(All Album Reviews by ffroyd)
I’ll have to admit that before hearing this album, I wasn’t all that familiar with Jakko Jakszyk. I’m also embarrassed to say that I haven’t heard the 21st Century Schizoid Band but I was aware that he was their singer and guitarist. I was also under the impression that he was quite a bit younger too. I’m not sure why I thought that but after checking out his web sit I found that he is indeed a veteran performer, having been in several groups over the years including Level 42, Rapid Eye Movement (with Dave Stewart and Pip Pyle), Dizrhythmia, and The Lodge (which featured John Greaves and Peter Blegvad of Henry Cow). I guess that over the years he’s made friends with some very important people because the musician list on his new album is quite impressive. Included on here are some legendary musicians like Mel Collins, Robert Fripp, Hugh Hopper, Dave Stewart, Ian McDonald, Ian Wallace, John Giblin and Clive Brooks just to name a few. Of course assembling a cast like this would be all for naught if the music wasn’t up to snuff, So let’s just see if Jakko’s album can cut it.
First off, The Bruised Romantic Glee Club is a double CD set that contains plenty of music to digest. Jakko states in the liner notes that the two discs are somewhat different. The first being songs about his life and the second being the soundtrack to his life as he was growing up. Disc two contains several cover versions, more about them later in the review.
Some of the music on here brought to mind the neo prog stuff from the 80s. Jakko’s voice reminds me quite a bit of Nick Barrett and the melancholy of a few tracks made me almost immediately thing of Pendragon. I’m not complaining because I really like Pendragon. For those of you that don’t, you’re in luck because the whole album is not all like that. The styles vary greatly from track to track, at one point he could be doing something rather conservative and in the next few minutes there will be an avant-garde moment or something classical. There are a few tracks on here that have an ambient pop vibe and I’m reminded of David Sylvian or No-Man.
The musicianship here is top-notch. Jakko plays almost more keyboards than guitar. There’s mostly piano but there are also some mellotronish spots as well. Mel Collins lays down some truly nice sax and flute throughout both discs. The drummer for most of the album is Gavin Harrison who many reading this will know from his involvement with Porcupine Tree. The percussion work throughout the album is very vibrant and really enhances the music. Robert Fripp appears on two tracks here. On “Forgiving” he contributes both soundscapes and lead guitar. Although there are lots of great guest appearances, my favorite moment on disc one would have to be the track “Srebrenica”. This is an uncontrolled soundtrack piece where Jakko plays all the instruments.
As I mentioned before, the second disc contains mostly cover versions of songs that were very important to Jakko in his youth. There’s a Soft Machine track, two King Crimson tunes and…brace yourself…two from Henry Cow! The song “As Long as He Lies Perfectly Still” is take from Soft Machine’s Volume Two album and features a killer lineup with Dave Stewart (who plays keyboards on most of disc two), Hugh Hopper and Clive Brooks. Wouldn’t it be nice if these guys could do a whole album together, because this song is just too short!
The version of Crimso’s “Pictures of a City” takes on an Indian theme with sitars and features tabla played by Pandit Dinesh. This is quite a bit different than the original version and comes across as one of the more memorable tracks on the album. “Islands” is much more faithful and features Ian Wallace and Mel Collins who were there the first time around. I’ve been putting it off but these pieces make me want to hear the 21st Century Schizoid Band CDs.
The Henry Cow stuff came as a complete surprise and even more surprising is how good they sound. Although not quite as edgy and intense as the originals, it’s great to hear someone tackle this stuff. Gavin Harrison’s drumming on “Nirvana For Mice” is totally insane and the arrangement and programming on “The Citizen King” is breathtaking. These tracks on disc two make this album worth picking up.
The end piece is a short tape that Jakko dug up from his archives. It’s a sort of musique concrète bit recorded on a Revox A77 when he was 15. It’s a nice weird little way to end the album. One thing I really appreciated about this release is that Jakko added his comments to every track in the liner notes. Also the performance credits are given in detail for each song. It may seem like a minor detail but it really makes a difference when you’re listening to the album and get an insight to its creation.
While I probably wouldn’t have gone out looking for this one, I’m really glad that I got the opportunity to hear it. The Bruised Romantic Glee Club not only contains some beautifully personal moments but also some terrific interpretations of a few timeless classics. The material here is quite accessible but also diverse enough to hold a picky listener’s attention. There’s a lot more on here that I didn’t even get to in my review. I suggest you pick up a copy of this for yourself to get the full picture.