OK, first off, a bias admission. Just in case no-one knows, I love Jack L. I've seen him live countless times, I've been waiting for this CD for well over a year (closer to two actually) and I know the words to most of the songs already. So, I'm going to love this, right? Review over.
Well, not necessarily. There is a major problem. I've seen Jack at the Da-Club, where my table was virtually on the stage. I've seen him at Whelan's, where I had to move my glass as he ran across the tables. I've been at the lively, rocking gigs where the crowd roared, and I've been at the quieter gigs where Jack crooned and entranced the smaller crowds. In other words, I've heard these songs as they've developed, between completely unplugged (where the power failed) and loud and brash with horns, double bass and fiddle. I've heard them at their best and, at times, felt they were as much mine as his.
This CD fails to capture that history and passion. I suppose it's inevitable that Jack wouldn't be able to reproduce the sheer joy and power of a tight, sweaty performance in a small Dublin club, but, even taking that into account, this is a disappointment.
All the fave tracks are here, "Georgie Boy", the Doors-esque "Ode to Ed Wood" (once called "Ballad of Ed Flint"), "High Moon", "When the Moon is High", "Bedsprings", "Uno" and the beautiful "Rooftop Lullaby", but they all seem flat, lacking the usual oomph. Instead, we have overdone production and far too much music, which drowns out his voice. Not that Jack himself is completely innocent, half the time he sounds like he's just out of bed. Then there's the incomprehensible additions, like the sing-along bit at the end of 'Rooftop Lullaby'. The flat drumbeat is bad enough, but who the hell thought of that horrible "la, la, la" bit? Sung a cappella, or with a simple guitar backing, that beautiful song can raise the hairs on your neck. Here it's almost spoiled.
The newer, less familiar songs, like 'No Goodbyes', 'I Ain't Crazy' - a bizarrely out of place piece of noisy pseudo-industrial - and 'Metropolis Blues' seem better, maybe Jack was just bored with the older stuff. I admitted my bias at the beginning, so maybe that's my problem. This may sound amazing to someone who's never heard him, but I can't help feel it would have been so much better with a production job that drew the best out of the band. I've said it before, and I'm going to keep saying it until it happens, will someone sign this fucker soon and invest some money in him!
by Donnacha DeLong.