Sunday, January 10, 2010

Album Review: Ultimate Jake

I first reviewed Jake Snider in September of 2008, and if you've been following One Note Ahead since then, you might be a tad confused by the release of an ostensibly new Jake Snider album featuring a lot of familiar song titles. I'll clear it all up for you, but first let me say that if you're new to Jake Snider, you should check out his eponymous full-length. Here's a young singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist who most definitely does not fit the bland teenybopper profile that dominates the radio these days. The Jake Snider album showcases his jazz, soul, piano pop, and classical influences at their best, with lyrics that are intelligent without being pretentious. Go to enough Jake Snider shows and you'll see a frequent supporting cast including sax-playing brother Cary Snider, bass picker and drum basher Jeff Berman, harmony queen Emily Bach, and bass jam-master Ben Berry; they're all on this album, as is Eric Bazilian. Yes, you read right.

What about this album's specific contents?

=> Two tracks on Jake Snider, "How?" and "Prisoner of the Alley," appeared previously on Jake's debut EP Green Lights For Granted. These songs contain some of Jake's darkest lyrics -- for example, "Alley" features lines like "Call me slave of the street, but I don't want no more sympathy; sympathy just makes me lonely." Back in the day, I wrote that "
the glorious 'How?' needs little adornment to cement its position as a sublime slice of jazz-pop," and I still stand by that. A third title, "To the Ocean," sure looks familiar but don't be fooled: the version featured on Green Lights was a polished studio recording, whereas the version on Jake Snider is Jake's original rough demo. I can't really say which one is better; it's the first Jake Snider song I really fell for, so I'll probably be a sucker for it in any form.

=> "All You Need," "The Seven," "The Day I Got Old," "Headmasters of the Past," and the instrumental "King's Cross" first appeared on a limited-release EP called The Seven. Though I announced last October that the EP would get a large-scale release, it was handed out at certain shows and that's all. Jake described it as being influenced by Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. I'm no Harry Potter buff, but "Headmasters of the Past" certainly relies on a J.K. Rowling connection, and I'll guess that "The Seven" does, too. The others can be enjoyed absent any literary context. This goes especially for the amazing "All You Need," whose elaborate structure and arrangement complement, rather than overshadow, the song's message: "And we stand, you know love is a mountain, the higher you climb, the slower time is taken away."

=> Completely new to this album are the songs "City Blues," "Something Beautiful," "Rewind," and "Moment In Yours." "Something Beautiful" and "Rewind" exemplify the magic that takes place when Jake combines his mood-shifting compositions with Jeff's jazzy drumming and Emily's warm voice.
I want so badly to write off "Moment In Yours" as piano lounge mush, but I can't; it's just too sincere in its delicate beauty. "City Blues" is a moody, funky masterpiece, with Cary's scat-like sax technique used to satisfying effect.

=> Three worthy songs still available on Green Lights For Granted are not here: "Early Morning Somewhere," "Mr. Hemingway," and "Say Farewell." Your life will go on.

Jake Snider is in college in New York City these days, but he comes back home to the Philly area when he gets a chance. So if you live in or near either of those places, keep your eyes out for him because he is well worth seeing in person. Meanwhile, the Jake Snider album is available on CD Baby and iTunes.

For music and more information: or

Copyright © 2010 S.J. Dibai. All rights reserved.


No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.