Laurence Jones – What’s it gonna be (RUF 1216)

LJ3It’s difficult to know if one can talk about the all- important third album when the musician in question is just 22 years old. Here it is though, the third offering from British Blues Boy Laurence Jones, the second on Europe’s coveted RUF record label and the first to be co-produced by Laurence himself with bass-man Roger Inniss. ‘What’s it gonna be?’ is the name and the question to start my review – good or bad?

Although Thomas Ruf is notably still down as ‘Executive Producer’ it’s a sign of the Record Company’s confidence that Jones has been given so much control over his new release and hopefully also means Jones can put down what he wants to play; certainly if the title track is any clue, what he wants is to play straight down the road Blues Rock. Heavier stuff than I was expecting in fact, the soloing is closer to Thin Lizzy than Walter Trout, but no complaints from a Lizzy lover like myself on that score.

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‘Don’t need no reason’ starts in the style of another bunch of my heroes, in a Dr Feelgood fashion in fact, and is enjoyable for that even though it understandably lacks the extra maniacal layer that only the likes of Brilleaux and Johnson on vocals and guitar could create. Taken up a notch pace-wise, and with an added mad stare at the live shows and this will be a killer track though.

‘Evil’  I have to say is less easy on my ears. I’m thinking of the Feelgoods again with ‘Milk and Alcohol’ but without the menace, and it never really picks up steam. Just before it gets boring though, in comes the six-string cavalry in the form of a magical break by Mr J to save both the day and the song.

What does ‘Touch your Moonlight’ mean? Who cares, the riff on this track has a hook from which you can only hang in/on and enjoy. I can see the audience joining in the ‘ooh, ooh, ooh ooh’s already. The stuff of which legends and great albums are made – headbanging and air guitars here we come. When it all falls into place, LJ proves he’s one to watch.

It’s a bit of a genre shock in the best sense of the word when ‘Don’t look back’ eases out of the speakers with it’s classy pared down sound and a surprisingly melodic and silky vocal performance from Laurence and (not so surprisingly) from guest-star Sandi Thom. In the grand old days of TOTP’s this would have been a ‘Pick of the Pops’ by the likes of Kid Jensen and Dave Lee Travis. A classy song. How old is this guy?  Stand-out track on the album and it’s not Blues-Rock? What the f**k?!  I could happily hear more like this.

Co-producers Inniss and Jones in Bonn

Co-producers Inniss and Jones in Portsmouth

‘All I Need’  though brings us in subtle style back to a gentle boogie rhythm and It’s further proof of the seismic leap that Laurence Jones has made as a vocalist in the last year – oh, and there’s a tasty little guitar solo too. Are we being spoiled or what?

Being Alone’ has something early 70’s about it.  The Kinks?  It’s a great one for Miri Mittinen’s drums to work out on before Laurence comes back in with a Paul Kossoff style solo. More of that ‘Free’ sound coming later.

Just when I had the discs best track nailed surprisingly as a melodic pop affair with ‘Don’t look back’ here it is – the REAL gem on this disc, and it is (surprise, surprise) down home blues. All these excellent and excellently written own compositions that sound so refined and honed and here comes someone grumbling on about “The blues got ya!” a bullet simple lyric about the blues being “all around my head’”and “in my bread” and you have a killer song. It all sounds so simple. Isn’t that the magic of great music though? Leadbelly, repository of so much of our Blues/Folk heritage sang it first and Jones shouldn’t be able to come close to doing such an old classic justice – but the young guitar slinger surprisingly does it great justice, making it modern whist still being true to the original – He sings it rougher than any of his own Blues Rockers even, because he loves this music and it inspires him. I might even say that he seems to reach down to a deeper level when playing classic blues numbers at concerts too – It’s just a matter of time until he produces some classics of his own though.

Until that time surely comes, there’s lots to be done with other peoples classics, and whilst Jones keeps pretty much to the core of Bad Company’s original on ‘Can’t get enough’  he can afford to do so as he has a secret weapon at his disposal – the incredible voice of Dana Fuchs.  Full marks to Laurence for getting someone with Dana’s vocal talents on board for this number and it’s a sign of his confidence and of his pulling power with other musicians. I love Dana but overall the duet with Sandi Thom worked rather better; this sounds much more like a vocal duel than a vocal duet with Dana trying her best to hold back and sound restrained but she clearly wants to let loose. I for one won’t complain if Dana gets up on stage to join Laurence at the next gig though.

LJ1‘Set it Free’ has Gary Moore written into the very fabric of it’s guitar work. It’s a very listenable pop/rock number that shows Jones has an ear for a good melody and can find good lyrics to fill it.

‘Stop moving the House’ finishes and it’s Quo style riff is based around a tale known to most of us at a certain age. A few drinks and hey, ‘Stop moving the house!’ It’s already up there with my all-time favourite hangover ditty ‘Sideboard Song’ by pub rockers supreme Chas and Dave. That could almost be Mr Hodges himself on honky-tonk piano. A rather better guitar solo than the purveyors of ‘Rockney’ ever mustered on here though, and I think it’s time for a lie down. Can’t keep up with these teenagers, so much enthusiasm…!

Overall then an excellent third disc by Mr Jones. His vocals just keep getting better and the range on these tracks surprised me. I’m not sure that Laurence has quite carved out his own style yet but you only have to catch him playing live to see he’s the real deal – playing because he loves the music as much as you do. It’s surely just a matter of time until he finds a sound that’s purely Laurence Jones, and there’s plenty of not just great fret-work but also great singing and songs on offer here to enjoy in the meantime. If you’re discovering Blues Rock for the first time you could certainly do a lot worse than let Laurence Jones be your guide. Highly recommended.

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