Sunday, August 17, 2014
The Above Ground Sound of Jake Holmes - Jake Holmes
Tower T 5079
I first heard Holmes' most famous song (if you don't count his commercial jingles and I don't) on "Live Yardbirds." That song "Dazed and Confused" was retitled "I'm Confused" by the Yardbirds for their epic workout on the song which is one of the highlights of their album. If I had been a Led Zeppelin fan I probably would have heard it first on their debut album which has always been a lot easier to find than "Live Yardbirds." On the Yardbirds' record the song carried no composition credit but when Led Zeppelin released it it had Jimmy Page's name on it. Sure he monkeyed around with it, but this is still plagiarism. Holmes got a raw deal from Page and I'd say he got a raw deal from music history as well. He ought to be remembered for more than being a footnote in Led Zeppelin's career. This album is worthy of recognition in its own right. Holmes displays his talent right from the first track on this record, "Lonely." Holmes is accompanied throughout the album by Ted Irwin on electric guitar and Rick Randall on bass and on this track the two really shine. Irwin's frenzied raga-style runs on top of Randall's pulsing bass is tremendously exciting and gives this jazzy song great intensity and power. It is my favorite track after "Dazed and Confused." "Did You Know" is a more conventional mellow love song although it still has a slightly jazzy feeling reminiscent of Nick Drake. Holmes ups the tempo for the rocking "She Belonged to Me" in which he describes a girlfriend. Irwin's high velocity strumming propels the song nicely. "Too Long" is a moody song about two friends who have grown apart. The delicate interplay between the two guitars and the melodic bass lines gives the song a lot of atmosphere and feeling. Side one concludes with "Genuine Imitation Life" which was improbably covered by the Four Seasons a few years later. The song is a grim diatribe about hypocrisy, selfishness and the inability of people to relate to each other. I find the song kind of pretentious although it is interesting and the music is first rate especially Randall's bass work. Side two opens with "Dazed and Confused." I appreciate the thunder and energy that Page brought to his bombastic interpretation of the song with both the Yardbirds and Led Zeppelin, but I think Holmes' more subdued take of the song serves it best. The narrator of the song is dazed and confused because of a love affair and the uncertainty he feels about his relationship. Randall's descending bass riff drives the song and Irwin has an exciting psychedelic-style guitar solo. The ending of the song with Holmes' crazed strumming of his acoustic guitar on top of the throbbing bass and clanging electric guitar chords is quite thrilling and ends way too soon for my liking. Holmes shifts gears dramatically with "Penny's" which is a low-key jazzy tune with a little scat singing from Holmes in between the verses about the woman of the title. The jazz sound is even stronger on "Hard to Keep My Mind On You" which was influenced by Dave Brubeck according to Holmes in the liner notes. It has a fast tempo in 5/4 time and is a swinging tune in which the singer tells his girlfriend how easily he gets distracted from her when he sees other girls. I imagine that conversation probably didn't go very well, but you'd never know it from the sunny nature of the tune. "Wish I Was Anywhere Else" has a slight chamber pop sound to it with its fast paced baroque style guitar runs. The song is about being forced to engage in a conversation with a person you can't relate to. The album concludes with "Signs of Age" which is about the relativity of age depending on one's perspective. He speaks much of the song rather than singing it and the music is laid-back and meandering. Easily my least favorite track on the album. It is a disappointing finish but it does not diminish the impact of the album very much. I love the personal and introspective quality of the lyrics and the music is consistently engaging and stimulating. 1967 was such a fantastic year for music, it is easy to see why this album was overlooked at the time but it deserved a better fate. Its intelligence and integrity should appeal to anyone who values personal expression and individuality in pop music. Recommended to fans of Tim Buckley.