Album review: JOHNNY HATES JAZZ – Wide Awake


[Release date 14.08.20]

Johnny Hates Jazz’s return in 2013 was well received, with a comeback album ‘Magnetized’ gathering airplay and even a short tour in 2016 (when we saw them in downtown Darwen Library Theatre) and a handful of festival gigs.

The lead single ‘Spirit Of Love’ has great sentiments but to be honest it’s a bit too much like ‘Harvest For The World’.  ‘New Day Ahead’ starts with a Suzi Quatro-patented guitar riff  but once the trade mark JHJ key changes and choruses kick in it’s business as usual.

The lyrical content is always relevant, ‘Love The Light’ promoting a more simple way of life in a world where “money talks, money sings” and featuring a Stevie Wonder-esque harp break and a female co-vocal.

The funky undertow characteristic of the band is present on ‘Greater Good’ and the title track.  ‘Free’ is catchy BBC Radio 2 fodder (along with most of the album it has to be said).  ‘No Mistakes’, a real standout and summing up the true JHJ vibe.  A worthy successor to the superb song ‘Magnetized’ if a little similar.

The album is a real credit to Clark Datchler’s wider world vision but it is also a testimony to great songwriting and musicianship, not forgetting long-time musical partner Mike Nocito.

Looking at the publicity notes it seems that the album is a conscious return to a simpler time and there is no doubt that the duo wear their musical influences on their sleeve, more than previously:  If ‘Spirit Of Love’ revives the Isleys, ‘Don’t Stop The Music’ recalls the rhythmic shuffle of Rufus and Chaka Khan (‘Ain’t Nobody’) and the opening motif on ‘My Old Piano’ reminds of Tori Amos (‘Cornflake Girl’).

Superior and refreshing pop music, perhaps a little too derivative in places for its own good and perhaps a little out of its time in these days of wannabes and auto-tune.  But, for the initiated, a quite wonderful and utterly wholesome guilty pleasure.  ****

Review by David Randall

Clark Datchler chatted to David Randall in February 2016 for Get Ready to ROCK! Radio.  In the first hour of the weekly ‘Assume The Position’ he recalls the eighties and with a selection of tracks including ‘Shattered Dreams’, ‘Don’t Say It’s Love’ and ‘Magnetized’.

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David Randall presents a weekly show on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio, Sundays at 22:00 BST (GMT+1, repeated on Mondays and Fridays), when he invites listeners to ‘Assume The Position’. This show was first broadcast on 14 March 2021 and includes the Top 10 albums at for that week.

UK Blues Broadcaster of the Year (2020) Pete Feenstra presents his weekly Rock & Blues Show on Tuesday at 19:00 ( BST, GMT+1) as part of a five hour blues rock marathon “Tuesday is Bluesday at GRTR!”. The show is repeated on Wednesdays at 22:00, Fridays at 20:00). This show was first broadcast 23 March 2021.

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