Album review: JAY FERGUSON – Reissues

Jay Ferguson - reissues

Edsel Records [Release date 02.12.13] 2-CD

From a personal point of view, these three albums from the late-seventies are perhaps best recalled from their place in the racks of many a vinyl seller at record fairs.  I don’t really remember them too much from this period: a time when Ferguson had left Jo Jo Gunne whom he formed with bassist Mark Andes after both had left Spirit where he was singer/keyboard player alongside Randy California.

Signing to Asylum Records and hitched to Eagles producer Bill Szymczyk, the resultant debut All Alone In the End Zone (1976) is a typical slice of west coast AOR (although recorded in Florida).  Instrumentally spiced with guitar throughout from Joe Walsh, who also appears on the follow-up.

As you might expect it is sonically easy on the ears, perhaps  a little funkier than most from the Asylum stable and also given that Joey Murcia (rhythm guitar) and George ‘Chocolate’ Perry (bass) – had played on several soul and R&B albums in the seventies.

Among the highlights is ‘Hit And Run’ which features some very Tull-like flute from drummer Joe Vitale and the title track which has a sub-Little Feat vibe.  ***

By all accounts, 1977′s Thunder Island was an attempt to ramp things up commercially and the title track made the US Top 10.  This was the riff that Mick and his Men featured on ‘Start Me Up’ in 1981 (although they first recorded it in 1975 ahead of Ferguson’s release).  Apart from that there is nothing here that really stands out save perhaps for ‘Love Is Cold’ and of course the pristine playing and production.  There were many bands in the same space during this period, including Asylum label-mates Orleans.  **1/2

The third album included here was released in 1979 Real Life Ain’t This Way.  The catchy near-title track lyrically recalls the euphoria that had greeted him when ‘Thunder Island’ was a hit and overall the album is more consistent than its predecessors with ‘Real Life Ain’t That Way’ and ‘Davey’ among the highlights.  As far as I am aware this album has only recently been available to download or on reissued vinyl so the inclusion in this package is to be welcomed.  ***1/2

Ferguson went on to make two more solo albums for Capitol and subsequently fashioned a successful career in TV and film music, including work in ‘The Terminator’ and more recently the theme to the US version of ‘The Office’.

Although – as ever – this is a well annotated and packaged release from Edsel (although with no bonus tracks), none of these albums are really essential and it suggests why Jay Ferguson’s face stares out of those original vinyl bargain bins.  Like Jo Jo Gunne before, the albums are patchy.  If you like fairly lightweight pop rock which owes its trajectory to the Fab Four and others like Badfinger who followed that path  (not nearly as memorable but infused with LA sunshine and sheen) you will enjoy.  Overall a solid ***.

Review by David Randall

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