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Thursday, January 31, 2013

Jeff Clark - Just Visiting

Jeff Clark -Just Visiting
2012, Jeff Clark
If you haven’t heard of Jeff Clark before, don’t be surprised.  He’s an example of the kind of talent it takes to be a music superstar, but perhaps just never quite gets the right break.  Instead, Clark is a local legend in the Austin, Texas scene.  With his former band Too Smooth, Clark was a contemporary of ZZ Top, Johnny & Edgar Winter, Steve Miller and Steven Stills.  Over the years, Clark has shared the stage with the likes of Rush, Aerosmith, The Kinks, Ted Nugent and Judas Priest, to name a few.  Clark’s latest effort is to revisit some of his best material from over the years, with the help of some old friends.  Just Visiting found Clark working with old band mates and friends, including Brian Wooten (Trace Adkins); Danny Swinny (Suede); Tommy Taylor (Eric Johnson) and Mark Miller (Bubble Puppy).

Clark kicks things off with a blast of 1980's goodness in the form of "We Can Make It", with the help of guest vocalist Christopher Cross. The guitar and synth driven sound falls somewhere between Asia and late Genesis. "Soon You Will Be My Girl" has a definite pop sensibility, and the vocal triads are a perfect reminder of the AOR radio days. Clark sinks further back into the early 1970's with "Mamie Mama", featuring some slinky guitar work and an irrepressible beat.

"Everything With You" is a piano driven ballad full of deep melancholy. Clark's vocal weaknesses are exposed here, particularly on slow passages that climb into his upper register. In spite of these limitations he does a solid job. The sound quality here is not as good as elsewhere on the album, however. "Believe In Me", by contrast, sounds more slickly produced. The guitar work and vocal style here are typical of the classic rock era, and Clark does it all with working class flair. "You Are My Life" is a heartfelt ballad that sounds like first dance material. The lyrical turns here are a tad awkward at times as Clark dances with cliché, but the song is heartfelt and well presented.

Clark and his band strap on their jet packs for "Tonight", a high energy rock and roll love song with a chorus that will get stuck in your noggin and stay there. "I've Got You" is a solid album track that continues Clark fascination with love songs classic and atypical. The darker quality of the arrangement is nice, and once again brings to mind Asia.  “Trilogy” digs deep into the 1960’s for Beatles-esque sound, but updated with twangy country-style guitar.  This is a nice listen; it doesn’t bowl you over but helps build an appreciation for Clark’s subtle talent as a songwriter, composer and guitarist.
Heart-felt sentiment and a touch of schmaltz come together in perfect measure on “25 Years Later”, celebrating the longevity of love and also the blessings of a God who would bring together so perfect for one another.  This prayerful element to the song may be a turn off to some listeners, but it’s as heartfelt as the love Clark expresses for his wife.  Clark closes things out with “Man Of Fortune”, a reminder that Grace plays a greater role in our destiny than talent or even luck.  The solid classic rock arrangement is reminiscent of Canadian rocker Kim Mitchell, and the groove is a solid one that you can dance to.
While not necessarily billed as a greatest hits package, Just Visiting definitely fills the bill as one.  Jeff Clark is a hidden gem, the sort of musical talent you want to text your friends about.  Or perhaps you’re a hipster and want to keep him to yourself.  Either way, Just Visiting is an album you’ll visit again and again. 
Rating: 4 Stars (Out of 5)
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1 comment:

Jay Dubya said...

I agree with Wildy World's assessment of "Just Visiting". It is a good assortment of songs demonstrating Jeff Clark's abilities as both musician, vocalist and song writer. I think his music speaks for itself. What I do want to comment on is how the sound quality varies from song to song.

I participated somewhat with the production-end of this CD. The tracks were not all products of modern recording studios, though several certainly were. Neither are the tracks all contemporary in origin.

The Wildy's World review was positive, except for that of "Everything With You". This particular recording was made in the mid-70's by Jeff Clark while recuperating from pneumonia. Some down-time resulted and Jeff did some solo recording on a 4-track to get some songs he was working on down on tape. He chose this particular song to be here more of a demonstration of his song writing, in spite of the "vocal weaknesses" referred to by Windy's World.

I think Jeff Clark's music speaks for itself. I love these songs and appreciate that they are available to be enjoyed by all.