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Jack Lee: Anthology - Bigger Than Life

Doug Collette By

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Just one cut shy of two dozen tracks comprise the Jack Lee Anthology Bigger Than Life, but the single CD nevertheless lives up to its title if only in regards to the artist's reputation (plus the fact these recordings have not been readily available since their original issue thirty-plus years ago). As one third of the Nerves—with Peter Case and Paul Collins—Lee aided in no small part to nurture the punk movement in Lost Angeles in the late Seventies, despite the fact the band only recorded one lone EP.

Jack Lee's own cachet is as broad as the group's and arguably even more enigmatic. As the author of "Hanging on the Telephone," covered by Blondie on their breakthrough album Parallel Lines (Chrysalis, 1978), he also found original compositions of his on albums by British hit-makers Suzi Quatro and Paul Young. But after the self-immolation of the Nerves, Lee released but two albums in the Eighties before effectively disappearing from the public eye(in contrast to his bandmates who continue to work solo and in various collaboration to this day).

The cover photos of Lee in side and out of the Bigger Than Life digi-pak proffer something of a James Dean image that his boyish voice belies, especially as it keynotes the relentlessly urgent rock and roll pop contained inside. The fact is "Good Times" and "Any Day Now" aren't much less addictive than his most famous song (also included here), only less familiar. This quick succession of tracks, most all of which hover around two-minutes, is like a collection of singles; it is, in fact, the sum total those aforementioned solo albums in their entirety (plus the B-side of a single "Small World") .

The omission of musician and production details pertaining to these streamlined tracks does a disservice to those who contributed to Bigger Than Life. It only makes sense to assign due credit to those who helped maintain the no-frills nature of the songs as well as the no-nonsense attitude in the arrangements; the design of the package might've included such detailed information without any reduction of its eye-catching quotient (web resources are available for names, instruments etc)

That said, the cover design does reflect the propulsive density of music like "Crime Doesn't Pay," right down to the b&w shot of Jack Lee in a phone booth conversing with a blonde: the tongue-in-cheek reference to his most famous tune matches the insinuating sounds of the chiming guitars at the foundation of "Paper Dolls." And guitar solos such as the one on that track bear out the veracity of Shakespeare's saying "brevity is the soul of wit."

In keeping with Jack Lee's iconoclasm, there's aalso haunting quality to recordings of his such as "Somebody Else to Love" that doesn't often emanate from so-called power pop. The quantifiable echo on his vocals accentuates that atmosphere to the extent this title track and "Time Machine," among others, become discerning views into an era of modern music that rightfully continues to reverberate four decades later.

Track Listing: Good Times; Give Me Some Time; Come Back And Stay; Any Day Now; Stand Back And Take A Good Look; Hanging On The Telephone; Women; I'm Gonna Have Fun; Crime Doesn't Pay; Paper Dolls; It's Hot Outside; Sex; Somebody Else To Love; Bird In A Cage; Why Am I So Lonely?; From Time To Time; Between Two People; Play With Me; Time Machine; The Girl In The Picture; Breaking Into My Heart; Bigger Than Life; Small World. Credits

Personnel: Jack Lee: lead vocals, guitar; Rod Firestone: rhythm gGuitar; Arnie Riddiough: lead guitar; Buzz Clic: lead guitar; Rick Delano: keyboards; Mike Egizi: keyboards, synthesizer; Dennis Clark: bass; Brandon Matheson: drums.

Title: Anthology - Bigger Than Life | Year Released: 2016 | Record Label: Alive Natural Sound


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