Tuesday, December 31, 2013
Is This What You Want? - Jackie Lomax
Apple Records ST-3354
Last September I was surprised to see Jackie Lomax's obituary in "The New York Times." I was not surprised by his death but rather that he got a substantial obituary in that august publication. Of course the reason "The Times" took notice of him was his connection to the Beatles which was also the sole reason that I bought this record. It was released by the Beatles' record label (which I collect) and was produced by George Harrison. Harrison also played on it joining an all-star backing band that included Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, Eric Clapton, Nicky Hopkins, Klaus Voormann, Hal Blaine, Larry Knechtel, Joe Osborne, Paul Beaver and Bernie Krause. Despite all that talent, it isn't a particularly good record. Lomax's songwriting is mediocre and he was not a strong enough singer to overcome the weak songs. My favorite tracks are the album's two singles, "New Day" and "Sour Milk Sea" both of which flopped on the charts. "New Day" was recorded after the original album sessions and was produced by Lomax and longtime Beatles assistant and roadie, Mal Evans. It was not on the original British issue of the album but was added to the American issue which was released a couple of months later than its British counterpart. It is a forceful tune bolstered by brass. "Sour Milk Sea" was written by George Harrison who must have been feeling particularly generous towards his fellow Liverpudlian in parting with a song that is better than several of his Beatles songs of the time. It is a hard rocking song that has a catchy chorus and some hot playing from the three Beatles, Clapton and Hopkins. It features Lomax's best vocal on the record. The lyrics reflect Harrison's obsession with his new religion, essentially a paean to transcendental meditation. The other tunes are less appealing. My favorite is "Is This What You Want?" which bears some resemblance to the Beatles' "I Am The Walrus." "The Eagle Laughs at You" is a noisy rocker that provides some much needed energy for the album. "Speak To Me," "Little Yellow Pills" and "You've Got Me Thinking" have good riffs and a nice soulful flavor but are undermined by Lomax's strained vocals which remind me of John Mayall (not a compliment.) I like the strings and piano on "Sunset" which has moody lyrics that are more distinguished than the pedestrian lyrics on most of the rest of the record. "Fall Inside Your Love" is a romantic ballad that suits Lomax's voice quite well. "Take My Word" is only notable for its synthesizer solo which I presume comes courtesy of Beaver and Krause. "Baby You're a Lover" and "I Just Don't Know" bore me. It is well-known that the artists on Apple Records (who were not the Beatles) were often victimized by the label's disorganization, poor marketing and lack of direction. That might have been the case with Lomax who seems to have had some talent, but I doubt any label or any amount of marketing would have been able to make this record a success. I find it listenable and sporadically entertaining but when it is over not much of it sticks with me aside from "Sour Milk Sea." That song and the green apple on the label are the only reason I keep this album. Recommended to George Harrison completists.