On The Run / Down The Road (1984/1986- Crossroad Productions 2018)

In the series of unrecognized bands, Mad Jack has enjoyed a certain longevity with several albums to its credit since 1984. We even find the trace of a CD released in 2005. Originally from Syracuse, near New York, these musicians have been heavily influenced by Southern rock and they have opened for quite a few big names over the years (Outlaws, Marshall Tucker Band, Blackfoot, Molly Hatchet). The firm Southern Records, very talented to find this kind of nuggets, proposes a reissue of two albums of the combo united in a single disc. The cover speaks for itself with all the imagery of Southern rock (crisscrossed colts, skull wearing a cap of rebel soldier). We start with "On the run" which dates from 1994 and starts with "Too bad to tame", a good Southern boogie fast and swinging as we like. We notice the piano solo and the apposite slide. The influence of Southern rock is also felt on "Hold on", enhanced by an expert guitar and a beautiful break. "A man like me" is a well sent blues with a certain spirit Allman Brothers-like and a six-string as bluesy as you could wish. The slide is unleashed again on the shuffle "Knee deep in the blues" and we appreciate the beautiful instrumental "Justanna". Four other titles do not get by so bad either: "Fine as she can be" (a rock that comes in several different tempos), "Bad man" (a hypnotic Southern rock with an axe solo close to hard rock ), "Outlaw blues" (a "Chicago blues" in the spirit of Muddy Waters with a nasty guitar and an organ solo) and the acoustic ballad "On the run". After all that, two remarks come to mind. First of all, the guitarists knew their job well. Then you have to push the bass in order to enjoy the bass and the drums, which is surprising from a production made in 1994. This slight problem probably dates from this time and must be at the level of original sound recording or transfer of the master tape to disc. Then we go to "Down the Road", a five-piece EP released in 1986 that reflects well this musical period and has a surprisingly better sound than "On the run" recorded twelve years later. Ah, the chances of production! Unless the group had more money to put in this "Down the road" that sounds a bit dated (80s oblige). We note however that the axe players were already doing very well. "Yours is the heart" hits on the side of hard/FM and is taken a little further in acoustic instrumental version. On a medium tempo, "Dead end street" lets point some Southern influences in the rhythm. The FM rock "Down the road" hits pretty well with its harmonized guitars and bluesy break. And then, the group plays the surprise with a super nice melodic country-rock with Outlaws influences on the verses ("Green grass and high tides") and New Riders Of The Purple Sage on accelerated choruses ("Panama red"). This is undoubtedly the best title of this reissue. But the best is kept for the end. Indeed, the guitarist-singer and founder of Mad Jack is none other than Lou Kaplan who played for a while with Savoy Brown then let guns do the talking more recently with Lonesome Crow. So, we understand better why the guitar parts are so awesome. And we know why the sound of the album "On the run" lacks thickness. Indeed, Lou had explained in an interview that "On the run" was only a demo at the start. Having managed to obtain an unexpected amount of money, the group decided to press the record as it was. Like what, we always end up knowing everything. The world of music is decidedly very small! In spite of the years, these songs drawn from oblivion should certainly delight the fans of good music.

Olivier Aubry

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