important differences is the incredible technology available today at next-to-nothing prices, and the marketing opportunities created by the Internet. The only barriers to entering today’s music business are the artists’ own talent, imagination and hard work. That in turn means that a huge number of new artists are appearing, with varying degrees of talent, and sadly with only a small probability of success.
One of the lesser known artists who deserves recognition in today’s progressive business is Canada’s Scott Jacks. Scott is a long-time fan of the old-school masters including Camel, King Crimson and Gentle Giant, and those early influences show on You Know Me By Now.
At first listen it was easy to dismiss this as a so-so neo-prog effort, but it only took only one more listen to gain a deeper appreciation of Scott Jacks’s musicianship. Essentially a one-man act, Jacks is a capable multi-instrumentalist and a talented songwriter who penned the songs and played almost all of the instruments himself. Each song is well textured and some of the arrangements have an interesting classical orientation. But others, like “This Tired old Face”, have a, AOR / pop sound to them and probably have good commercial potential.
This is a song oriented melodic-prog album with 13 tracks spread over 50 minutes. The style of the music includes several nods to pop, and some jazzy influences such as the fusion noodling on “9 in Essense”. And except for the closing cut the music is mellow and predominantly acoustic. A few tracks are instrumentals, and may represent some of the stronger points on the album. Scott’s vocals are not the most consistent component of the music, but they are delivered with a soft relaxing tone reminiscent of Alan Parsons.
The acoustic guitar work is the predominant sound on this CD. It isn’t overly complex and brings a pleasant, melodic tone to the music. It is well complimented by pleasing keyboards and a simple bass line that is sensibly held far back in the mix – just enough to give it a solid foundation. And listen for Scott’s newest musical skill, the sitar.
There are hundreds of one-man acts on today’s progressive scene. Visit Scott Jacks’s web site and listen to some of the samples, and you’ll agree that he is one of the few who deserves to be heard.
Scott Jacks is an acoustic guitar based singer-songwriter with progressive tendencies. Lots of strummy acoustic guitar and a languid pace keep this disc from ever really making me leap out of my chair, but in the right context, it’s a really relaxing, and at times, downright pretty spin. “To Michael Hedges” is a beautiful low-key acoustic guitar Hedges tribute. The flute accompaniment in the title track almost reaches the point of a cliché conceit, but if you are predisposed to like the sound (as I am) it’s a really sweet moment. “Wintertime Blues” could be a bastard child of Brian Wilson and Todd Rundgren. In fact, his voice often takes on the plaintive tone of the early 70s Todd Rundgren all over this album.
Just when I think he’s melting to the ultra-mellow singer-songwriter mold too deeply there comes a flurry of notes in odd-time or a gloriously lush minor key wash of bass pedals and synth pads to give me goose flesh and reach for the CD case again thinking “who IS this guy?”
Tracks like the bouncy, calliope flavored pop-prog of “No One Knows Their Names” or the fantastically atmospheric and changes packed “Film Star” (my favorite track) are where Jacks really lets his arty prog flag fly. “9 in Essence” is a great synth-driven prog groove in the tradition of Camel or even Larry Fast’s Synergy. The increased beat rate and fuzz guitar make “Sure Shot Motors” as close to really rocking as the album gets.
It’s a rich and open recording with lots of dynamics and breathing room. The production and arrangement is clever, warm and filled with surprises. Why NOT throw some sitar in “Where do you think you’re Headed Billy?” I love the trebbly, but not distorted Rickenbacker bass sound in “Sure Shot Motors” which sounds like it’s directly lifted from Chris Squire’s “Fish Out of Water” sessions. Subtle.
Overall, it’s a bit too mellow for very heavy rotation at my house, but I’ve had some really nice spins with this in low-key, lazy-day situations. I think maybe he wears his influences on his sleeve a little too much; His song “The China Dream” even opens with the same piano chords as Todd’s “Love is the Answer”. Every time I play this disc I sing that familiar “OOOoooOOO” part, but the accompaniment never kicks in. Still, there are things a lot worse than being influenced by Rundgren and Wilson . . .
File this under atmospheric singer-songwriter prog. 7.5 out of 10.