This album would crop up now and then in op shops and I bought it on a whim (many years ago) because I liked the mood conveyed in the cover art.
Reading up on Jake I found he was the author and original performer of "Dazed and Confused" made famous by Led Zeppelin (though Led Zeppelin did not credit Holmes with authorship of the song till much later).
There is no shame in not knowing that.
I recall putting the album to one side and thinking I must listen to that soon … and then years and years pass.
To this point.
In the mean time I had bought Holmes' "How Much Time" album from 1971 which I liked. I was convinced but not totally convinced.
Jake Holmes has his faithful fans but he also has his naysayers, and reputable naysayers as well.
I suspect that's why he doesn't have a higher profile.
When The Velvet Underground, The Monks, The Sonics, Big Star or any number of other bands who were never really big during their existence received cult fame later the hard core fans and the critics both agreed on them.
Jake Holmes doesn't have that.
Worse still, he went on to become a very successful writer of jingles for commercials.
We want our cult heroes tortured and on the brink of poverty it would seem..
Because we, generally, like to think of music is an art.
Art it can be, but it can also communicate and pass on information, ideas and feelings in less artful ways, it can make you want to dance, or tap your feet and, of course, it can also be disposable.
Jake crossed a number of lines which you are no supposed to cross, which makes perfect sense when you look at his background but doesn't endear him to tastemakers.
He was thoughtful but wrote pop.
He was a folk singer but he sang to sweetly and sentimentally.
His pop was quirky with elements of jazz, country, theatre and trad music blurring the edges but he liked strings. MOR stylings and mawkishishness.
He had a poet streak but not a poets disposition.
He was hip but he was kind of square.
Led Zeppelin were inspired by him but he wrote an album of songs for Frank Sinatra, and an album for The Four Seasons.
To me he is just a younger rock era Rod McKuen or a more pop David Ackles and I like both of them.
Holmes was born in san Francisco in 1939 and had a career before going solo. See below for longer, straightforward biographical details because the guy has done a lot.
This succinct career resume from The Church's Marty Wilson-Piper is good though because in pinpoints Jake strengths and failings, or what people perceive to be his strengths and failings: " In 1967 as that era’s hipsters were growing their hair, many acts striving to be part of the or any musical revolution of the day fell into line. It might not be fair to call Jake Holmes conservative and less kind to call him opportunistic but his journey to this point wasn’t what you would expect. He began in a Folk parody duo with his wife Katherine and when they broke up was in a comedy trio that included…wait for it, Joan Rivers. But his debut Tower records album sounds like any other young singer/songwriter from that period that didn’t make it. Despite fitting in, both The Above Ground Sound Of Jake Holmes released in 1967 and his second album (dealing with his divorce with his wife), A Letter to Katherine December released in 1968, fell into obscurity … But Jake Holmes was something of a wit, calling his album The Above Ground Sound Of… in contrast to ‘The Underground Sound ‘ of the day was the observation of a bright and talented thinker that just missed the hipster boat by being born too late – in 1967, Holmes would have been 28. In 1969, signed to Polydor he released, Jake Holmes followed by, So Close, So Very Far To Go in 1970, the latter reached No.135 on the US chart and the single, So Close No.49. In 1971 changing labels again he signed to Columbia and released How Much Time and that was pretty much it for his solo musical career … But interestingly Holmes was surviving through unlikely connections. He seemed to be able to place ideas in other people’s heads".
This is Jake's fourth album and he recorded it in Nashville. It is folky singer-songwriter and very slick. The musicianship is excellent, as you would expect, from the Nashville session men hired. There is a tendency to MOR with strings and whatnot but Holmes wasn't adverse to that and that's where the sound was going. It's not dissimilar to Bergen White who was recording around the same time if you crossed him with Jim Croce.
What I find most intriguing is the subversiveness of it all. A sound that is pop and clean has other little bits of quirky musicianship going on around the edges which disarm you whilst the lyrics are "deeper" and more topical than what you normally get in straight pop.
All songs by Jake Holmes.
Tracks (best in italics)
- So Close – This is big pop with strings and horns everywhere. It is undeniably catchy. Rock it ain't, big pop it is. It has been covered a few times … Christine Smith (1971), Harry Belafonte (1973), Mary Travers (1974) and Euson (1975)
- A Little Comfort – more straight singer-songwriter with a touch of David Ackles in the lyrics.
- I Sure Like Her Song – a great tune with some great organ work. This sounds like something Paul Simon was doing in the mid-70s.
- We're All We've Got – A protest song with a gentle funky back beat which is never going to pass for "black" but it was never meant to..
- Her Song – more David Ackles type stuff, and quite good.
- So Very Far To Go – a beautiful gentle folky singer-songwriter song.
- The Paris Song – Covered by Harry Belafonte (1971) and Euson (1971).
- I Remember Sunshine – a country flavoured romp. It's not real country but it wasn't meant to be.
- Django & Friend – a dramatic, beautiful song with jazz asides and another one that sounds like Paul Simon has listened to it (and perhaps Sting).
- Population – a pop psych protest song. Groovy it is, heavy it's not. It works though.
The album may be criticized but it works on me. It would work for cocktail parties (if I had hosted any …maybe it's time) … I'm keeping it.
1970 So Close The Billboard Hot 100 #49
I Sure Like Her Song
- For the saga on the song "Dazed and Confused" – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dazed_and_Confused_(song)
- Holmes also worked in a folk rock group with fellow folk-rock singer/songwriter Tim Rose before going solo. Rose has said the group was called The Feldmans but Hiolmes recalls the group as Tim Rose and The Thorns.
- Muscians here:
Arranged By [String & Horn] – Bob Freedman
Drums, Percussion – Kenneth Buttrey
Electric Bass, Acoustic Bass – Norbert Putnam
Lead Guitar, Arranged By – Teddy Irwin
Pedal Steel Guitar – Weldon Myrick
Piano, Organ – David Briggs
Rhythm Guitar – Jake Holmes
Violin, Soloist – Buddy Spicher