JACK BRUCE Songs For A Tailor (Polydor)

Now that it appears as though Jack Bruce’s solo career was just a device to while away the 37 year gap between Cream gigs, it seems like an opportune moment to re-examine his 1969 debut album. Although not quite Blind Faith, Bruce assembled something of a supergroup, including Colosseum’s Jon Hiseman and Dick Heckstall-Smith, George Harrison (appearing pseudonymously as L’Angelo Misterioso), Cream producer Felix Pappalardi and sessioners Henry Lowther and Chris Spedding. The title apparently references American clothes designer Jeannie Franklyn, girlfriend of Richard Thompson, who had perished when Fairport Convention‘s van crashed several months before the album’s release.

“Songs For A Tailor” could be described as sounding like Traffic covering “Pressed Rat And Warthog”. These are fastidiously assembled, intricate jazz/rock/psych/folk miniatures, caught between monster riffs and elaborate pattering. “Never Tell Your Mother She’s Out Of Tune” fleshes out the blueprint with a burping brass section, but even then it’s hardly Blood, Sweat And Tears. It’s also a surprise, based on this evidence, that Bruce has never really been celebrated for his singing, his voice hardly lagging far behind Stevie Winwood or Joe Cocker in the blue-eyed soul stakes.

“Theme For An Imaginary Western” might be the most familiar title here – it was later covered by Pappalardi’s band Mountain – and if you enjoy the studio sides of “Wheels Of Fire” you’ll feel instantly comfortable; it’s cut from the same cloth as “Passing The Time” and “As You Said”. “The Ministry Of Bag” is permeated with an almost Pythonesque (or perhaps, more appropriately, Bonzoesque) sense of impish humour.

Despite reaching the British top 10 on release it’s readily apparent why “Songs For A Tailor” hasn’t acquired the kind of classic status bestowed upon the Cream catalogue. It’s too specialised for such mass consumption, lacking the kind of sledgehammer focus of a “Sunshine Of Your Love” or a “White Room”. Nevertheless, on its own terms it makes for a diverting half an hour.