The band Jack is no more but Anthony Reynolds side-project Jacques is still – for the moment at least – producing gorgeous sounds via his latest obscure record label. Roses For Ashes is an EP rather than an album but somehow the innovation and variety of music on offer within give it a dignity greater than its size would seem to warrant.
Jacques was always essentially a solo project, Reynolds pairing up with various artists (not necessarily purely musical) that interested him or matched his current literary tastes. Here he brings Richard Bell on board for guitar and keyboard duties, with old Jack partner Matthew Scott on acoustic guitar for one track, previous Jacques collaborator and ex-Divine Comedy bassist Bryan Mills for another.
The surprise guest this time is Midori, “a particularly lovely Japanese girl, as I recall…” according to Reynolds. The title track is the shortest, and it consists of Midori reading Reynolds’ poem of the same name – in Japanese – against a gorgeous ethereal background from another (unreleased) song, We Let It Go. It’s short, it’s beautiful and it stops you in your tracks.
There are only four other tracks, and they could almost serve as a sampler of Reynolds’ musical styles to date. Tuesday’s Child (written by Leonard d’Onofrio, the only song not written by Reynolds) is a yearning love song. The incomparable voice is in good nick as it floats warm and melancholy above strings, piano and gentle flute – “I’ll stay by your side / ’til this true love passes by / babe I’m just along for the ride”.
Banished By The Underground, Hunted By The Overground Is much more Jack in feel, a dark and mysterious song that harks back to The Jazz Age and the sense of a wanderer in a hostile cityscape. An insistent, frenetic bass backing is draped with haunting vocals and strings.
Silverblues is pure Jacques, a bare and beautiful song. Reynolds accompanying his own voice with nothing more than acoustic guitar – “You’ll use me as I choose / a sane and superman / this cliché’s biggest fan / my sneaky misty friend / you’ll drive me round the bend…” All of a sudden you get a break of “What the world needs now is love, sweet love” – and then it’s back to the heartbreaking lyrics again. Typical of quirky Reynolds at his best.
Back to Jack playing jokes for Butterbaby, foreign radio stations playing in the background as the song rollicks along, a cross between pure pop and country dragging you along with it whether you like it or not.
Anthony Reynolds is now living the country life and incubating his next incarnation – “currently at pupa stage”. It can’t help but be interesting, so let’s hope it doesn’t take too long. You never know, the next one might even sell records – though if Pioneer Soundtracks and The Jazz Age didn’t, it does make you wonder what he has to do to break through.