Angel Air Records (label)
03 December 2014 (released)
26 January 2015
Jerusalem seem to enjoy an extended pilgrimage indeed! Formed in the early 70’s they released a self-titled album that was produced by Ian Gillan. Oh, and they gigged all over Europe supporting Black Sabbath, Deep Purple, Uriah Heep and Status Quo before disbanding due to conflicting creative opinions. The band reformed again in 2008 releasing a much- acclaimed second album, and now we can enjoy their most excellent third album titled ‘Black Horses’.
Leading the sonic journey are original members Lynden Williams and Bob Cooke, who are joined here by the cream of the Prog Rock crop Geoff Downes (Asia,Yes) and Nick D’Virgilio (Tears For Fears, Spocks Beard).
Opener ‘Puppet King’ is a track in the classic Prog-rock vein with somewhat surprising hues of reggae added. It makes for an original sound and bites deeper due to political overtones in the lyrical department.
When was the last time you’ve heard a track that begins with “Let Me be your ocean liner”? Track 2 is a fantastically bold fusion of mid-pace prog-rock and nonsensical word-smithery reminiscent of punk poet John Cooper-Clark – at the same time spiked with double entendres a la “Let Me be your bumpy pillow / let me rock you up and down”. You get the idea…
It gets even better on title track ‘Black Horses’ when Lynden Williams belts “You were smoking a Breton cigarette / the taste of tobacco you could never forget”. A solid rock composition that is cleverly constructed and gliding between classic, prog and bluesy rock.
‘Leopard Skin Pie’ in contrast sounds very folky and very Jethro Tull – made even more folky courtesy of Rachel Hall’s enticing violin play.
‘Shades Of Blue’ comes on in epic manner, it’s splendid rock interspersed with a oh-so-wicked wah wah organ solo and harmonica. When Lynden sings “On the road to nowhere I know I got to go” it will strike a chord with many – the lyrics open to all sorts of interpretation but in this case the drudgery of marriage and being tied down are addressed and well, I’m probably right in assuming it’s a highly personal affair.
Quite unusual is ‘The Albatross’ – it’s disjointed and then stitched together using various musical fragments. We have the bluesy sound, the folky sound, the thumping and punchy chorus, there are penetrating keyboards, soft riffs, hard riffs – take your pick. It’s a wild one this, with an increasingly frantic climax until the albatross of the title floats by in slow-motion till fade-out.
An absolute corker is the Rolling Stones cover ‘It’s All Over Now’ – here given a stomping and very upbeat Cajun-country-style makeover thanks to Ray Drury’s accordion play. Dare I say it’s better than the original? No, I’m probably not supposed to say it but hey – I just did!
Just how trippy is the psychedelic and wonderfully bonkers titled ‘Surfing From Sydney To Marrakech’ – well, I guess one can surf pretty much anywhere if in the ‘right’ state of mind… It’s real catchy this, with an energetic tune and great riffs and a chorus that reminds of early Krautrock with a touch of Moroccan flair!
Hard and heavy and oh so retro is ‘Smokestack Ammunition’ – a song that takes us back to the good ole days of bands like Deep Purple. As you would expect, this is pure riffer’s delight with guitars and bass leading the way, and drums bashing hard behind. Phew!
What a shift the closing track ‘Eternity’ is! A fine melody bursting with reflective and melancholic lyrics… it’s a bit of a weepy that makes us aware that life is over far too quickly and before we’ve counted 1, 2, 3 we have stepped into eternity… and our parents are waiting for us on the other side. Pass me the hanky! This song in particular stands in harsh contrast to the happy-go-lucky surf-pop vibe which the quirky inner sleeve design suggests.
‘Black Horses’ is an album not to be missed! Even those who are not prog-rock disciples should give this a listen and enter Jerusalem with an open mind.