Thursday, June 2, 2022

JONES STREET "Out Of The Gutter"


(c) 2022 Eonian Records

  1. Dancin' With The Devil
  2. Tell Me Why
  3. What Comes Around
  4. Thieves Of Love
  5. Take Your Love
  6. Razor To My Wrist
  7. When It All Comes Down
  8. Won't Be Forgotten
  9. F**k Authority
  10. On The Edge (demo)
Shawn Crosby--Lead Vocals
Jonny Jones--Guitars, Backing Vocals
Mickey Perez--Guitars, Backing Vocals
John (JJ) Jauregui--Bass, Backing Vocals
Rob Hanna--Drums (1, 2, 4, 5 & 10)
Anthony Focx--Drums (3, 6, 7, 8, 9)

Additional Musicians
Carmen Appice--Backing Vocals on "Thieves Of Love"
Jimmy Bain--Backing Vocals on "Thieves Of Love"
Wade Williams--Backing Vocals on "Thieves Of Love"

The current trend is for a lot of "retro labels" to dig around in the smoldering remains following the atomic bomb of grunge to see if there is something worth giving a second shot to.  Most of the time we are thrown a nostalgic bone with a package from a regional band or one-hit wonder act that had a handful of demos or independent records that were "the hottest band in Hollywood" according to the releasing label's press.  But, if we are really honest with ourselves, there are a really just a handful of albums from that collision between Hollywood and Seattle that had the potential to be scene-stealers, in my mind.  Most of those involved bands arriving on the scene just a year or two too late. Sure, there are several SONGS from various bands that I think could have been big hits, but if honesty is the goal, and not just nostalgia, there aren't a vast number of albums that likely could have just lit the hard rock world on fire had grunge not exploded...or had the band not imploded.  Again, if we're being honest, by 1991, a lot of labels were just throwing hair band after hair band against the wall to see who would stick and become the "next big thing", although, as we are all well aware of, NOTHING really stuck after Nirvana and Pearl Jam hit the scene.  But, there were a few really, really good debut records that should have, could have, would launched careers had something been even slightly different for the band.  I'm talking about albums where the band had the look, the sound, the songs, and the talent to make it BIG.  Wildside's Under The Influence (1992) comes immediately to mind.  Bangalore Choir's On Target (also 1992) is another. I'd even throw in Tuff's What Comes Around Goes Around (late 1991), and the massively underrated Sledgehammer Ledge self-titled debut album (1994) into the mix.  And now, with the re-release of this killer collection from Eonian Records, I think all fans will agree that Jones Street should be in that mix!

These ten tracks, all recorded between 1990 and 1994, weren't given a proper release until...get this...2008 on their long-out-of-print Dancin' With The Devil album, which is virtually impossible to find at a decent price these days.  I managed to snag one in a trade about a decade ago, and instantly fell in love with the sleaze-drenched hard rock of this quintet, so when Eonian announced they were going to reissue it in remastered and repackaged form, I was absolutely stoked!

As soon as I hit play on my copy of the album, it was instant remembrance of why this band was so great!  The first three tracks alone showcase the skill, the power, and the songwriting ability of this 5 man band, with each track bringing something different to the musical table.  The title track from the original release, "Dancin' With The Devil" kicks things off with a sinister, sleazy guitar intro and the wickedly sneering vocals of Crosby, who really and truly had it all in terms of sound, style, and sass.  Part Phil Lewis (LA Guns), part Taime Downe (Faster Pussycat), and part Drew Hannah (Wildside), Crosby's voice is the demon at the wheel of this tricked-out sleaze machine, and his dominant performance here, and elsewhere on the record, is truly something to treat your ears to.  Not to be outdone are the guitar acrobatics of Jones and Perez, who present themselves as a force to be reckoned with at all times on this record.  Here, the interplay between the rhythm guitars and the leads is excellent, and the remastering done on this Eonian release (more on that later) really cleans up the sonics nicely.  Add in the bruising bass work from JJ and the frantic skin-bashing from Hana, and you have a monstrous opening track that will likely have just about every new listener hooked from the get-go.

"Tell Me Why" throws an immediate curveball to the listener with its steel guitar intro and more laid-back sonic approach, Jones Street proves itself to be more than a one-trick pony.  Crosby slips into Dizzy Dean (Britny Fox) mode here and there on this decidedly more radio-friendly track that even features a mandolin in the mix, giving it a cool, bluesy feel that sets it apart from so much of the scorching street rock that surrounds it.

Speaking of which, "What Comes Around" blasts the band right back into full-sleaze mode with a fast and dirty rhythm guitar riff, some seriously aggressive cymbal bashing, and plenty of sass and sneer from Crosby.  The gang vocals on the chorus section are every bit as nasty as they should be, never sounding highly polished or endlessly layered, but rather jagged-edged and raw and gritty, exactly as they should be.

"Thieves of Love" is the first of two ballads on the album, and like it or not, it had to happen as the big lighter-in-the-air power ballad was still the darling of MTV when the first couple of tracks on this album were originally recorded.  Despite the song's musical stylings, lyrically this is still Jones Street sleaze, with a "love 'em, leave 'em, move onto the next town" attitude toward the "love" these guys were seeking while on tour.  Jones inserts an excellent, emotive string-bender of a solo here, and even when he is trying to sound tender and emotional, Crosby simply can't erase the snarly rasp from his voice...or likely the evil glint in his he croons to the Miss Right-now that is his love of the moment.  Not exactly slow dance at the prom lyrics, but definitely fool around after the prom music sure to steam up some windows.

"Take Your Love" sets things back into full-throttle rocking mode, minus a brief bridge section that finds the band backing off just a bit to allow Crosby to experiment with a basically spoken-word section, which works just fine.  "Razor To My Wrist" starts off with some serious guitar grinding that leads the listener to believe a full-on metal assault may be in the offing, but the song morphs into more of a mid-tempo rocker on the verse sections before punching things up on the chorus stretches.  Crosby is at his vocal best here, employing various segments of his range and altering his delivery style from a more controlled singing approach to a full-throated snarl, and Jones and Perez rip and tear with their dual-axe attack.  This is one song that I have always found myself drawn back to time and time again; there's just something about the way the song is structured that keeps drawing me back, despite the fact that there is still something of a demo quality to the recording (according to the notes, this was done in a rehearsal studio, and not in a full-blown recording studio).  In fact, maybe it is this more raw sound that draws me in so much.  Regardless of why, I simply love this track and the remastered version here does boost the sound and sonic quality of the track noticably.

Speaking of "rehearsal studio" material, the next track, "When It All Comes Down" is of the same quality...for the same reason.  To me, that shows even more just how skilled this band was, because this is an excellent bluesy ballad with some serious solo work from Jones laid across an otherwise acoustic-guitar driven track.  The drum line here is rather basic, as is typically the case with a ballad such as this, but man, that fully-amped lead guitar is something to behold!  I can't help but wonder what this would have sounded like in full-studio mode, but this version is no slouch, to be sure.

"We Won't Be Forgotten" is back to fully-produced studio material, and this is an absolute banger!  The real treat here are the vicious backing vocals on the chorus which add an urgency that simply has to be heard.  Stylistically, the song reminds me of a Skid Row track (or more precisely, a Sledgehammer Ledge track, which is like a violent, angry Skid Row, but most people don't know who Sledgehammer Ledge is, so...), with some wicked guitar work from Jones and Perez, rock-solid drums from Focx, and the most powerful vocals that Crosby delivers on the entire record in terms of sheer sonic force and upper-range screaming.  This is a serious fist-in-the-air anthem that had to be a blast to be a part of live.

Every bit as sleazy and rebellious as its title would imply, "F**k Authority" is a high-speed, sleaze-punk metallic assault on the senses.  Once again, think of the most aggressive Skid Row material you can, get just a bit nastier with it, and you have a pretty good idea of what you are being blasted with here.  Much like "We Won't Be Forgotten", I can guarantee this was a live setting favorite that likely had a mosh pit swirling the second Crosby shouted the title from the stage.  

The Eonian Records release includes a demo version of a track not found on the original release called "On The Edge", which is another scorching rocker that finds Crosby absolutely screaming his way through the chorus sections while backing off just enough to be categorized as singing the verses.  Once again, the guitar tandem of Jones and Perez is a powerful force, but in this demo form, it is a bit harder to pick out the separation between the guitars.  I believe Jones is the driving force behind the big solo that leads into the final chorus run, and once again he shows that he was every bit the talent of his stylistic peers of the late 80s/early 90s.  Focx is a monster behind the kit on this one, and JJ's bass, while a bit harder to pick up in the mix, is still a presence that I think would have been bolstered more with full production.  Again, the band and label fully admit to this being a demo track, but I have to say it is a really good demo that would have definitely found space on a proper album release had the music scene not imploded as it did in 1991-92.

Two tracks from Dancin' With The Devil were not included here, with both "Out On Skid Row" and "The Word" (also known as "The Word F**k") omitted.  The loss of "The Word" is of no significance, it was just comedic intro that has nothing to do with the actual album, and the band collectively decided to remove it from this new effort.  As to "Out On Skid Row", that song was actually never even a Jones Street track, and only Crosby performed on it with an entirely different band (Orphan).  Again, with Jones Street not actually being the performer on that track, the band decided to cut it as well, opting instead to add "On The Edge" in its demo form.  

As is typically the case, the packaging on this release from Eonian is superb!  The booklet has numerous photographs, songwriting info, credits, and a nice retrospective look at the history of the band.  Check out just a couple of pages from the booklet below.

Additionally, the remastering job done by drummer Focx is stellar.  To my ear, Focx really cleaned up the mix, gave the bottom end a boost, and really allows the instruments and vocals to separate much more cleanly than on the original release.  While I don't have the analytical equipment a lot of people seem to employ on social media these days to point out the flaws in remastered releases, to me, this is obviously not just a "bump up the volume/max out the EQ" remaster job by any stretch.  This is some solid work done here by a guy who, as a member of the band, had real reason to care about the outcome, and it shows to me.

Even if you happen to be, like me, one of the luck people who have known about Jones Street for a few years now, and who happen to already own Dancin' With The Devil, it is well worth the investment to snag this Out Of The Gutter remaster/reissue.  Regardless of the omission of one song (and one intro), every other thing on this Eonian release is done better than on the original.  In the end, I think many of you will agree with me in my assessment that had the timing been even slightly better, Jones Street's one and only release would likely have made a solid impact in the hard rock/hair metal/sleaze metal scene of the late 80s.  What a difference just a couple of years made for these guys who coulda/woulda/shoulda been much, much bigger!

Rating:  Oh so crankable!  This is a dang-near perfect 9.5 for me!