Rock's Back Pages asked 50 rock
critics for their favorite CD from artists
over 50 years old.
This was Michael Simmons list:
1 Jake and the rest of the Jewels: A Lick and a Promise
2 Van Dyke Parks: The 7'' Singles Series*
3 Peter Stampfel and Jeffrey Lewis: Come On Board
4 Steve Earle : I'll Never Get Out Of This World Alive
5 Bruce Langhorne: Tambourine Man
6 Willie Nile: The Innocent Ones
7 John Sinclair & Hollow Bones: Honoring The Local Gods
8 Nick Lowe: The Old Magic
9 The Krayolas: Tipsy Topsy Turvy
10 NRBQ: Keep This Love Goin'
Photo by Bobo Lavorgna
A Welcome Return By A Great Artist
by E. P. Dowd
Jake Jacobs makes music that conveys a genuine sense of friendliness without being smarmy or simplistic. He is a personification of a particularly magical time in the musical spirit of New York City.
Jake's recordings (all of which are highly recommended) have been too rare - two LPs by the duo Bunky & Jake in '69 and '70, and two with his band the Family Jewels in '70 and '72. Since then he has only recorded a single with a later edition of the Family Jewels for NRBQ's Red Rooster label in '83, and an album of children's music with Bunky in '93.
With his new album, A Lick and a Promise, we now have a wonderful new recording of his music, a balm of good wishes for the soul that comes at a time when a chitinous shell of ignorance and zealotry has hardened and distorted the ties that bind the human family.
This doesn't mean that the music here is sugar coated. "Just A Stone's Throw" is an achingly accurate portrait of how so many good people are now just a stone's throw from the street, with music that is gently anthemic rather than dirge-like, making it even more poignant as a result. Wishful reverie marks the equally poignant "Locked Inside The City", with its bittersweet poetry and beautiful string arrangement.
The music hearkens to other sensibilities as well. "Stay In Shape" has an upbeat energy that befits its title while name checking Muhammad Ali and Dr. J. "For No One But The Moon" pays tribute to street corner acapella singing in fitting fashion, while "Dusty" honors the queen of blue eyed soul without stooping to musical pastiche. "Annabelle" and "Kinky Afternoon" are the type of character vignettes that Jake does so well, and "Long Lost Friend" lovingly recounts a reunion. The album closes with "Lullaby of the Train", an evocation of the sweet mystery and wonder of that iconic image by a reunited duet of Bunky and Jake. This is easily one of my favorite albums of the year.
A Real Jewel
Jake Jacobs (not to be confused with singer/songwriter Jake Jacob) has been mixing his warm, relaxed vocals with a joyous blend of folk, rock and 1950s R&B-style harmony for decades, and on "A Lick and a Promise" he carries on that fine tradition in high style. "Rings" has a bluesy/folky acoustic guitar and an intimate feel; Stay In Shape" is a happy, upbeat rocker; "For No One But The Moon" is an affectionate look back at Jake's group harmony singing roots; and the gentle "Lullaby Of The Train" is both evocative and beautiful. Jake's musical partner from the 1960s, Bunky Skinner, adds vocal harmony on six tracks, and NRBQ's Terry Adams and Tom Ardolino lend a hand on "Just A Stone's Throw." I've always loved Jake's way with a lyric and he doesn't disappoint here. In "A Little Too Much" he slyly rhymes "I'm mixing drinks like Jackson Pollack" with "Now I'm paying for my frolic." And in the wistful "Locked Inside The City," he sings "I dream an awful lot 'bout watching dolphins from my yacht/ But see all I've got is locked inside the city." Like everything in Jake's criminally underappreciated back catalog, this is magical music for the heart, soul, mind and body.
A Different "Bohemian Rhapsody"
with a Musical Stroll past Village Cafes
"A Lick and a Promise" is a new CD made by my friend, Allan "Jake" Jacobs! I go back a ways with Jake, a Singer/Songwriter and Renaissance Man. I was a "Jewel" along with Kathy and Diana Mae in an incarnation of Jake and the Family Jewels! So I was very happy when he called to ask me to take part in this new album, recently released on CD Baby called "A Lick and a Promise." There are 16 songs that he wrote and produced and each song really captures my first recollections of the "Village," with its girls, bohemians, gypsies, writers, musicians and wondrous, nightly serendipity! I sang bass and some falsetto parts along with Angel Rissoff and Michael D'Amore on "For No One But the Moon," This is a song about guys singing harmonies in the street "For No One but the Moon." Well, we all hoped that a special gal might be listening! Each song is a gem, a jewel, a kernel of soul, dedicated to those musical inspirations of the day. Favorites were "Just a Stone's Throw" (from the street!) , "Annabellle," "A Little Too Much," and the lovely singing of Bunky, Jake's former singing partner who contributed on a number of songs. "Locked Inside the City," of course with some beautiful string work by Danny Mansolino.
Everything’s Jake on ‘A Lick and a Promise’
By Gene Sculatti
Working alongside the Lovin’ Spoonful in Greenwich Village clubs were the Magicians (who took their name from the Spoonful hit). In April of 1966 Hit Parader magazine touted the folk-rock quartet, newly signed to Columbia Records, as up-and-comers. Though the Magicians issued a handful of sparkling singles, the band never made it. But three quarters of its members did. John Townley went on to found Apostolic Studios, site of key recordings by the Mothers, Grateful Dead, Kenny Rogers and others. Gary Bonner and Alan Gordon became successful songwriters (the Turtles’ “Happy Together” and “She’d Rather Be with Me,” Three Dog Night’s “Celebrate”).
The fourth quarter, singer-guitarist Allan ‘Jake’ Jacobs, wasn’t so lucky. His few albums—as Bunky & Jake (with singer Andrea ‘Bunky’ Skinner) and Jake & the Family Jewels—drew scant attention. But at the end of last year Jacobs broke a long hiatus and delivered A Lick and a Promise. It’s credited to Jake and the Rest of the Jewels, but its sensibility is all Jacobs’: winsome and heartfelt, flashing innocent wonder even as it acknowledges the pain of experience, and unerringly tuneful.
Among other things, A Lick and a Promise reveals Jacobs as a fan. He sends touching valentines to “Dusty” (Springfield), Ray Davies (“Kinky Afternoon”) and Willie DeVille (“Willy and Toots,” an easy-groove exercise that channels Betty Wright’s “Clean Up Woman” and Van Morrison-style R&B). Which doesn’t mean he’s not an active participant in the proceedings. The ballad “For No One But the Moon” is Jacobs’ personal recollection of vocalizing on New York street corners, and it’d be a strong contender for doowop’s unofficial anthem if the genre didn’t already have one in Kenny Vance’s “Looking for an Echo.”
“Annabelle” and album-opener “Rings” conjure the seamless convergence of folk and pop that characterized John Sebastian’s best early work, and they’re every bit as warm and convincing—no mean feat in these manifestly un-magical times. Jacobs addresses just that too, in “Just a Stone’s Throw,” a gentle yet hard-hitting series of sketches about people, like so many among us, who’ve been brought to the edge of calamity by the current downturn. Nor is he himself exempt: “So I feel all right on this bright summer mornin,’ just me and this ole guitar workin’ on a tune/ And I try real hard not to worry ’bout tomorrow/ Just live my life and do what I can do…just a stone’s throw from the street.” The song’s sentiment resembles that of the Depression standard “Brother, Can You Spare a Dime,” yet it’s more hopeful. That quality seems to underlie most every note and nuanced lyric on A Lick and a Promise, rendering it very welcome record.
What A Fine Album!
Hats off to Jake Jacobs & everyone else involved in this project! What a fine album this is all around! It's actually difficult to find a flaw. Jake has always been a unique, yet wonderful songwriter & performer. This album will not really let most people down. I find the whole project extremely well done, in Jake's songwriting, the talents of the many musicians involved, as well as the production quality. It's a joy to listen to, especially being a musician myself, & following Jake's work for years now, both studio & live performances. So in conclusion, I highly recommend this album to anyone who wants a real treat. It's a little out of the ordinary, but that's exactly what makes it great!
The Morton Report
Jake and the Rest of the Jewels,
By Bill Bentley
Jake and the Rest of the Jewels, A Lick and a Promise. Dave Van Ronk may always be the Mayor of MacDougal Street, but when it comes to the deputy mayor position, there can be no other candidate than Jake Jacobs. No one epitomizes in gracious splendor the wonders of Greenwich Village more than Jacobs. In the mid-'60s, right alongside the Lovin' Spoonful and, yes, Bob Dylan, he was the leader of the Magicians. Jacobs' folk-rock band barely got out of the starting gate before he split with Bunky Skinner to form Bunky & Jake. Talk about stretching the boundaries of folk music, those two recorded a pair of albums that were a veritable blueprint for the future.
Next up was Jake and the Family Jewels, a Village band that married so many different styles together the word "eclectic" doesn't begin to cover their groovy sound. Not to mention that Jake Jacobs knew his way around the gritty edges of the streets and wrote with the sardonic beauty of a survivor. Their two albums had songs like "I Remember Cissy's Baby" and "Sunshine Joe" that have never been beat for conjuring up cobblestone ghosts and subway toasts. That both have yet to make it to compact disc remains a crime against human nature.
Now, almost 40 years to the day since Jake Jacobs' last album comes A Lick and a Promise. It feels like the completion of a big question mark that would not be answered: where was this musician? The set shows the singer-songwriter has not lost an iota of wondrous appeal. His songs float like divine arrivals from the ozone, wrapped in a voice that is absolutely impossible not to fall for on first listen. For someone who never quite made it to second base but is up there with New York City's finest like Lou Reed, John Sebastian and Paul Simon, Jacobs now rounds third heading for home, carrying with him a satchel of songs and a joyous noise. He gives power to the thought that it's never too late to open up the windows and let your love light shine. Whether he's singing about his youthful frolics, the rigors of urban life, friends who never came back or even Dusty Springfield, there is life on earth in every word. So on Bleecker, Bank, MacDougal or any of the other alluring narrow streets of Greenwich Village, know there's a spirit roaming free watching out for us all. Jake Jacobs has got enough songs to make the day and night glow, and believe it or not sounds like he's just getting started. He should be made a New York landmark like Central Park and Washington Square, and best of all, he's still right there.