J.C. (aka Jimmy Curtiss)
Band members Related acts
line up 1 (1970)
- Jimmy Curtiss (aka James Stulberger, aka Jimmy Evans
(RIP 2022) -- vocals, rhythm guitar
- Bob Abrahams -- guitar
- Billy Elminger -- bass
- Jerry Vance -- keyboards
- John Trivers -- bass
- Jan Williams -- rhythm guitar
- Howie Wyeth -- drums, percussion
- Albert (Bob Abrahams, Billy Elminger, Jerry Vance, and
- The Bag
- The Enjays
Rating: 3 stars ***
Country/State: Queens, New York
Grade (cover/record): NM/NM
Comments: still in shrink wrap
Catalog ID: 5590
As an avid vinyl collector, the late Jimmy Curtiss is one of those names I've regularly come across in association with different groups including The Bag, The Jon Bartle Group, The Hobbits, Velvet Night, etc.. He's also one of those rock enigmas - not a great deal of information available about the man and he seems to savor maintaining some degree of privacy around his persona.
One of the first releases on Curtiss' own New York based Perception label (in spite of the catalog number it wasn't the first release), 1971's "Life" reinforced his penchant for anonymity. As to be expected there was nothing on the album that said 'here's my solo album debut'. True the initials "J.C." appeared on the title and that entity was credited with playing rhythm guitar, but that was pretty much it for the personal information. Moreover all nine tracks were co-written by 'Curtiss'. Oh, the murky black and white cover photo also appeared to be the notoriously reclusive Mr. Curtiss. Sure looked like the guy fronting The Hobbits.
The album was apparently released with an alternative cover. I'm not sure which version came first. I'm guessing the color version was replaced by the black and white cover in order to protect Curtiss' privacy. I've never seen a copy of the alternative LP and don't know if there are any differences in terms of the material. Regardless, you can get a quick peak of the reclusive Mr. Curtiss.
Given Curtiss earlier work which included releasing numerous 45s as a teenaged crooner and his pop-psych with The Hobbits, you couldn't help but wonder what this 'solo' outing actually sounded like. Always aware of musical trends and popular tastes, this time around Curtiss' focus area seemed to be the sensitive singer/songwriter arena. Perhaps that shouldn't have come as a major surprise since he'd enjoyed his biggest commercial success with the hyper-sensitive 'Child of Clay' which Jimmie Rodgers had previously taken into the top-40. Opening up the album, Curtiss' own version wasn't all that different from the hit. Yeah, the song was incredibly sappy, but I'll admit to liking the wah-wah touches. Elsewhere the album sought to touch all of those important 1960s counter-culture highlights, including a nod to San Francisco ('San Francisco Do You Remember Me'), dysfunctional in the American family ('Sunday Son'), and culminating in the anti-Vietnam/anti-society 'Johnny Get Your Gun' and 'Lack 'o' Testicle Blues'. Yeah the set was far from perfect and was probably a real danger to anyone with anger management issues. Still I'll admit to like the collection; personal favorites were the funky (!) 'Where Can I Hide' and 'You Can't Tell a Man By the Song He Sings'. Needless trivia, but Curtiss' first-rate backing band featured guitarist Bob Abrahams, bassist Billy Elminger, keyboardist Jerry Vance and drummer Howie Wyeth who had recorded an album for Perception under the name Albert.
"Life" track listing:
1.) Child of Clay (Jimmy Curtiss - Ernie Maresca) - 5:57 rating: *** stars
Jimmie Rodgers took his cover of 'Child of Clay' into the top-40 back in 1967. The Curtis rendition really didn't sound all that different to my ears. Equally hyper-sensitive and the arrangement was virtually identical.
2.) Where Can I Hide (Jimmy Curtiss - Green - Marcia Hillman) - 4:21 rating: **** stars
Because it found Curtiss toughening up his sound, 'Where Can I Hide' was one of the standout performances. It was also interesting for showing Curtiss' voice was capable of handling tougher, rock-tinged numbers. Funny, but what I initially thought was a guitar wah wah effect was apparently Curtiss mimicking a guitar
3.) Francesca (Jimmy Curtiss - Wexler - Marcia Hillman) - 4:05 rating: ** stars
'Francesca' found Curtiss taking a stab at being a Tim Buckley/Tim Hardin/Phil Ochs-styled folkie. The song was pretty enough in an MOR fashion and had a nice acoustic guitar solo, but strings were sappy and the spoken word segments were simply embarrassing.
4.) San Francisco Do You Remember Me (Pollock - Jimmy Curtiss) - 4:30 rating: **** stars
And of course where would any early 1970s musician be without at least one ode to San Francisco - in this case 'San Francisco Do You Remember Me'. In spite of the lame subject matter the song was actually pretty good - nice melody and some tasteful wah-wha guitar.
5.) Lack 'o' Testicle Blues (Sell - Jimmy Curtiss) - 6:33 rating: *** stars
Complete with "not to be programmed" warning, 'Lack 'o' Testicle Blues' came off as second-rate Country Joe and the Fish. Every time I hear the song I think of a 'G' version of the Fish chant. 'Johnny Get Your Gun'.
As much as I want to dislike 'Sunday Son', the tune had a nice refrain and having been a divorced parent, I can kind of identify with the lyrics.
2.) You Can't Tell a Man By the Song He Sings (Jimmy Curtiss - Marcia Hillman) - 5:25 rating: **** stars
You Can't Tell a Man By the Song He Sings' was another atypical up-tempo rocker and another winner. Always loved Billy Elminger's raw bass lines. The strumming acoustic guitar has always reminded me of something off a Shocking Blues album.
3.) Johnny Get Your Gun (Pollock - Jimmy Curtiss) - 3:35 rating: *** stars
Nice ,if somewhat dated time peace ... I actually like this one better than 'Lack 'o' Testicle Blues'. Kudos to Perception for tapping it as a single (knowing it was guaranteed to attract zero exposure)..
- 1969's 'Johnny Get Your Gun' b/w 'For What I Am' (Perception catalog number P-2)
4.) He was My Father (Jimmy Curtiss - Marcia Hillman) - 4:45 rating: ** stars
Guessing this one might have been autobiographical ... Pretty refrain; sappy lyric - many of us have the same experiences. After all, Mom and Dad got to pay those bills and ultimately you shouldn't allow yourself to be a complete reflection of your parents.
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