Jack Bruce – Songs for a Tailor – Deluxe Edition

by | Jul 1, 2024 | 0 comments

Following the demise of Cream, the incendiary, but short-lived rock supergroup that devastated live stages from 1966-1968, the triumvirate of Eric Clapton, Ginger Baker, and Jack Bruce embarked on disparate musical paths. Clapton would form Blind Faith, Ginger Baker, his band Ginger Baker’s Airforce, and Jack Bruce would release his debut solo record, Songs for a Tailor.

Bruce had already backed into a solo career when he recorded what would become his second solo album, Things We Like in between Cream dates in August of 1968. That recording was a free jazz influenced instrumental record and wouldn’t appear until 1970, following the release of Songs for a Tailor. Bruce wanted his debut record to be a showcase for his songwriting abilities so Things We Like would wait.

The focus of today’s rock room rant, Songs for a Tailor has thankfully been reexamined and refurbished and is due for release on July 26 in a deluxe two CD and 2 Blu-ray edition by Cherry Red Records. The release is a long overdue consolidation of existing demos and session tapes as well as a remastered original 1969 mix of the record from the original 8 track tapes. Also included is a new stereo mix and a brand-new surround sound edition by Stephen W. Tayler. As an additional bonus the 1971 Jack Bruce documentary Rope Ladder to the Moon is also included in the wealth of 32 bonus tracks.

Songs for a Tailor was a hard departure from Cream’s direction as Bruce wanted to display the full array of his abilities across a spectrum of influence. Songs for a Tailor spotlights Bruce’s multifarious talents on piano, guitar, bass as well his arranging prowess. Bruce had continued his standing collaboration with lyricist Peter Brown on the entire LP, who he had previously partnered with on compositions like “I Feel Free,” and “White Room” in Cream. The album’s title is a tribute to Jeannie Franklin, a clothing designer and girlfriend of guitarist Richard Thompson who had died tragically in an accident on tour with the band Fairport Convention. She was a friend of Bruce and had composed a letter to him which he only received after her death that asked to him “sing some high notes for me.”

Songs for a Tailor has aged well and retains a freshness through is unconventional collection of musical pieces. The songs are shifty and despite any planned direction are driven by Bruce’s inventive and singable bass lines that keep every arrangement interesting. There is a viny ambiance and classical milieu that is both informed by Bruce’s Scottish heritage as well as his affinity for jazz and blues. Combined with Pete Browns peregrination of psychedelicized renaissance aesthetics and fantasy – and the concoction was ripe for a new music to be realized.

Bruce was fearless in his attempt to realize his own career and directive. There is an abundance of piano on the record and a noticeable lack of traditional lead guitar. Bruce had grown frustrated with what had become a limited pallet of sound in Cream and wanted to break free of any previously felt sonic restrictions. He enlisted musicians Chris Spedding on guitar, John Hisman on drums, and Dick Heckstall Smith on saxophones among others.  Cream producer and later bass player for Mountain, Felix Pappalardi assisted Bruce with production of the album and contributed instrumentally. Bruce plays bass, organ, piano, acoustic guitar and cello in addition to singing stoically on every track.

On the new Cherry Red release, the first CD spotlights the original mix of the record as well as additional bonus material. The second disc features the new stereo mix and more bonus tracks. Having both mixes available allows for a panoramic view of the recording and for the listener to have a choice of what version to enjoy.

The album opens with the syncopated, “Never Tell Your Mother She’s Out of Tune,” a brassy groove that sounds unlike anything Bruce had previously attempted musically. His bass emits like an angry tuba, calling out and responding to the pulsating brass blasts. The sound is more Chicago Transit than psychedelic. Also of note, is the appearance of the name L’Angelo Misterioso, who is credited on guitar and also goes by the name of George Harrison.

A song rejected by Cream for sounding too much like the “Band”, “A Theme for an Imaginary Western,” is one of Bruce’s beloved songs and was later covered by Mountain. The featured Bruce piano plays a dusty dramaticism and moves the song through a sweeping narrative of firelight and friendship while Bruce’s vocals reach operatic status. A must hear track.

A favorite of the “rock room,” Bruce’s piano and bass interfold in the jazzy and multiple “Tickets to Waterwalls,” which holds its breath trough tension inducing verses, before releasing into the buoyancy of the song’s multiple changes. A terribly underrated and exciting deep cut. “Weird of Hermiston,” is a strange declaration of sadness and separation. The song belies this feeling by changing its deadly serious lope into a high-speed run through its choruses. An alternate mix is available at the end of disc one that contains differing elements and a more cathedral sounding mix.

“Rope Ladder to the Moon,” is a churning acoustic number marked by Pete Brown’s poetic vibrant license. Bruce’s bass navigates a crater pocked landscape on where he also plays cello. One of Brown and Bruce’s most effective songs, the tune ascends from its changes toward its celestial destination with a slowly inflated chorus melody. The song is also featured in its audio verité’ demo forms on disc two where its evolution can be traced.

“The Ministry of Bag,” is a joyous pumping R and B groove similar to the album opener and containing some shared sonic elements of the band “Electric Flag.”  The sparse demo is available at the end of disc one where it’s broken down to a piano focused rock and roll blues spotlighting Bruce’s earnest vocals. A saxophone enters for verse two, drums for the third, while Bruce slides around the notes of the established melody, searching. Additionally, there is an alternate mix of the final finished product on disc one.

“He the Richmond,” is the most “usual,” song on the record. It flows on acoustic guitars and on a soft movement of a breezy melody. Bruce’s sonorous bass lines move through well timed pauses and active exclamations lending the acoustic strumming pattern a front running melody line. Galloping like a springtime horseback ride, Bruce serenades from the treeline, spotted in shadow and sun.  In contrast, “Boston Ball Game 1967,” rolls in on a scrappy bounding Bruce bass thump. The horns respond in kind resulting in a bounding ground ball groove. The vocals disorient with Bruce and Pappalardi’s voices overlapping into a hallucinatory wound-up mass of voices.

“To Isengard,” is a song of contrasts. Originally considered for Cream, the song begins in an acoustic field with bucolic lovers enveloped in the humidity of love. Bruce retrieves a birdsong falsetto for the acoustic nocturne. Soon the song splinters to reveal a prog like sensibility and breaks into a churning and improvisational segment. Bruce and Spedding enter a milky way of watery experimentation and rotund bass. For those that want more, there is an additional bonus track of this piece of music, where it is called “Vikings,” in its unreleased form.

“The Clearout,” closes the record, opening on a military drum beat. Originally a rejected Cream song, one can imagine it in its originally prospective guise. There’s a funky open and close verse cadence where Bruce’s vocals are punctuated by his guttural four string punctuations. The most “rock,” of the songs on the record, the new stereo mix of this song is also well worth a listen, concluding the record in style. A record so multiple and original that a proper definition is near impossible.

One additional and exciting addition to the assortment of goods on the deluxe addition is a two-song demo session from Morgan Studios undertaken shortly after the release of Songs for a Tailor. The two instrumental tracks attempted and included would later appear on Bruce’s 1971 record Harmony Row.

Songs for a Tailor is one of those records that for a multiple of reasons mussed the hair of listeners and critics by flying just above their heads. Bruce’s focused musicality, and sometimes playfully self-indulgent attempts at hitting the note are both equally on display on his wonderfully rendered debut. Because of Bruce’s refusal to bow to anything but his own musical wants the record remains as original and valuable as the day of its creation.

July 26 Cherry Red Records

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