Album review: JACK BRUCE & FRIENDS – The Bottom Line Archive

Jack Bruce & Friends - The Bottom Line Archives

The Store For Music [Release date 29.11.19]

This double live set from March 1980 is a welcome return to the catalogue for a jazz fusion supergroup with blues edges and occasional folk into artsy tinged vocals from Bruce.

The important thing about a re-issue like this is to check the date of the show to get a handle on the musical environment of the time, and Bruce’s penchant for jazz rock provided him with a safe haven in an era where he had just lost his last major deal.

‘The Bottom Line Archive’ is worth re-examining if only to glory in Bruce majesty. His singing is consistently superb and his frenetic bass playing is the catalyst for some sparkling band interplay. In fact the best moments here may be fleeting, but they are worth waiting for.

There’s the band’s imperious jamming on the otherwise awkward rhythmic changes of ‘Post War’, which don’t sound any better now than they did back in 1971 on the ‘Harmony Row’ album. There’s also a couple of mighty solos from guitarist Clem Clemson, of which his outrageous tone on ‘Born Under A Bad Sign’ and his more measured solo alongside Jack’s superbly sung ‘Theme From An Imaginary Western’ are truly memorable.

The band’s slip into some lighting runs in the middle of the meandering ‘Bird Alone’, on an extended piece that manges to capture all the ensemble’s salient musical elements in one song, including a Billy Cobham drum solo clocking in at just under 7 minutes!

The band also benefits from the weighty presence of keyboard player David Sancious who smooths out the rough edges of ‘White Room’ and is the perfect foil for Clemson’s stinging solo.

Sancious switches from accompanist to soloist with some ethereal tones on the ‘The Loner’. It’s a film theme sounding instrumental that was originally penned by Bruce and Clemson for Cozy Powell.

Sancious also doubles up on guitar to trade frenzied licks with Clemson on ‘Politician’, while Bruce and Cobham glue everything together mellifluously.

The band is inspired on Billy Cobham’s signature instrumental ‘Spectrum 4’, before they redress the balance with an exquisite version of ‘Childsong’, a hidden Bruce gem, on which the band revisits a similar reggae tinged groove heard earlier on ‘Post War’.

Inevitably they leave us with a ripping ‘Sunshine Of your Love’ on which all 3 front line players fatten the riff.

‘The Bottom line Archives’ is a well played, well recorded and rocks hard. The brilliant band sounds like they are having fun, even if the set offers us little in the way of clues as to Bruce’s future musical direction at the time. ****

Review by Pete Feenstra

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