Everything's Jake (04/21/2000)
Jake, Bloodblue (Desert Dog Records 1999) - Jake is a four-piece combo from New York City, fronted by singer/songwriter and guitarist, Jessie Lee Montague. Bloodblue marks the second release from the band, and shows a brash rock sound, highlighted by Jessie Lee's strong presence.
Bloodblue is a seven-track EP and is a follow up to their full-length debut CD, Hook, which was released on Sire's Blackbird Records.
Standing at the center of this well-greased quartet is single Jessie Lee Montague, who is flanked by long-time drummer Jagoda, bass player Johnnie Raggs, and John Annese on guitars and voices. The album was produced by Chicky and recorded at "Chicky's Place" (with Chicky on all programming and keyboards).
The highlight of the EP is a cover of "I'm Not Alone" (the old 10cc song). With its feedback-drenched sound and drum loops, "I'm Not Alone" has a deliciously spare techno sound, and is one of the best singles I heard in a long while. Jake's version easily outpaces the big budget cover by Olive on The Next Big Thing soundtrack.
Vocalist Jessie Lee moved from New Mexico at 18 and studied improv in Madison, Wisconsin, with such stars-to-be as Chris Farley and Joan Cusack.
Jessie Lee met drummer Jagoda in Wisconsin, then bounced to Europe where she endured the chills of cold, dark fog and poverty while busking in London. Jake is Jessie Lee's childhood nickname, and, as she says, "It was also John Belushi's name in the Blues Brothers movie. What's more cool than that?"
"Evil" and "Jellyroll" build on a power cord guitar structure, while "Jackflash" has a more introspective singer/songwriter feel.
Says Jessie, "My family life was alienating and splintered. Many divorces, lots of silence, tremendous independence. I like everyone in my family. They are good people. But they are not the most emotionally nurturing group of people I have ever met. Therefore, I have a need to tell you and scream about what I need and want."
And Jessie lets it hang out. She says, "'By Myself' was written very directly about a relationship I was in at the time. What else is there to say? And the followup, 'Evil' was written about the same person two years later. Things obviously didn't get any better. The beauty of writing songs is it's a way of putting some harsh feelings into a certain form of beauty. This process I find somewhat healing."
Admits Jessie Lee, "Sometimes I get scared about being on an indie label. Sometimes I'm like, 'Why don't I have a video?' It's scary because in your head you have so many expectations once you are signed. You are like, 'Oh, my life is totally going to change. I'm going to be doing this, I'm going to tour, I'm going to be on MTV.' And then when you are still waitressing, it's like, 'Oh . . . that's right, I'm still an indie artist.'"
Indie or not, Jessie Lee has real chops, and a goodly dose of angst to drive her rock.
"I'm Not in Love" is a tour de force from the studio and shows signs of brilliance. And it sounds different from the rest of the album. Says Jessie Lee, "This was a total experiment, again delving into Chicky's world. It is one of my favorite songs of all time, and he wanted to cover it, so it was really just him and I masterminding the whole deal."
Listen for Jessie Lee Montague on the Bloodblue EP.
For more information, contact:
Wicked Rose Artist Management
You can also write to Jake at:
Post Office Box 182
Woodstock, New York 12498
Steely Dan, Two Against Nature (Giant Records 2000) - Walter Becker and Donald Fagen have reunited for their first Steely Dan project since 1979's Gaucho. The new album shows signs of the layoff, as it takes quite awhile before Two Against Nature starts cooking.
Donald Fagen (born in 1948) and Walter Becker (born in 1958) have long been exponents of post-modern cool jazz, rapped around their wry and sometimes very amusing lyrics. Songs like "Do It Again" (from the classic 1972 debut Can't Buy a Thrill) and "Peg" (from the 1977 big seller, Aja) have deserved reputations as classics.
Continuing in their old ways, Becker and Fagen have employed a large cast of studio hands. For example, eight different drummers appears on the album (the only repeat drummer is Michael White), while saxes are provided by such players as Lawrence Feldman, Chris Potter and Dave Tofani.
In addition to Becker on bass and guitars and Fagen on keyboards and vocals, the only constants to the album are trumpet player Michael Leonhart (whose wife, Carolyn, also provides backing vocals throughout) and trombonist Jim Pugh. There's obviously a story here, though I've not heard the details.
Becker and Fagen's droll wit is a double-edged sword: sometimes their biggest asset, sometimes their Achilles heel. Thus, songs like "Negative Girl" go nowhere. However, the more uptempo numbers, including "Cousin Dupree" and "West of Hollywood" brim with a laid-back vibrancy.
And perhaps it is the round robin of studio hands that leaves Two Against Nature as ultimately unsatisfying. Like a Chinese meal, the album goes down easy, but leaves you hungry for more as soon as it is over. Not disappointing, but nothing to rush out and hear.
- Randy Krbechek © 2000
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