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He's been around for three decades, but British guitarist/multi-instrumentalist/vocalist Jakko M. Jakszyk has operated below the radar for the most part. His biggest break in visibility was touring with Level 42 in the early 1990s, but in recent years he's better-known as the guitarist/vocalist for the 21st Century Schizoid Band, a collective of King Crimson alumni who have revived material from that band's early years. He's also recorded material as a leader, but much of it remains unreleased, making The Bruised Romantic Glee Club, his first proper solo album, well worth the wait.
While being in 21CSB requires him to be inherently Fripp-centric, Jakszyk grew up in England a fan of other progressive bands including Soft Machine, Hatfield and the North and Henry Cow. His songwriting and playing clearly reflect those influences, but the second disc of this two-disc set pays direct homage, where he covers material by Crimson, Henry Cow and Soft Machine. Jakszyk also enlists a who's who of the British progressive scene, including Robert Fripp and Hugh Hopper, along with 21CSB-mates Ian MacDonald, Mel Collins and Ian Wallace. Perhaps most significant is Jakszyk's recruitment of ex-Hatfield keyboardist Dave Stewart for over a third of the tracks, despite Stewart's determined avoidance of the trappings of progressive rock for many years.
The first disc focuses on Jakszyk's own writinga series of largely autobiographical songs whose complexity and diverse instrumentation place them firmly in the progressive camp, but with a refreshing pop sensibility and utter lack of pretension. Jakszyk's voice conveys deeply felt emotions without resorting to extravagance or melodrama. The arrangements are detailed, but not at the expense of a melodism that reflects Jakszyk's longstanding interest and occasional participation in the Canterbury scene.
Jakszyk's guitar work on this disc is even more impressive than his playing with 21CSB, because here he reveals more of himself. There are elements of Fripp, Allan Holdsworth and even a touch of Phil Miller, but all subsumed in an approach that leans towards greater overall lyricism. He's a virtuosic player, capable of ranging from the powerful intensity of "Catley's Ashes" to the David Sylvian-like ambience of "When We Go Home."
While "Pictures of an Indian City," his Indian-inflected take on King Crimson's "Pictures of a City," is a little too clever for its own good, the rest of the cover material is surprisingly strong. Reverent but more polished than its source, Jakszyk reworks Fred Frith's "Nirvana for Mice," replacing horns with layers of guitars. Hearing Stewart tackle Soft Machine's "As Long as He Lies Perfectly Still" makes one wish he'd get back in the game.
Despite its bevy of guests, Jakszyk's multilayered multi-instrumentalism keeps The Bruised Romantic Glee Club firmly focused. That we're the sum total of our experiences is a given, but by blending his own work with interpretations of seminal influences, Jakszyk demonstrates how he has reached where he is today, in the clearest of terms.
Track Listing: CD1: The Bruised Romantic Glee Club; Variations on a Theme by Holst; Catley's Ashes; When Peggy Came Home; Highgate Hill; Forgiving; No One Left to Lie To; The Things We Throw Away; Doxy, Dali and Duchamp; Srebrenica; When We Go Home. CD2: As Long as He Lies Perfectly Still; That Still and Pefect Summer; Astral Projection in Pinner; Pictures of an Indian City; Nirvana for Mice; Islands; The Citizen King; Soon After.
Personnel: Jakko M. Jakszyk: vocals, electric, sitar, acoustic and nylon acoustic guitars, balalaika, keyboards, bass guitar, programming, fake bass clarinet, percussion, strings, whistles, mellotron, flute, stylophone; Mel Collins: flute, tenor, alto and soprano saxophones, bass flute (CD1#1, CD1#3, CD1#7, CD2#4, CD2#6); Gavin Harrison: drums (CD1#1, CD1#3, CD1#5, CD1#6, CD1#7, CD1#8, CD2#4, CD2#5); Caroline Lavelle: cello (CD1#2); Helen Kaminga: viola (CD1#2); Ian MacDonald : flute (CD1#2); Mark King: bass guitar (CD1#3); Chris Baker: Irish Priest (CD1#4); Nathan King: bass guitar (CD1#5); Robert Fripp: soundscapes and electric guitar (CD1#6, CD1#11); John Giblin: acoustic and fretless basses (CD1#6); Lyndon Connah: piano (CD1#8); Dave Stewart: piano, organ, horn and woodwind arrangements (CD1#9, CD2#1, CD2#2, CD2#3), guide keyboards and painstaking programming (CD2#5), grand piano, harmonium, fake harp and bassoon (CD2#6), keyboards and even more painstaking programming (CD2#7); Suzanne Barbieri: backing vocals (CD1#11); Django Jakszyk: backing vocals (CD1#11); Camille Jakszyk backing vocals (CD1#11); Danny Thompson: double bass (CD1#9, CD2#6); Hugh Hopper: bass guitar (CD2#1, CD2#2, CD2#3); Clive Brooks: drums (CD2#1, CD2#2, CD2#3); Gary Barnacle: alto flute, flute, bass flute, piccolo, tenor and soprano saxophones (CD2#1, CD2#2, CD2#3); Ian Wallace: drums (CD2#6)