Famous for his affiliation with hard rock rockers Led Zeppelin, John Paul Jones is a proficient multi-instrumentalist who has delved into multiple genres since the mega-popular band’s departure from the scene. He has produced various artists and has composed for film, amid collaborations with avant-garde diva Diamanda Galás and others. The Thunderthief represents only his third solo effort.
King Crimson’s fabled guitar hero Robert Fripp provides a stinging solo on the power packed opener, “Leafy Meadows.” Meanwhile, Jones utilizes a vast array of instruments along with some assistance from Chapman Stick ace Nick Beggs, drummer Terl Bryant, and guitarist Adam Bomb. This production features a vibrant mix, consisting of hard driving progressive rock numbers, folksy deities, and angst ridden tunes that feature Jones’ rather opaque vocalise. One of the unlikely gems on this outing, “Ice Fishing at Night,” features the leader’s enticingly melodic acoustic piano work and endearing lyricism, enhanced by introspective vocalizations. Jones’ hurried and somewhat forced vocals come to fruition on a few of the burning rockers, yet the slightly tongue-in-cheek lyrics allude to a lack of austerity – and shouldn’t be taken too seriously.
On the piece titled “Hoediddle,” Jones fuses a bit of hard rock with an enticing Irish jig: an opus that serves as another testament to this man’s pronounced ingenuity. Sure, some of these tunes fare better than others, but the bottom line here is Jones’ wide-ranging tendencies. In retrospect, it becomes easily discernible why his compositional and instrumental contributions to Led Zeppelin were key to that band’s success. We can only hope for fewer gaps between forthcoming solo endeavors.