Wednesday, 5 December 2007

A Tale of Two Guitarists - by Rob Bradford

I first read this excellent piece on the MSN Shadow Music Forum. It is by respected music journalist and reviewer Rob Bradford, who kindly gave his permission for it to be reproduced here.

Hank B Marvin and Jet Harris - two of our heroes whose respective career paths and lifestyles could not have turned out more differently during the past 45 years. This may polarise opinion - but sometimes that's what Shadow Music is all about. First up though, Hank remains my all time favourite guitar hero - performing / recording hundreds of fantastic tracks during a career spanning almost 50 years. Well, actually I just love / admire all of The Shadows (past & present) & their contribution to instrumental and popular music. As many of us did, I eagerly followed Jet's solo career and then his liaison with Tony Meehan - whilst still buying everything put out by The Shads too. So, it was a bitter disappointment (also tinged with sadness) to witness Jet's descent into alcoholism as his career bombed post '63. 'Comebacks' (some better than others) came and went for thirty odd years or so.

Jet's return to 'proper' performing (following his amazing triumph over alcoholism) in 1999 was nothing short of miraculous. The Shadows reunion after a 14 yr hiaitus was also just absolutely fantastic. Hank, Bruce, Brian, 'Griff' & Cliff / Warren did us proud during their farewell tours - simply matchless. A superb live CD / DVD was a fitting (and excellent) souvenir of the final tour. So, Hank announced that he'd retired from The Shadows. Now, having achieved everything that he possibly could in terms of The Shads - plus having recorded / released many fine solo albums - time for Hank to pursue his own musical projects - his Gypsy / Jazz interests perhaps? Which is why (to me personally) - "Guitar Man" was a massive disappointment. All of the pros and cons were discussed at length several months ago on Shadow Music. Sure it was well produced and, naturally, immaculately played. Huge sales too & without the necessity of a tour or live appearances (save a handful of TV shows) to promote it. But (again, just personal opinion) Hank has done it all before ( & better) - "Hank Marvin", "Into The Light", "Hank Plays Live", "Marvin At The Movies", "Guitar Player" (and several others). So...the record company presents Hank with a list of potential songs to cover & he picks the ones he likes (or, in one or two cases, ones he dislikes the least) and does a professional job. But........surely Hank does not need to record this type of album for the money? I'm just thinking that (if he really wanted to - because he has his own studio and any number of fine musicians / musician friends / admiring artists to call upon) he could record and release anything that he wanted to...completely under his own auspices.

Which leads us on to Jet Harris' brand new CD "The Journey". No massive corporation behind this. No TV advertising. Almost eighteen months in the making and all privately financed. It's a huge financial risk for all concerned - but it's a labour of love. To maximise sales - Jet could have easily gone into the studios and re - recorded "Scarlet O'Hara", "Nivram", "36 - 24 - 36", "Applejack", "Main Title Theme", "Jet Black", "Besame Mucho", "Apache" etc., etc. Or how about a few cover versions of well - known hits? Well, you get my drift. Yes, "The Journey" does contain a re - recording of "Diamonds" (mighty fine it is too) - but every single other track is a brand new original composition. This is contemporary RI and it genuinely does sound bang up to date. A tremendously powerful, rhythmic, beaty sound too - huge productions. I've played the CD through twice - but don't feel quite ready to write a review as yet. The first word that comes to mind is...impressive. My daughters (16 and 22) know of The Shadows - not their main choice of music - but they tolerate their old dad's obsession. In the last week I've given them lifts in the car - whilst playing "The Journey". Neither of them knew it was a new CD by 68 - year - old Jet. Both of them asked what it was (presumably sounding different enough to what I usually play in the car). The younger one decalred that the tracks she heard were 'cool'. My older daughter works in one of Brighton's major nightclubs. She was raving about "San Antonio (Old Skool Mix)" and plans to have it played on the dancefloor there very soon!!!! Realistically - Jet's CD won't hit the charts and it won't be TV advertised. As a masterly work of modern rock instrumental it deserves to be heard by a wider audience. Shadows fans, RI fans - I hope that this CD sells heavily - you can make it happen. Who would have thought that Jet could come up (aided by Cliff Hall - but primarily Paul Rumble and Nigel Hopkins) with such a release in 2007?? Simply amazing.

Rob B

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