The Jim Jones Revue: The Savage Heart
If you’re a fan of straight-ahead, raw rock ‘n’ roll you’ve probably already been digging The Jim Jones Revue since their self-titled debut came out four years ago. After all, they’re one of the only reasonably known bands out there that’s keeping the spirit of 50’s rock alive. While that sound is still well in place on The Savage Heart, they’re clearly trying to expand in a few different directions. For instance, album opener “It’s Gotta Be About Me” is strutting glam rock a la Louis XIV. (It even sounds like it could be one of their song titles). Rather than boogieing on old blues riffs, guitars come at you like the swing of an ax, daring you call the band a one-trick pony. There are a few other token balls-out rockers here, but this album puts a much heavier emphasis on rhythm than the band’s prior two releases. “Chain Gang” sounds like just that. You can picture Jones looking up from those rocks he’s breaking while his fellow band/inmates grunt along. But that title could have also been applied to “7 Times Around the Sun,” a song that keeps it as basic as possible with just drums, piano, and gang vocals. Then you have “In and Out of Harms Way,” which is almost as atmospheric as a Nick Cave song. While listening to it, you feel like a big rattlesnake is coming right at you.
I will say, The Savage Heart is not as immediately exciting as The Jim Jones Revue’s other albums. It’s far more expressionistic, which makes it a little less accessible. The key elements are still here though. They’re still proving how vital an instrument the piano is to rock ‘n’ roll, and that it kicks just as much ass as a guitar when used properly. Also, Jones’ voice continues to be that appealing blend of coolest, dirty old man you’ve ever met and preacher who’s not sure if he’s bound for heaven or hell.
The album ends with “Midnight Oceans & the Savage Heart,” an example of another important part of 50’s rock: the melodramatic ballad. It sounds just like the soundtrack to any good cruise down Lover’s Lane with one major difference, there’s nothing teenage about it. Jim Jones is no lonely lovesick boy. There’s experience behind his words and his delivery. When he says, “I hate every part of this,” you know he means it. It may be a surprising way to bring the album to a close, but I appreciate the fact that a band who plays such a classic style of music can still manage to pull out some surprises.