14 Steps To Harlem
(Luna Park Records)
One fascinating guy and creator – best friend of the late Lou Reed no less – and a songwriter who can take in any style and pull it off. Born into the explosion of culture on all fronts, Jeffreys has witnessed plenty in New York and beyond and never had a fear of making social commentary..
Produced by Jeffreys and James Maddock, this album given to me by Garland when we met for a chat in London near Abbey Road has plenty of own compositions along with some choice versions.
When You Call My Name starts the set and chattering keyboards are soon joined by fluid electric guitar playing a melodic figure over a busy backdrop and subterranean bass. Garland hits the falsetto with ease – this cat started off on doowop, after all, Frankie Lymon and all. The rock style hints at knowledge of The Rolling Stones, Springsteen, The Velvets..aah but Jeffreys has been making music as long as any of them. SchoolYard Blues has that pounding R&B beat and rasping harmonica and Garland gives it a vocal that rides the melee, a hint of Bo Diddley in the delivery. It could play on radio alongside Them or vintage New York Dolls. Pace and authenticity!
14 Steps To Harlem the title cut is set to a beautiful city-pastoral background, cooing Hammond, tinkling piano and steady Levon Helm style drumming. Garland tells a metropolitan tale. And a true one at that. He goes from semi-spoken to crooning with ease and the whole thing reeks of New York. Just how much Lou Reed and he influenced each other cannot be certain, but they did. Just listen to that gospel chorale with spiky guitar topping ! Venus has punchy guitar chording and sustained organ chords and one of the best vocals on the set, Garland’s glad-to-be alive imparting of the verses and comfortable roll into the bridge are cathartic.The guitar is perfect – Mark Bosch. Reggae On Broadway finds Dennis Bovell no less on one of the keyboards and Garland sounds natural skanking his way through the tune. He did know Bob Marley.
Time Goes Away benefits from daughter Savannah on piano and response vocal as Garland gives us a ballad embellished with lap steel and creates a song that should be shipped to Willie Nelson without delay. A cool acoustic guitar by James Maddock fits well ; Spanish Heart and its insistent accordion make for a pleasant toe-tapper.
I’m A Dreamer takes its time to create a misty and peaceful vibe, totally suiting the lyric. One of my favourite VU songs next as Garland rocks his way through Waiting For The Man, again with great authority. Beatles tune Help becomes a country slow song, letting the lyric through.
Colored Boy Said is a sort of hiphop piece. Jeffreys’ voice is killer on this one and the ghost of Gil Scott Heron hovers above. The set ends with Luna Park Love Theme – as gentle as it could be, the singing splintered and soft. The violin of Laurie Anderson only adds to the reflective mood…
A varied set of songs from a masterful performer, enhanced by excellent drumming, This is by Aaron Comess, Steve Goulding, Tom Curiano, Roman Klun.
(Thanks Sacha and of course Garland and Claire)
Garland Jeffreys’s new studio album ’14 Steps To Harlem’ is out now on Luna Records.
For more information visit his official website here: http://bit.ly/2pdXl77