So it’s goodbye to Laurence Jones, solo artist, and hello to the Laurence Jones Band. And there they are, on the cover of their eponymous new album, looking moody and meaningful, with LJ himself out front with a new layer of face fuzz, arms folded and staring straight at the camera. It’s all very assertive - looks like it should mean something.
I’ll tell you what it means. It means that after his last album The Truth, a soul-pop kinda thing that was okay in its own terms but felt constrained and emasculated, young Laurence and his band of brothers have decided to have some goddamned fun, that’s what it means!
I could be talking bollocks – what’s new about that, says you – but I reckon Laurence has found some inspiration by going back to the Sixties for some of this stuff, be it Swinging Sixties R’n’B or soulful funky business.
|Laurence Jones Band - three parts facial hair, one part quiff|
Pic by Rob Blackham
Take the opening track ‘Everything’s Gonna Be Alright’, fr’instance – which itself sounds like a statement of intent. You know how the Dandy Warhols’ ‘Bohemian Like You’ sounds like a Stones out-take? Well, this kicks off with a piano riff from Bennett Holland that’s straight out of ‘Bohemian Like You’, underlined by some ringing chords from Jones. Do I care if they’ve lifted it? Nah, the main thing is that it’s loose-limbed and rocking, and it’s got a chorus that’s a rush of energy, plus some “wooh-oohing” female backing vocals courtesy of Di Reed, a nifty little guitar solo, and some more rinky-dinky piano on the outro.
In similar fashion ‘I’m Waiting’ has driving guitar and surging organ competing for attention like a modern-day ‘Hush’, over racing drums and bass from Phil Wilson and Greg Smith, to which Jones adds a wig-out wah-wah solo. The following ‘Stay’ emerges from some blues guitar twangery to encompass more boogie woogie from Holland, and more Di Reed backing for Jones as he hollers lines like “Gimme Some Lovin”. (Ms Reed, in fact, does sterling work across most of the album.) There’s some organ chucked into the mix too, and even a few Sgt Peppery twiddles in quieter moments, and by the end I can visualise Phil Wilson doing some Ringo-like head-tossing as it swings along. Oh yeah, and they do a decent cover of ‘Day Tripper’ too, which on one level seems pointless, but hey – it fits.
Does all this represent a new musical frontier? Nope. And I’ll tell you this too – the lyrics are mostly pretty banal. But I don’t care – ‘cause it’s fun!
The same goes for the soulful and funky ‘Wipe Those Tears Dry’. It’s a decent little tune that captures the desired mood nicely, with understated licks and riffs hither and yon from Jones, and an appealing arrangement epitomised by the middle eight. In a similar vein, ‘Quite Like You’ is a bit of relaxed funkiness with a lazy rhythm, bluesy little licks and soulful organ. At times it hints at Royal Studios in Memphis in the Sixties – doesn’t hint that hard, to be honest, but you get my drift.
Even better is the utterly simple soulfulness of the mellow ‘Beautiful Place’, which is a salient reminder that Bennett Holland also played keys on King King’s Standing In The Shadows album. So here we have a somewhere-down-the-lazy-river rhythm, spot on vocal harmonies, and even a cheeky little bass turnaround from Greg Smith.
There are some bluesier moments too, as on ‘Mistreated’, for example – no, not that one, Purple fans. Restrained blues guitar picking over deep, deep down bass, leads into a tasty, tumbling guitar riff, and if Jones’ solo starts off measured, it shifts into overdrive as Phil Wilson’s shuffling drums gain intensity. Meanwhile ‘Long, Long Lonely Ride’ is based on even more back-porch style guitar picking over a simple beat, with a suitably bluesy vocal and solo to boot.
There’s other good stuff too, and only one instance of real filler in the humdrum ‘Low Down’. Producer Gregory Elias brings a modern polish to the sound without stifling the energy, and he continues to get better vocal performances out of Jones than in days of old.
Look, I’m not gonna tell you that Laurence Jones Band is some consciousness-expanding classic. But as I sat on a warm afternoon giving it a proper listen, I found myself being seduced by its good vibrations – and yes, even excitations.
Laurence Jones Band is released on 27 September by Top Stop Music.
For tour dates in Europe and Britain from 14 September check the band's website.