Shapiro, Harry: Jack Bruce-Composing Himself, The Authorized Biography (book)
Harry Shapiro is an author, journalist, and lecturer who has tackled in the past subjects such as Jimi Hendrix, Graham Bond, Alexis Korner, Hollywood, and drugs in music. Here, he takes a close look at the life and career of Jack Bruce, one of the most acclaimed bassists and singers in rock and roll, and a former member of the legendary band Cream. While some might think that reading about Baker's former bandmate in Cream, Eric Clapton, might prove to be more interesting (and let's face it, Clapton's bio was pretty enjoyable), Jack has led a pretty topsy-turvy life in his own right, and has been involved in plenty of situations, both musically and personally, that ultimately prove to be just as compelling to read about, if not more so. Some topics from Composing Himself that stand out as essential aspects of this book, and required reading for fans:
Detailed commentary on the formation of Cream, what went on during that bands short lifespan, and how it all feel apart. The brief reunion a few years ago is also covered.
Jack's interest in jazz and jazz-rock, leading him to work with such artists as John McLaughlin, Tony Williams, Larry Coryell, Billy Cobham, and others.
His turbelent, and once again brief time with West, Bruce, and Laing, a band that was formed to be huge, and for a short spell were, before massive drug use by all and a lack of interest in the music tore them apart.
His formation of another supergroup with Carla Bley, Mick Taylor, and Bruce Gary, which once again fizzled before they could take it to the level of all the hype.
The descent into drug and alcohol abuse. Honestly, I was not aware of the extent of Bruce's heroin addiction, but it's all documented here.
The short time working with such legendary guitar players like Robin Trower and Gary Moore, and in each instance coming close to the Cream sound, but in the end both pairings were short lived.
See a pattern here? Jack Bruce had been involved with so many other star musicians in bands that should have skyrocketed after the demise of Cream, but in every instance, whether it be with Tony Williams Lifetime, his band with Mick Taylor, WBL, Bruce Baker Moore, or with John McLaughlin & Billy Cobham, things happened in the end that prevented big things from occuring. The sad thing is, in many of these instances, little to no recorded output is available of these collaborations. The book also goes in depth on Jack's long standing love/hate relationship with Ginger Baker, who seems to have gone out of his way to both befriend Jack Bruce as well as to make him miserable over the many years they have known each other. This relationship between the two legends is a central part of the book, and coincidentally a big part of Jack's life.
On a postive note, if you've ever been a fan of Jack's many solo albums, there's a lot of coverage here on those, and for those who haven't had a chance to hear any of them, you'll probably want to after reading this. Despite a lack of overwhelming sales on his solo catalog, it's obvious that Jack's work is revered by fans and critics alike, and his fellow musicians were always honored to play and record with the bassist at any opportunity.
In short, Composing Himself is not only a great biography of Jack Bruce, but one of the better books on rock & roll and the music business in general.
Added: March 7th 2010
Reviewer: Pete Pardo
Related Link: Jaw Bone Press
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