J.J. Band, The


Band members               Related acts

- Ralph Benetar -- sax, flute

- Bruno Castellucci -- drums, percussion, backing vocals

- Jean Clause Clement -- sax

- Guy Delo -- keyboards, trumpet

- Mike Lovell -- trombone, backing vocals

- Douglas Lucas -- trumpet, flugelhorn

- Garcia Morales -- lead vocals, drums, percussion

- Yvan de Souter -- bass, backing vocals

- Francis Weyer (aka Francis Goya) -- lead guitar, 

  backing vocals

 

 

- The Chakachas (Ralph Benetar)

- El Chicles (Ralph Benetar)

- Jess and James (backing band for)

- Plus

 

 

 


 

Genre: rock

Rating: 4 stars ****

Title:  JJ Band

Company: CBS

Catalog: 64396
Year: 1971

Country/State: Brussels, Belgium

Grade (cover/record): VG+ / VG+

Comments: gatefold sleeve

Available: 1

Catalog ID: 5920

Price: $125.00

 

I happened to have lived in Brussels, Belgium for a couple of years in the mid-1970s so I'll readily admit my interest in the multi-national J.J. Band has to do with the fact they were based in Brussels.  One of my neighbors owned a pair of albums by this outfit and though their European soul and Blood, Sweat & Tears moved didn't do all that much for me at the time, it was a band that stuck with me over the years, to the point where I decided to revisit their catalog as a more mature individual.

 

The group enjoyed their initial brush with popular success backing the Portuguese-Belgian pop duo Jess and James (hence the J.J. Band moniker).  Starting in 1968 they began releasing occasional singles on their own:

- 1968's 'Cousin Jack' b/w 'Nicky's at the PC' (Palette catalog number )
- 1969's 'Oh! Mama' b/w 'Same Time, Same Place' (Polydor catalog number 3338)
- 1969's 'Please Mister Sun' b/w 'Somebody Help Me' (Polydor catalog number )

 

 

By 1970 they'd struck out in full time to pursuit of a solo career with Polydor management agreeing to finance an album.  That saw the release of their 1970 debut entitled "The J.J. Band" (Polydor catalog number 2411 001) The album has become a high-priced collectable and since I've never found a reasonably priced copy I can't say much about it.

 

"J.J. Band" track listing

(side 1)

1.) Intro

2.) We've Been So Happy - 9:02

3.) Bip Bip - 3:43

4.) To Love Somebody - 4:54

 

(side 2)

1.) Love In Them There Hills - 3:52

2.) Now I've Found Out - 4:32

3.) Leaving You - 3:47

4.) Norwegian Wood   (John Lennon - Paul McCartney) - 5:08

 

Before Their partnership with Polydor ended, two follow-up singles were released:

 

- 1970's 'Love In Them There Hills' b/w 'We've Been So Happy' (Polydor catalog number )
- 1970's 'Get together' b/w ' Hear My Plea '(Polydor catalog number )

 

 

With Polydor dropping the group from its recording roster the band quickly signed with CBS Records which issued the group's sophomore LP the next year.  Recorded in London and co-produced by Mike Hawker and Brian Bennett (who also wrote about half of the material), the cleverly-titled "JJ Band" wasn't bad for what amounted to a European version of Blood, Sweat and Tears.  While the album cover showed eight members, the line up actually featured nine people - drummer Bruno Castellucci, keyboardist Guy Delo, lead singer Garcia Morales, bassist Yvan de Souter, lead guitarist Francis Weyer, and a horn section consisting of Ralph Benetar, Jean Clause Clement, Mike Lovell, and Douglas Lucas.  (Don't ask because I'm not sure which member was missing from the photo.)  For anyone interested, the liner notes had a bit of biographical information:

 

"There has been of late a resurgence of good rock music coming out of Europe to challenge the already strongly established groups on the home front. Not least of these new forces is the J.J. Band, a cosmopolitan collection of highly intelligent young men with a thorough knowledge of jazz which they have translated into their own individual brand of rock music.

The nine piece band has an impressive list of musical qualifications to its credit. The Belgium members of the band all studied music at the Brussels' Conservatoire and the American member Douglas Lucas, a professor who taught music at Chicago University later met the band while teaching in Brussels. Finally Mike Lovell, the English member of the group was a member of the National Youth Orchestra.

Although from different parts of the globe they have combined together to form a very tight knit group producing their own more subtle rendition of the jazz/rock amalgam which has gone from strength to strength over the past few years."

 

Musically the album offered up a mixture of band originals and tracks written by producers Hawker and Bennett.  Stylistically the material included stabs at blue-eyed soul, pop, horn rock, and a couple of more experimental pieces.  For what it was worth, at least to my ears Morales was actually a better singer than either Jess or James Lameirinhas.  His vocals were accented, but for the most part it wasn't heavy enough to be a drawback and Morales really did have a nice voice that was simultaneously versatile and commercial.  

 

- Kicked along by a killer Yvan de Souter bass pattern 'Requiem for a Lost Planet' started out as a surprisingly slinky ballad before slipping into what sounded like a Blood, Sweat and Tears outtake. Yeah, the ecology message was a bit heavy handed and while the dischordent ending may have been meant as an ominous warning it simply came off as being silly.   rating: ** stars

- Penned by American member Douglas Lucas, the mid-tempo rocker 'Shades of Goodbye' was probably the album's most commercial track.  With a breezy melody, the song showcased a nice performance from Morales while Francis Weyer turned in a dazzling jazz-influenced lead guitar.   rating: *** stars

- 'Something To Live For' found the band returning to their soul roots.  The thought of a multi-national European band having soul credentials may have sounded funny, but the fact of the matter is these guys had the talent to go head to head with a host of American and UK soul bands.  Simply a dynamite song and performance that could have done well on American charts had it come out a couple of years earlier.   Probably my favorite song on the LP.   rating: **** stars

- I'm normally not a gigantic horn rock fan, but I have to admit that 'Out of the Darkness' was one of those rare exceptions.  Morales accent may have been a little more noticeable here, but this one really rocked out and the punchy horns actually drove the beat home even harder.   rating: **** stars

- As witnessed by 'Pacific Coast Thunder Ball' by the early 1970s the allure of the Southern California lifestyle had apparently bitten everyone including Benelux musicians.  Obviously I can only speak for myself, but the combination of Morales accented delivery, the shouted 'ride on' refrain, and the lyric's Southern California references always bring a smile to my face.  Fantastic rocker with some great freak-out guitar from Francis Weyer.   Easy to see why CBS tapped this one as a single.   rating: **** stars

- The title didn't make a great deal of sense to me, but 'Titagel Jones' had a likeble mid-1960s pop-psych flavor to it.  Certainly goofy and already dated, but fun.   rating: *** stars

- Another catchy blue-eyed soul number, 'I'm Through with You' had everything going for it; great melody, kick-ass rhythm section, punchy horn charts and a spunky vocal from Morales.  Easily one of the best performances on the album. rating: **** stars

- Unlike the rest of the album, 'Gotta Fund a New Way' showcased guitarist Weyer handling lead vocals.  His accent was far heavier than Morales, but his voice was actually quite good and given this was one of the more straightforward pop songs on the album, it was easy to overlook.  In fact my only complaint about this one was the fact the song simply fell apart at the end.  Would have made a nice single.   rating: **** stars

- 'Changing Face' found the band trying to 'heavy up' their sound.  While I liked the song (great horn charts), the results weren't completely impressive, especially when the song suddenly morphed from up tempo rocker to cocktail jazz, jazz-rock fusion, and then back to rock segments.  Simply way too much going on here.    rating: *** stars

 

CBS also tapped the album for a single:

 

 

- 1971's 'Pacific Coast Thunder Ball' b/w 'I'm Through With You' (CBS catalog number 7229)

 

Admittedly this wasn't the most original album you've ever heard and the horn-rock label is going to turn off scores of folks, but this is one of those albums that I like more and more every time I spin it.  

 

"JJ Band" track listing:
(side 1)

1.) Requiem for a Lost Planet   (Mike Hawker - Brian Bennett) - 

2.) Shades of Goodbye   (Douglas Lucas) - 

3.) Something To Live For   (Mike Hawker - Brian Bennett) - 

4.) Out of the Darkness   (Garcia Morales - Mike Hawker) - 

 

(side 2)
1.) Pacific Coast Thunder Ball   (Mike Hawker - Brian Bennett) - 

2.) Titagel Jones   (Mike Hawker - Brian Bennett) - 

3.) I'm Through with You   (Francis Weyer) - 

4.) Gotta Find a New Way   (Drury - Cook - Cook) - 

5.) Changing Face   (Guy Delo - Ralph Benetar - Douglas Lucas) - 

 

 

There was one follow-up non-LP single for Columbia:

 

- 1971's 'Somebody Help Me' b/w 'Let Me Ride' (CBS catalog number )

 

 

By 1972 the majority of the band had morphed into the hipper sounding Plus who released one moderately entertaining (and extremely rare and pricey) progressive-funk LP for the Dutch Pink Elephant label. 

 

"Plus" Pink Elephant 

catalog number 877 024

 

 

 

 

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