Jayhawks
(Copyright © 1999 Piero Scaruffi | Legal restrictions - Termini d'uso )
Hollywood Town Hall , 7/10
Tomorrow The Green Grass , 6.5/10
Sound of Lies , 5/10
Smile , 4/10
Mark Olson: My Own Jo Ellen , 5/10
Rainy Day Music , 5/10
Mark Olson: The Salvation Blues (2007), 5/10
Gary Louris: Vagabonds (2008), 5/10
Mark Olson and Gary Louris: Ready For The Flood (2009), 4/10
Mark Olson: Many Colored Kite (2010), 4/10
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I Jayhawks di Mark Olson (sosia vocale e poetico di Gram Parsons) si misero in luce nella Minneapolis dei Replacements, un'impresa non facile. Il loro sound era il country-rock piu` elementare, con i contrappunti discreti del chitarrista Gary Louris. Sul primo album (per la Bunkhouse nel 1986) spicca The Liquor Store Came First, ballata melanconica e nostalgica.

Ci vollero tre anni perche' uscisse il successivo Blue Earth (Twin Tone, 1989), che, tra l'altro, venne messo assieme prendendo i nastri di una serie di session piu` o meno casuali, senza la preparazione solitamente riservata a un disco. Nonostante cio` l'album si mantiene sui livelli del primo, anzi le storie "americane" di Olson (Two Angels, Martin's Song) suonano ancor piu` atmosferiche.

Hollywood Town Hall (Def American, 1992) e` un po' l'Harvest di Olson e Louris, forte di sound nervoso ed elettrico e di armonie vocali alla Everly Brothers, e persino di ritmi sincopati alla Rolling Stones. Il lavoro e` inferiore ai precedenti, ma i singoli Waiting For The Sun, Crowded In The Wings e Take Me With You (nonche' la riedizione di qualche brano del passato) fanno finalmente breccia nella stampa specializzata.

Il super-arrangiato Tomorrow The Green Grass (American, 1995) e` allora il loro Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young. Aumentato il potenziale con Karen Grotberg alle tastiere, che fornisce anche la voce per duetti vocali alla Fleetwood Mac, il gruppo pennella ballate atmosferiche com Nothing Left To Borrow e See Him On The Street. Il singolo Blue, impostando le sue progressioni melodiche sugli acuti struggenti e sugli arrangiamenti orchestrali alla Elton John, riflette piu` che altro un piu` spiccato talento commerciale. D'altronde quando il complesso tenta di fare la bar-band, si lascia prendere la mano in brani troppo aggressivi come Real Light, I'd Run Away e Ten Little Kids. Meno legato ai loro modelli (Gram Parsons, Neil Young, Robbie Robertson), il sound dei Jayhawks rivela tutti i suoi limiti: pochi ritornelli memorabili, pochi accordi che evitino lo stereotipo, pochi testi che valgano la pena. I pochi brani che hanno qualcosa da dire sono quelli nel solco della Band: Miss Williams' Guitar, dedicata alla moglie di Olson, e Red's Song, finalmente con il passo dei classici. Alla fin fine queste sono soltanto canzoni molto lagnose.

Gary Louris e Marc Perlman suonano anche nei Golden Smog.

Sound of Lies (American, 1997) e` un disco di Gary Louris, in quanto Olson se n'e` andato. Lo stile cambia drasticamente: un pop introspettivo (Big Star), arrangiato con gusto (quasi psichedelica Poor Little Fish, orchestrale Dying On The Vine, guidata dal pianoforte It's Up To You), ma raramente passionale (The Man Who Loved Life, Think About It).

In Minnesota, the Jayhawks, led by vocalist Mark Olson and guitarist Gary Louris, made an album inspired by Neil Young and Gram Parsons, Hollywood Town Hall (1992), that embodied the ethos of the urban population in search of rural candor. Tomorrow The Green Grass (1995) virtually began a new career, thanks to lush arrangements and harmonies that recalled Fleetwood Mac and Crosby Stills Nash & Young.
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Smile (Columbia, 2000) is a a slightly more aggressive outing from a band that has probably outrun its time. As the album's title and the title of one of the songs let understand (they explicitly refer to the Beach Boys), Smile and I'm Gonna Make You Love Me are too overworked to be simple pop. Baby Baby Baby rocks hard. Only the duets between leader Louris and new keyboardist Jen Gunderman (What Led Me To This Town and A Break In The Clouds) steer towards alternative country.

The Jayhawks' former frontman Mark Olson and his wife Victoria Williams have recorded several albums of rustic folk music under the moniker The Original Harmony Ridge Creek Dippers (1997) My Own Jo Ellen (Hightone, 2000) is, de facto, his solo debut. Nostalgic and melancholy, the music does rises above the average country standard only in Walking Though Nevada and especially Letter From Africa (a surreal ethnic vignette), while Meeting in Lone Pine, Linda Lee and Ben Johnson's Creek indulge in the genre's stereotypes.

Gary Louris kept steering the Jayhawks towards retro-pop, Merseybeat and folk-rock on Rainy Day Music (American, 2003), a double-cd album. The band had by then lost keyboardist Jen Gunderman and guitarist Kraig Johnson, and was pared down to Louris, bassist Marc Perlman, drummer Tim O'Reagan, and new guitarist Stephen McCarthy. Compared with the previous album, this one is certainly less pop. The reference points, instead, are the Byrds (Stumbling Through the Dark) and Crosby Stills & Nash (Madman). However, Louris achieves a more credible sense of aesthetic independence with the gentle waltz of Will I See You in Heaven and the tender serenade of Angelyne.

Blue Earth (Ryko, 2003) collects some Jayhawks demos.

Jayhawks' original vocalist Mark Olson played in the Original Harmony Ridge Creek Dippers with his wife Victoria Williams, and then launched his solo career as a mellow country-pop bard with The Salvation Blues (Hacktone, 2007).
Meanwhile, Gary Louris' Vagabonds (2008) was a mediocre journey through the nation's psyche and the various facets of roots-rock.
Ready For The Flood (New West, 2009) was a mediocre collaboration between Mark Olson and Gary Louris.
The very spartan Olson solo Many Colored Kite (2010) reenacted a wildly abused routine, the self-congratulatory bedroom confessions of the solitary artist.

Music From The North County: The Jayhawks Anthology (American, 2009) is a career retrospective.

The original lineup reunited for the mediocre Mockingbird Time (2011).

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