Band members Related acts
line up 1 (1970-71)
- Jim Aumann -- vocals, keyboards
- Randy Morse -- lead guitar
- Tim Nixon -- percussion
- Nick Root -- vocals, bass
- The Astronauts (Tim Nixon)
- Robert Aumann Band (Jim Aumann)
- Marty Conner Band (Nick Root)
- Randy Morse (solo efforts)
Rating: 3 stars ***
Title: Faces of Jade
Company: Shake It Records
Country/State: Cincinnati, Ohio
Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+
Comments: green vinyl reissue
Catalog ID: --
Jim Aumann and David Smith met in the late-'60s while attending high school in the Cincinnati suburb of Mason, Ohio. Discovering a common interest in music, they joined a local band The Villians and went their separate ways when they graduated. Autmann went off to Miami University and Smith went to Ohio State. The two stayed in touch and during school breaks began recording original material at Hamore Milam' Artist Recording Studio. Unfortunately the studio focused on Gospel acts and board of directors took issue with rock music. When Milam suffered a fatal heart attack, their relationship with the studio abruptly ended. With Aumann dropping out of school the pair decided to form a full band. They started looking for recruits, Smith recruiting Ohio State student/ guitarist Randy Morse, drummer Tim Nixon and bassist Nick Root (still in high school, playing in a local band).
As Jade they recorded a series of self-financed demos at Bill Stith's Mount Healthy Jewel Recording Studios. With Smith having moved over to the business manager/co-writer role, he took the demos to Jim Mill's small Cincinnati-based General American Records label. GAR which had been releasing singles since the mid-'60s signed the band and released a series of singles locally. Unknown to the band, Mills released their demo tapes as an album - the first album in the label's history. The band only learned an album had been released when one of Nixon's friends gave him a copy he'd found in a used record store. Mills subsequently cut off contact with the band and then vanished. Clearly recorded on a limited budget, "Faces of Jade" was also interesting for featuring all original material. During the late '60s and early-'70s if was common for major labels to require all of their acts, including top tier bands to include a couple of popular cover tunes on albums. And here's where I start to differ from most of the reviews. Time after time you see reviews comparing these guys to The Beatles, or Beatles inspired bands like Badfinger. Yes, I heard Fab Four traces on tracks like the closing section of 'We (Got To Make It Through).' The closing ballad 'Wait Till I Come Home' recalled Eric Carmen and the Raspberries who were in turn Beatles influenced.. On the ballads 'Rest of My Life' and 'All Alone' I actually heard more Merseybeat than Beatles. The Vaudevillian single 'My Honey' sounded like a The New Vaudeville Band cover. These guys certainly had talent, but they appeared to be struggling to define a sound and the absence of a strong lead singer didn't help. The liner notes credited Aumann, Morse and Root with vocals and while they were all professional, none of the vocals were inspiring. The other shortcoming was production. I've never heard the original pressing, but my reissue suffers from flat sound. Similarly the band's stabs at expanding their sound ('Prelude Willows End') fell victim to studio and technical limitations. There were also instances that demonstrated what could have been. That's certainly the case on the atypical, completely whacked out and fascinating 'My Mary (More Than Ever)' and the "welcome to the party" section of 'We (Got To Make It Through).'
It's not the hyped masterpiece you read about, but the album's still worth checking out. You might want to look for the reissue. Looking at the Popsike.com site, as of late 2022 I see the three most recent sales for original copies have gone for $631, $357 and $263 - an average of $417. Spread across ten songs, that's about $42 a pop. The Shake reissue is a better deal for most of us, plus the band actually got paid for their efforts - the first time they ever saw any money for their work. = )
Jade" track listing:
1.) Prelude Willows End (Dave Smith - Jim Aumann - Randy Morse) - 6:42 rating: *** stars
One of the first things Smith and Aumann wrote, propelled by Aumann's keyboards, Randy Morse's guitar and some sweet horn charts, the instrumental opening section of 'Prelude Willows End' was a surprisingly MOR-ish pop performance that would not have sounded out of place as a television show theme. And just as you were starting to bop along, about a minute and a half end, the song shifted into a darker, orchestrated ballad with some forbidding, faux-English sounding vocals. Unfortunately, at that point the song lost much of it's melody and the multi-part vocals were just kind of flat. The horn powered closing section saw the track bounce back a little bit, but much of the damage was already done. Lots of folks see this one as the album's creative zenith. I'm not one of them.
2.) Blue Ways (Dave Smith - Jim Aumann - Randy Morse) - 3:56 rating: *** stars
Opening up with a country-tinged Morse guitar riff, 'Blue Ways' was bouncy, but a but ragged and the group vocals struggled to stay in tune. This one also suffered from a flat production sound.
3.) Well (Dave Smith - Jim Aumann - Randy Morse) - 2:24 rating: *** stars
Largely penned by Morse, 'Well' was a pretty acoustic ballad with a nice melody and strong refrain, but the flat production meant the track never really kicked in. Imagine one of those tunes on an early America album that you skipped over. Hey there was some cowbell ... Morse subsequently re-recorded the song for a solo 45.
4.) We (Got To Make It Through) (Dave Smith - Jim Aumann - Randy Morse) - 4:00 rating: **** stars
A mid-tempo rocker featuring group vocals and a sweet, breezy melody, 'We (Got To Make It Through)' was side one's standout performance. The end section of the song picked up considerable energy with the "welcome to the studio" sound effects. The track sounded like the band had opened up the studio bar and invited all of their friends to chant along on the refrain. Kind of a neat "All You Need Is Love" moment.
Side two opened up with one of the strangest songs I've ever heard. 'My Mary (More Than Ever)' featured backward tapes. Even stranger, the vocal track sounded like it had been recorded with the vocalist singing backwards. When the track was played backwards, the vocals came out normally. I know that description doesn't make much sense. Add in the sound of bubbles and you had something truly bizarre. You'll just have to check it on YouTube. Extra star for being so weird.
2.) My Honey (Dave Smith - Jim Aumann - Randy Morse) - 2:26 rating: ** stars
With a '20s music hall feel, the ballad 'My Honey' sounded like something off The New Vaudeville Band's 'Winchester Cathedral" album. Other folks have pointed to Paul McCartney's 'Honey Pie.' Clearly meant to be cute, I just found it irritating. That didn't keep GAR from floating it as an obscure single:
- 1971's 'My Honey' b/w 'My Mary (More Than Ever)' (General American catalog number GAR 323)
For some reason some copies of the original GAR pressing don't include this track (even though it shows on the liner notes track listing.)
3.) Rest of My Life (Dave Smith - Jim Aumann - Randy Morse) - 3:13 rating: ** stars
The acoustic ballad 'Rest of My Life' had a distinctive Meseybeat flavor. There was a nice Morse acoustic guitar solo, but otherwise this came off as second, or third tier Merseybeat - think along the lines of Freddie and the Dreamers, Gerry & the Pacemakers, Billy Kramer and the Coasters.
4.) All Alone (Dave Smith - Jim Aumann - Randy Morse) - 2:09 rating: ** stars
The acoustic ballad 'All Alone' found the band diving into Peter and Gordon, or Jonathan and Charles folk territory. I'm sure they'll be an audience out there for this one; it just wasn't me.
5.) Flying Away (Dave Smith - Jim Aumann - Randy Morse) - 2:23
'Flying Away ' offered up a bouncy and upbeat rocker that might have attracted some radio attention with a more distinctive vocal and more focused melody. The jarring ending was a bit disconcerting.
- 1971's 'Flying Away' b/w 'Sunshine' (General American catalog number GAR 311)
6.) Wait Till I Come Home (Dave Smith - Jim Aumann - Randy Morse) - 3:53 rating: *** stars
Showcasing Aumann on harpsichord, keyboards and vocals, 'Wait Till I Come Home' was a pretty, orchestrated ballad that would not have sounded out of place on a Raspberries, or Eric Carmen solo album. The refrain and backing vocals were lovely, recalling something out of The Bee Gees catalog. Yeah, like many Eric Carmen efforts, this one was a touch too sappy. The track was released as a promotional single:
- 1971's 'Wait Till I Come Home' b/w '' (General American catalog number GAR 314)
The band stuck together for about a year, occasionally jamming, or playing for free on a street corner. They apparently never played a date where they got paid. Following the band's collapse Aumann went back to school, getting a degree in banking and working in the industry for decades before being elected as Treasurer for Warren County, Ohio.
Nixon made a career as an ATM technician. Nixon and Root remained active on the local Cincinnati music scene.
- 1972's 'There Must Be Something' b/w 'Well' (Counterpart catalog number 3773)
He relocated to Nashville and made a career in the technology industry.
In 2014 Darren Blase's Cincinnati-based Shake It Records reached out to Aumann and the band, obtaining rights to reissue the collection. Here's a link to an article by Steven Rosen in the Cincinnati's The Enquirer: The forgotten ’70s band Jade gets a new life (cincinnati.com)
Here's a link to December, 2014 article Brian Baker wrote for the CityBeat paper:
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