JAN HAMMER — Black Sheep (review)

JAN HAMMER — Black Sheep album cover Album · 1979 · Pop/Art Song/Folk Buy this album from MMA partners
2/5 ·
I'm almost wondering why I inflicted this remaster on myself other than to fill out the spot being vacated by Jan Hammer's "The Early Years", a compilation CD.

My first encounter with Jan's band he called Hammer was an LP called BLACK SHEEP an LP. fortunately it was available used for $2.00. I remember the first time I put my needle down on track 1, "Jet Stream", and wondering "what the hell is this crap?". I had previously acquired a new MELODIES LP and was disappointed somewhat, it did have a couple great tracks and bits in the rest I could sink my teeth in to. I'd really hoped he would have returned with better form and have an album opener like "Magical Dog" on OH YEAH?. At the time there wasn't much on this album that appealed to me. I've lightened up in my opinion on the album after re- listening these songs. Aww, heck, I'll do the song by song review, since I may be the only one:

"Jet Stream", purporting to be a rock 'n' roll song, has lyrics about opening your ear to new music, probably directed at his fans of Jazz/Rock and Symphonic Prog material.

Next comes "Heavy Love", just your average blues track. Not as annoying for me as it used to be. His Jan Hammer Group collaborators - Fernando Saunders (Bass) and Tony Smith (Drums) are on these first two tracks and only one other.

"Black Sheep" is fairly simple song. I came to like it a bit more when I copied a few of the tracks from the LP to a home made CD a few years ago. Nice bass line. Jan does some congos and also drums for most of the rest of these tracks. Unfortunately, David Earle Johnson (percussionist) is nowhere to be seen on this album. Jan did do a duo album with him that was released the same the year, TIME IS FREE (LP on the Vanguard label, currently [11/27/06] available in the US as an import), a much better album for the prog fans.

I still like "Light of Dawn" as much today as when I first heard it. It's a simple keyboard and vocal love song. Jan did the lyrics and he did a good job.

"Hey Girl" is a studio-generated piece with Jan only doing keyboards, drums, and vocals. Another dull attempt for Jan to do something pop. Probably only notable thing about this is that he apparently does a pretty good bassist imitation in addition to his trademark synthesizer mock guitar. No bassist or bass credit is given for this track.

"Waiting No More" sounds like a decent pop song. Too bad it didn't make to the charts. I don't think anything else charted until the Miami Vice soundtrack. Jan on everything except lyrics again.

Next up comes a cover of Jimi Hendrix' "Manic Depression". Might have been a fun live cover, but here he appears to be just showing off his mock guitar capabilities. I might be too harsh, he may have been intending more of a tribute piece. Still, one of the more progressive pieces here.

The last track "Silent One" is a 5 star piece by virtue of 4.5, which rounds to 5. Lyrics are by his wife, Ivona Reich. It starts out as a simple keyboard and vocal piece. Jan does all instruments and Bob Christensen (also on a few other tracks here) provides vocals. It's a love/love lost song. The second half of the song has a nice build up in musical intensity. The whole song structure is a lot like the last track on LIKE CHILDREN "Giving In Gently/I Wonder.
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