Those expecting the latest chapter in the wild rock’n’roll saga by the Jim Jones Revue, will surely be blown away listening to their brand new album The Savage Heart (out October 15). Although the first official single by Jim Jones and company, “It’s Gotta Be About Me,” follows the powerful rock’n’roll line drawn in the last four years (even being hailed as the “Greatest rock’n ‘roll in the world right now”) the entire album contains a variety of styles and sounds more sought than the previous releases, offering a mix between rock’n’roll, gospel, doo-wop and a certain voodoo atmosphere, thrown perfectly into 2012. A lot of credit for this transformation, or rather, this conscious return to swampy roots, goes to the presence in the album, helped along by Jim Sclavunos (Grinderman/Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds), who previously worked with the band on Burning Your House Down, and to “spiritual advisor” Nick Lowe (English rock’n’blues legend, as well as Damned and Elvis Costello’s producer, to name a few, and away for years from the mainstream circus).
However, as Rupert Norton (guitar) says, the greatest contribution comes from the advent of Henri Herbert, all the way from France, on piano, who, after joining the band last year during their European tour, became a stable member of the Jim Jones Revue, diversifying the band’s piano vocabulary. Due to his musical background, ranging from boogie-woogie to blues as well as rock and roll of course, “he has reshaped the musical approach of the entire band,” said Norton, who refers to his colleague as the “Professor of Piano”.
Listening to this album over and over again, I can really understand that this return to the roots is not a step backwards for the Jim Jones Revue, on the contrary, it is another barrier broken at full speed as they hurdle toward a perfect and modern power-rock experience. For those like me, who have followed the band’s evolution over the years, The Savage Heart would appear, with good reason, the logical consequence of the process of music personalization which began with Burning Your House Down. In short, we are no longer in front of a wild jam-session between Jerry Lee Lewis on amphetamines and MC5. Jim Sclavunos and Jim Abbiss (Arctic Monkeys, DJ Shadow), who were called in to mix the album, give an even more personal sound in comparison to the early rampant rock’n’roll approach (the first self-titled LP The Jim Jones Revue, was recorded in just 48 hours). They combine, at the same time power, tradition, modernity, and why not, Radiophonic potentiality.
On the one hand, songs like “It’s Gotta Be About Me,” “Catastrophe” and “Never Let You Go” are children born of the previous album. They’re soaked in rock’n’roll and boogie as they are enriched by Jim’s voice. They’re even walk that fine line between wild and grotesque, pushing and reaching extreme levels.
But, on the other hand, tracks like “Chain Gang” and the tribal “In And Out Of Harm’s Way,” where chorus and percussion, at a slow and pounding pace, take you on the banks of the muddy and foggy Mississippi, show that the musical journey is in full swing, penetrating more and more through the deepest heart of darkness. In addition, as to render proper credit to Henri Herbert’s presence on the album, you have the closing track, “Midnight Oceans & The Savage Heart.” It is a doo wop ballad played exclusively on piano. It is an audibly heavy atmosphere filled with the smoke of one last cigarette slowly burning on the jukebox, just before finally turning off the lights.
Ultimately, The Savage Heart sounds very new and different compared to the previous albums. It could be a turning point in the Jim Jones Revue’s career, which, after years of wild rock’n’roll, defines a deeply personal sound. Of course, at first, fans will be divided, I was; but, as we learned during last year, success is not dressed in black or white, but we can find it among the thousands of fascinating shades of gray.