Band members Related acts
- Jesse Frederick (aka James Conaway)-- vocals, bass
- Jim Crawford -- drums, percussion
- Lindslaw Lee -- piano
- Wayne Watson -- guitar
- The Kinetics
Rating: 3 stars ***
Title: Jesse Frederick
Country/State: Salisbury, Maryland
Grade (cover/record): VG/VG+
Comments: white label promo; gatefold sleeve; plays with some crackles, but no skips
Catalog ID: 376
Who ? As far as I can tell, there isn't a single review of this album to be found on the internet. That in itself isn't odd, but the fact 1971's "Jesse Frederick" was released by Todd Rundgren's Reprise affiliated Bearsville imprint makes you wonder how that could be possible. Surely someone out there heard this one ? So here's the funny thing; anyone who watched '80s and '90s commercial television is probably familiar with Frederick's work on such shows as Perfect Strangers (he's responsible for the theme song 'Nothing's Gonna Stop Me Now'), music for the series Valerie, the insidiously catchy 'Everywhere You Look' (from the series Full House), and music for the series Family Matters.
Not sure how it happened, but in 1971 Frederick somehow attracted the attention of Albert Grossman who signed him to Bearsville. Recorded in Nashville with Michael Friedman producing (Todd Rundgren engineering some of the material), the album featured a series of ten Frederick originals. Musically the set was all over the place, giving the album kind of a demo, see-what-I-can-do feel. To my ears the album's always sounded a bit like an early Randy Newman collection. Like much of Newman's work, racks like 'Victoria Lenor' and 'Slave Runner' had a distinctive "period" feel. The comparison was further underscored by Frederick's voice. Thought Frederick clearly had a knack for crafting catchy material, he wasn't a great singer, recalling a young Randy Newman, or occasionally a young Dr. John ('You Can't Hide Away'). That wasn't a deal killer, especially if you liked Newman's rustic voice. I should also point out, unlike Newman, on a song like 'When She Goes' Frederick could actually rock out with considerable conviction.
Frederick" track listing:
1.) Prelude To a Woman (instrumental) (Jesse Frederick) - 1:39 rating: ** stars
The acoustic instrumental 'Prelude To a Woman' may have been one of the prettiest songs I've heard in a long time, but you were left with the sneaky feeling it was little more than incidental music.
2.) Bless Me Daddy (Jesse Frederick) - 3:54 rating: *** stars
'Bless Me Daddy' showcased Frederick's odd nasal voice. To my ears he's always sounded a bit like a younger Randy Newman; the comparison underscored by the song's unique orchestration which included what sounded like tuba and harmonica. Nothing more than psycho-babble speculation on my part, but I'm guessing this one was a non-too-subtle plea to Frederick's poultry king father for approval to pursue a musical career. As if he needed it given his professional accomplishments.
3.) Victoria Lenore (Jesse Frederick) - 4:57 rating: *** stars
Another acoustic ballad, 'Victoria Lenore' sported one of the album's prettiest melodies with some gorgeous harmony vocals, while underscoring the Newman comparison. Hard to accurate described, but this one had a stark period feel - again very Newman-esque.
4.) You Can't Hide Away (Jesse Frederick) - 3:52 rating: **** stars
Probably side one's most rock oriented tune, 'You Can't Hide Away' actually sounded a bit like a Dr. John tune. Surprisingly funky; especially when you got acclimated to Frederick's gruff voice. The female backing singers were unnecessary and threatened to blow Frederick out of the studio. Nice Wayne Watson guitar solo helped the tune.
5.) Finale To a Woman (instrumental) (Jesse Frederick) - 1:56 rating: ** stars
Side one ended with a brief continuation of the opening instrumental.
Wow, a true rocker ... Kind of Bonnie and Delaney blue-eyed soul vibe goin' on here. Not exactly what you'd expect from a guy from Salisbury, Maryland.
2.) Slave Runner (Jesse Frederick) - 3:47 rating: *** stars
Another tune with a Newman feel ... not sure anyone would dare write and record a tune like this today. The imagery was certainly rather colorful.
3.) Alley Lady (Jesse Frederick) - 4:29 rating: **** stars
'The stark, rather ominous 'Alley Lady' showcased Frederick's prowess on bass with some nice jazzy moves from keyboardist Lindslaw Lee and guitarist Wayne Watson. Musically it was actually the album's most interesting tune with a weird blues-jazz tinge. Didn't paint a very glamorous picture of the world's oldest profession.
4.) When She Goes (Jesse Frederick) - 3:18 rating: **** stars
Another straight-ahead rocker ... imagine Randy Newman actually writing a rock song and this is what the results might sound like. Quite good.
5.) No Reunion (Jesse Frederick) - 3:06 rating: *** star
The album ended with another pretty acoustic ballad - just Frederick accompanied by spare acoustic guitar and a touch of electric bass.
The first couple of times I listened to the album I'll readily admit to being under-impressed (guess I'm surprised I played it more than once). Frederick's ragged voice and the absence of anything particularly commercial, left me indifferent. And against that backdrop I'll tell you the album is a grower. Can't tell you why (though it certainly helps to like both randy Newman and Dr. John). Is it great ? No way. Is it worth searching out ? Yes.
Even though the album vanished without a trace, Bearsville apparently financed a follow-up collection. Tentatively entitled "After the Rain" the collection was shelved, though, perhaps as a marketing test, the company released a promo single:
- 1973's 'I Belong To You' b/w 'I Belong To You' (Bearsville catalog number BSV 0102)
After a one-shot 45 with the band The Kinetics, Frederick turned his attention to scoring films and television (with an occasional acting role thrown in).
For anyone interested, there's a lengthy Frederick bio on Wikipedia (it's so detailed, I'd hazard Frederick wrote most of it himself):
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