Jack Bruce’s only album between 1980 and 1987, the year the Somethin Els project was started, was the atypical electronica oddity Automatic from 1983. During that time, although touring occasionally Jack was doing battle with his personal demons, a battle he eventually won, helped by a new wife in a new country. Settling in Germany his live and studio work took an upturn, and calling on the help of his A-list musical friends, in between a long series of concerts, the six year gestation of Somethin Els took place.
Writing in partnership with his long-time lyricist of choice Pete Brown, Somethin Els covers all of Jack’s R&B and jazz rock styles with an easy panache that only a cast of stellar musicians can pull off.
Opening track Waiting On A Word starts so abruptly, and on a vocal too, that one wonders how on Earth Jack Bruce and his band ever managed to get it right live, but being the consummate professionals they were I guess it presented no problems at all. This is followed by a classic Bruce R&B belter, and Willpower has Jack’s soulful croon telling us about his sparring partner in the addiction wars. When you have the likes of Clem Clempson on rhythm guitar, and Eric Clapton turning in the kind of dirty lead breaks that his solo career so often badly lacks, you can’t really fail, can you? If your toes don’t tap to this, it’s probably because you lost them to frostbite last winter.
The delightful vocal duet with Maggie Reilly on Ships In The Night is a ballad, and again we are focussed on Jack’s personal battles. This is for all intents and purposes a blues, but only in tone and subject, for it is not a twelve bar. Mr Clapton turns in a trademark heart-tugging solo that fits perfectly. Showing his virtuosity, Jack also plays cellos, piano, and other keyboards on this one.
By the time the disturbing intro to Peaces Of The East rolls around we are well into the diary of Jack’s recovery nightmares, and this time we have an Eastern flavoured snake dance, twitching with the nervous energy of withdrawal. No bass guitar at all on this one, Jack turns in vocals, piano, keyboards and drums.
Becalmed in the middle of the album, Close Enough For Love allows the love light to shine through the dark nights of the soul that precede and follow this lovely piano-led ballad. Jack sings the melody line mirroring the fat keyboard chords, backed by his funky bass, and Stuart Elliot’s drums keep it nailed in simple unfussy fashion as they do throughout the album.
G. B. Dawn Blues is a throwaway Booker-T styled organ based 12-bar blues that wakes up, scores, and goes to bed, all in less than three minutes. Criminality harks back to Automatic’s electronica, with a proto-Prince funk feel, and doesn’t quite fit with the rest of the album.
Jack finally finds redemption on Childsong, a song of rebirth that possibly draws parallels to Jack’s then new or impending parenthood. It is a smoky reflective affair where David Liebman’s soprano saxophone adds bags of atmosphere. The album ends with the instrumental FM, Jack alone at his piano in minor key jazz-classical mode.
Somethin Els oozes an effortless quality from every pore, and is as fine a testament to the sheer class of Jack Bruce when on form as anything he has produced in his long career. Perhaps his best ever album? That’s a subjective point, but I’m afraid that anyone who cannot see this album for the masterclass in progressive song writing that it undoubtedly is simply does not know what makes for real and timeless music. (by Roger Trenwith)
Jack Bruce (bass, vocals, keyboards, cello, drums)
Eric Clapton (guitar on 01., 02., 03.)
Clem Clempson (guitar on 02., 05., 06.)
Gerd Dudek (saxophone on 02.)
Stuart Elliot (drums on 01., 02., 03., 04., 05., 06.)
Anton Fier (drums on 07.)
Bruce Fowler (trumpet on 02.)
Walt Fowler (trumpet on 02.)
Ray Gomez (guitar on 07.)
Dick Heckstall-Smith (saxophone on 06.)
Trilok Gurtu (percussion on 01., 06. + 08. drums on 05. + 08.)
Mark Nauseef (percussion on 08.)
Uli Lask (saxophone on 02.)
David Liebman (saxophone on 07. + 08.)
Maggie Reilly (vocals on 03., 04.
Peter Weihe (guitar on 01., 03., 05.)
01. Waiting On A Word (Bruce/Brown) 3.52
02. Willpower (Bruce/Brown) 4.26
03. Ships In The Night (Bruce/Brown) 5.20
04. Peaces Of The East (Bruce/Brown) 4.55
05. Close Enough For Love (Bruce) 5.51
06. G. B. Dawn Blues (Bruce/Brown) 2.41
07. Criminality (Bruce/Brown) 5.05
08. Childsong (Bruce/Brown/Hymas) 5.06
09. FM (Bruce) 3.33
Jack Bruce in 1993