" Bend in the Road "
BluesWax Rating: 5
Yawn, Sometimes Pretty, But Often Uninspired
Jeremy Spencer has been long affiliated with early Fleetwood Mac and Peter Green. Spencer recorded his first self-titled solo album in 1970, and subsequently left Fleetwood Mac a year later joining a Christian organization. In 1972 Spencer released Jeremy Spencer and the Children and after a six-year hiatus he released Flee. After a very long recording break, in 2006 came Precious Little for Blind Pig, bringing us to his latest, Bend In the Road." Recorded with Detroit musicians in 2010 and issued a two-LP, vinyl, limited-edition set for the Propelz label, it's a mixed bag of blues, at times a little folksy, at other times pop-centric, and it also offers some pretty laid-back selections of originals and covers.
Homesick James' "Homesick" opens this set as a plodding cover; it's immediately evident that Spencer's vocals and slide are not up to previous expectations. "Cry For Me Baby," by Elmore James, has better energy than the opener, but already Spencer's vocals are wearing me down. The simplistic instrumental "Whispering Fields" is gorgeous, but "I Walked a Mile with Sorrow" brought me down. Spencer's original "Earthquake" is more uplifting and rocking; the second guitarist Brett Lucas' solo is also noteworthy, but the lyrics are quite lame. There's another attractive instrumental, "Aphrodite," with some interesting chord changes and soft, dueling guitar work. Moving past more sorrows in "Secret Sorrow" to "Jambo," a mid-tempo studio jam, Spencer (finally) opens up a bit, yet (again) I favored Lucas' guitar work. Yet another Elmore James cover, "The Sun is Shinning," features fine keyboard work from Spencer, but his vocals are now taking a toll on my ears, this is followed by yet another Elmore James tune, "Stranger Blues," that percolates well, but finds Spencer straining his limited vocal abilities. With my remote control in hand I blew past "Strange Woman," the boring "Blind Lover," the uninspired "Desired Heaven," and, "Come to Me." Okay, just three tracks to go. "Merciful Sea" opens with a stunning Spencer piano intro that might work for late-night listening. "From the ill-fated album" (Spencer's words, not mine), "Flee" sounds very generational and dated, but I did enjoy the guitar craftsmanship of both Lucas and Spencer. The closing title song is folksy with sad lyrics that eventually offer some hope, but it's mostly la-di-da, and the album is over.
In 1998 with the founding and present members of Fleetwood Mac, Jeremy Spencer was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. I will always cherish Spencer's originality with Fleetwood Mac, and had hoped for more here. Unfortunately Bend In the Road is not a bend or turn in the right direction. Sorry.
Bob Putignano: www.SoundsofBlue.com