Chicago guitarist/vocalist Joe Wright might not be a household name, but he's been an integral part of the music scene for over four decades. Originally the guitar tech for Led Zeppelin during the early '70s while he was just a teenager, Joe was given the nickname 'Joe Jammer' by none other than Jimmy Page, and the name stuck. After Page became too busy with the success of Zeppelin, Jammer took over the mantle of most used session guitarist in London, working on over 150 recordings during a 10 year span that saw him appear on albums by Mick Jagger, Ringo Starr, Jerry Lee Lewis, and many others. Joe also was asked to join the original line-up of Aerosmith, and appeared on the original stage show of Tommy at the Rainbow in London. Initially signed to a solo deal by EMI in 1973, the guitarist recorded his first album with mild success, but had big plans for his second release, Headway, which featured drummer Mitch Mitchell (Jimi Hendrix Experience), bassist John Gustafson ( The Big Three, Ian Gillan Band, Roxy Music, Quatermass, Hard Stuff), vocalist Johnny Contardo (Sha Na Na), keyboard player Jean Roussel (Cat Stevens), Brother James on percussion, and Poli Palmer on vibes & flute. Unfortunately, the album was never released, until now thanks to the folks at AngelAir Records.
Listening to Headway, you can only shake your head and think about the complete missed opportunity that this never saw the light of day back in 1974. Could Jammer's visa issues that made the prospect of touring impossible and the labels' subsequent disinterest in the album have been overcome to get the album released to the public? We'll never know, but thankfully it's out now to finally be enjoyed. Headway is a memorable, fun album that mixes funk, jazz, blues, hard rock, and pop, not too far from what the Jeff Beck Group where doing at the same time. Jammer's tasty guitar licks permeate the album, but are never showy, the rhythms have tons of groove, and vocals strong, and the keyboards give plenty of texture and color. Just check out that funky clavinet and gritty guitar work on the upbeat "Cool Breeze", a must hear for any fan of Jeff Beck or Tommy Bolin, and jazz-fusion lovers will totally dig "Axe me Another (Don't Lose Your Head)". Of course, if you want to hear Jammer's skills in the hard rock realm, check out the blistering "The Watcher Laments" (along with some stellar Hammond organ courtesy of Roussel), the groove laden ripper "Can't Yer Catch?", or the mix of pop and heavy rock on the catchy "It Wasn't Meant To be" for plenty of tasty licks.
AngelAir gives you the whole story of Joe Jammer and the album in the informative booklet, but it's the high class music that's the main attraction here. From start to finish, this is superb funk/jazz/rock/pop music that should have been huge back in 1974. The story of Joe Jammer didn't end here though, as he went on to great success with Olympic Runners and Nobody's Business later in the '70s, and to this day continues to record & gig around London.
See more about this release on our recent YouTube show!
1. Broken Little Pieces
2. Can't Yer Catch?
3. Alive Another Day
4. Afraid To Make A Friend
5. It Wasn't Meant To be
7. One For The Road
8. Cool Breeze
9. Axe me Another (Don't Lose Your Head)
10. The Watcher Laments
11. Not Tonight