Jack The Lad - Itís Jack the Lad [Talking Elephant - 2018]
Jack the Lad are the Geordie folk rock band formed when Newcastle legends Lindisfarne decided to splinter. Alan Hull and Ray Jackson kept the name and Simon Cowe, Ray Laidlaw and Rod Clements formed their own band with a future member of Lindisfarne Billy Mitchell. Itís Jack the Lad was the bandís debut album and a strong statement of intent, featuring ten original songs and one traditional medley. It was an opportunity for Mitchell, Clements and Cowe to highlight their songwriting skills, something they did with aplomb. Interestingly, second album The Old Straight Track which was released a year later, and is also available again via Talking Elephant, predominantly featured traditional songs a strange move when your debut is littered with strong original material?
Anyway moving to the music, the album opener Boilermaker Blues is a country tinged affair with a Byrds influence. This one is written by Billy Mitchell and is perhaps the result of the time he spent living in Canada, however Rod Clements violin playing immediately takes you back to that familiar Lindisfarne sound. Back on the Road Again is more typical of that Lindisfarne sound. Midway through it does however pick up the tempo, at which point it is driven along by a hard rock style guitar riff, before dropping back into familiar territory for the songís conclusion. Plain Dealing is pure folk pop with an American flavour to it. This track is very commercial with a great big hooky chorus and an American music hall flavour to it.
Fast Lane Driver is up next, this one fits into classic folk rock territory, somewhere between Lindisfarne and Fairport Convention, however around this point one canít help but notice there is a definite 1970s pop sound that pervades the whole thing. I keep just hearing a slight hint of Wizzard or Slade just hovering in the background. This track also features some more great violin from Rod Clements, and some great keyboard work from guest musician Tommy Eyre, the legendary session musician who has worked with a host of rock legends over the years, most notably Joe Cocker, Alex Harvey, Greg Lake and John Mayall. Probably my favourite track on the album is up next, Turning into Winter is a beautiful, fragile acoustic tune, this is Billy Mitchellís love paean to summer at the onset of winter, a beautiful, nostalgia filled trip through summer days eating ice cream and drinking lemonade. Why Canít I Be Satisfied, takes us back into familiar territory, sat between Lindisfarne and Fairport. This one was an obvious choice for a single, it has great commercial appeal and a great stomp along chorus.
Song Without A Band features the legendary Steeleye Span vocalist Maddy Prior as guest vocalist. Priorís voice fits perfectly, and works beautifully with the massed voices of the band. Tommy Eyre returns to add more keyboard flourishes. Rosalee harks back to Plain Dealings with its music hall flavour Iím reminded of The Beatles on material like When Iím Sixty Four or Maxwellís Silver Hammer. Promised Land is another Mitchell composition and another really strong folk rock song, that reminds of Lindisfarne. This followed by A Corny Pastiche, a medley of traditional material arranged by the band. This one makes me think of Fairport and Steeleye Span. The album is closed by the track Lying on the Water, this is the fifth Billy Mitchell track on the album, something that I think highlights what a great songwriter he really is.
Overall, Itís Jack the Lad is a great folk rock album that picks up where Lindisfarne left off with Fog on the Tyne. A strong set of songs that with a bit more luck could have cracked the charts and been incredibly successful. Once again Talking Elephant have revived a forgotten classic for us to enjoy again. My one question that still remains through all of this is why did they drop the original material for their second album? Clements, Mitchell and Cowe are all songwriters with a great musical pedigree as can be seen from this release. Anyway, if you like Fairport Convention and Lindisfarne, this one is well worth a look.Darren Charles