I make no apology for copying wholesale my introduction to Jo Harman, which appeared when I reviewed her 5/5 Doodle Paw mini album, Signature Soul, nor I do not apologise for repeating the plea at the end…so, if you aren’t familiar with this lady:
Jo knows how to look after her fans: I count myself among them and, to give you an example, I bought Jo Harman’s superb 2012 album, Dirt On My Tongue, direct from her website and took the value packed option of the special USB with the “Dirty Demos” on. It cost only a little more and yet I got nifty credit card thing that (once I discovered how to flip it open) supplies a bakers dozen of demos and additional tracks (including one of the few versions of Whiter Shade of Pale that doesn’t induce catalepsy)…plus it was adorned by the rather sultry picture from the album cover…hey I’m a red blooded male! I make a point to buy from the artist’s site whenever possible as they make more money, and therefore more music, than the pitiful amounts the streaming, tax evaders and download sites pay them.
If you haven’t heard Jo’s work then you really should…the way she marries soul, blues, rock and gospel is always a treat. This Luton born, Brighton music college alumnus is a force that should be lauded, applauded and recognised by a much wider audience.
Her latest release is a retrospective from 2011 when, as Jo Harman and Company, they graced the stage at the Hideaway Jazz Club in London. It saw only a limited release and, until now, Jo has been reluctant to re-release it…the good news is she has and, although she says; “[it’s] actually nothing but a jam and you can hear me, inexperienced as I was, calling off the cues throughout the songs,” Jo and the unrehearsed band supply scorching covers and reveal the first inklings of her own prodigious writing talent.
The vinyl and single CD is the record of that special night, Live At The Hideaway, and opens with the first of four originals: Through The Night opens proceedings with a lovely, almost Free style, bluesy riff and then Jo joins in; a little tentative at first, we soon get an idea of the considerable vocal range, emotion and talent that was just beginning. The band are rather good too, considering the lack of time for rehearsals they keep everything tight and the keys and guitar are perfect…the keyboard solo is followed by an equally imaginative guitar solo. Heartstring, Sweet Man Moses and Better Woman appeared on the phenomenon that was her studio debut, Dirt On My Tongue and, although they changed a bit by the time they were studio recorded they still have the structure, depth and control of the later versions: Heartstring, for example, has a slightly slower tempo and a more keyboard intro, rather than the chorded guitar but, with songs this good, it is great for fans to have such different but equally good versions.
Bless Ma Soul and Summer Breeze were on the lovely Dirty Demos extra mentioned in the introduction but are from different shows and so are still worth getting. Sideways is a Citizen Cope song (no, me neither) which I suffered the original of an the net, so that I could compare…the guitar is similar but then Jo (in my opinion) lifts the vocals onto another plane altogether and, as the band join in, it becomes a soulful slice of blues that, in these hands, actually works. Move Over appeared on the immortal Pearl album by Janis Joplin (of course) and Slade did a more than acceptable version (on Slayed) but Jo and the band take the pace of Slade and the power and emotion of Janis and make it a fitting tribute as well as as yet another indication of the voice and talent on offer across Jo’s catalogue.
If you buy the 2CD package, the second CD brings a sort of overview of the range, talent and ability that Jo brings to any song; be it original or brave and fabulous covers such as I Can’t Stand The Rain. Now, apart from the brilliant Bowes and Morley and Paul Rodgers versions this was always a ‘switch it off’ song for me…now I have a third version to relish. This live version from Jo blueses up the intro with great bass and chord work and then the tension builds as the vocals reach the crescendo of the chorus…lovely. Live also is a Beatles via Joe Cocker song; Little Help From My Friends will always be Joe’s in many minds; well now it is Jo’s as well as the band stay faithful and dramatic and the vocals may not have gruff and warble attached, they have clarity and a crystalline beauty that will send shivers down your spine. For quality blues rock try the live version of Underneath the River or for heartbreaking, emotion drenched blues listen to Song. One of my favourites has to be the freeform Feelin’ Alright (Acoustic Jam) as piano, brushed drums, bass and guitar combine to deliver a fascinating backdrop to another great performance from Jo: a measure of it is that the seven minutes is not long enough…the solos are brilliant too.
In summary then, no matter which package you decide to go with, you will get a high quality set from an accomplished band and a stunning vocalist…if you can afford it, then just buy them all!
Bluesdoodles rating: 5 doodle Paws – a stupendous live album that shows naivety to an extent but more importantly, shows a significant talent backed by a superb band on the road to success…just not the level that she deserves…yet.
Through The Night
Bless Ma Soul
Sweet Man Mose
(bonus live recordings and one studio acoustic)
I Can’t Stand The Rain
Little Help From My Friends
Underneath The River
To facilitate timings the running order is different on the vinyl:
Through The Night – Summer Breeze – Bless Ma Soul – Sideways
Move Over – Heartstring – Sweet Man Moses – Better Woman
Jo Harman: vocals
Michael Mayfield: guitar
John Michael McKenzie: bass
Stevie Watts: keyboards
Martin Johnson: drums
Available on CD now; on vinyl from 1st August (As always, I recommend supporting the artist by buying direct and there are some fantastic deals available (pity I already own them all or I’d be buying too); check out Jo’s website shop https://joharman.com/product/live-at-hideaway) and, while you’re there, get full details on her October/November UK tour.
(iTunes moved on to more Jo from Dirty Demos and Soul Signature but eventually began playing Joanna Connor and her guitar skills on the excellent 4801 South Indiana Avenue, then Joanne Broh, then Joanne Shaw Taylor…must be something in the name!)