espite the fact that I still don’t own his entire catalog, I’m saddened by Jude Cole’s apparent decision to record others’ music instead of creating more of his own.
This morning as I was taking Russia Saturn to work Jude put a smile on my face with my favorite track off “Start the Car”—”First Your Money (Then Your Clothes)”
A simple tale of misguided affections is accompanied by simple but effective music. One of the first things that struck me when I was learning the song was that the bass (my starting point) isn’t doing anything other than the root note of each chord: bom, bom, bom, bom instead of a rockabilly shuffle or alternating country bass or some complicated rock riff.
The album’s opening with the crunch of the title track strongly reinforces the laid back country feel of the rest of the album. “First Your Money” has the same kind of wryly amusing lyrics you might find in the work of Brad Paisley or even Roger Miller:
My mom said, "Son, it won't last She'll be gone when you're out of cash." Hey, Mom, I need a ride back home
We stopped to wish upon a star She stole my breath; she stole my car
And one more:
Oh, no, love ain't cheap There's a tollbooth up on lover's leap
Just as “Start the Car” is aggressive without being angry, “First Your Money” is more about lessons learned than some tragedy about love gone wrong. For my money it’s a better message.
ude Cole writes lyrics that satisfy me emotionally. While he claims to be just another happy guy, he has an intuitive grasp of misery. When you feel the need to get teary-eyed, Cole can do the trick as well as any.
His album “” is a great blend of solid rock tunes and heart-wrenching ballads. Backed by Jeff Porcaro and Leland Sklar (among others) Cole turns in an impressive performance as a guitarist as well as a lyricist and singer.
- “Hallowed Ground” – In a snappy electric tune, we’re introduced right away to so many aspects of the performer – lyrics which actually qualify as poetry; vocals unpretentious but heartfelt; multiple layers of guitars, acoustic, electric, slide; all wrapped around the feeling that no matter how badly you want it, you can never go back.
- “Baby, It’s Tonight” – One of only two of Cole’s songs I’ve ever heard on the radio, a stronger keyboard influence (provided by Dave Tyson, occasional Doobie Brother) implies a quieter tune, but the chorus dispels any illusions of a bland pop tune. Excellent engineering gives depth by overlaying vocals on echoed vocals and other subtle effects. The lyrics could easily be taken as a sexual advance, but the rest of the album, and in fact, Cole’s body of work, suggests something less physical, more emotional.
- “House Full Of Reasons” – With a piano constantly struggling for attention, Jude sings about the torture of living somewhere he’s no longer loved. The lyrics paint a painful picture of the little things that seem so important when the big things go wrong.
- “Get Me Through The Night” – We’re so conditioned to expect the lowest common denominator from modern musicians that it’s easy to dismiss a song with a title like this without realizing that, rather than a come-on in the local bar, it’s a prayer for strength. Initially strongly acoustic, the chorus is shouted over a handful of electric guitars. The tune finishes with a guitar solo, repeated chorus, and one final scream of agony.
- “Time For Letting Go” – About how hard it is to accept an unpleasant reality. “It’s time for letting go, we can’t hide what we both know.” A simple straightforward tune, Jude’s singing (both lead and multitrack backing vocals) carry it without the need for fancy musicianship.
- “Stranger To Myself” – A glimpse at a darker side of the man, ‘Stranger to Myself’ is about obsessive love (if it can be called that); an overwhelming need to possess someone regardless of the consequences. More edge than most of Cole’s songs, with an interesting guitar solo of lower notes instead of the usual high-pitched squeals we’ve come to expect from rock guitarists.
- “This Time It’s Us” – An a capella intro softens this piece about realizing it can happen to us. Lyrical despair without respite; a warmup to “Compared to Nothing.”
- “Heart Of Blues” – A blues-rock howler Stevie Ray or Eric could be proud of. Riveting acoustic guitar and a tapping foot are joined by Jude’s voice: “Well I’m tired of losing you; I’m so tired of losing you. The way you come and go, you must be wearing out your shoes!” Another acoustic guitar, snapping fingers, and more of the multilayered vocals we’ve begun to expect. The second verse adds drums and electric guitars, but it’s the slide guitar solo that makes the song truly memorable. Short and punchy, it starts with a few short sweeps up and down the neck of the guitar, a few runs sideways across it, some amazing vibrato and a final run all the way down to the bottom. Makes my hands sweat just to listen to it. Final verse, another solo, fade to black.
- “Compared To Nothing” – This time, the piano establishes early dominance and never gives in. A slow sad ballad, Jude is at his most miserable, singing about how trivial all those big problems seem now, when they’re compared to what he’s got left – nothing. In spite of a tasty guitar solo, I still think of it as a piano song. “I want to wake up in the morning, above these lonely streets, and feel you lying next to me.” It’s a special skill to wring so much emotion out of such simple lyrics.
- “Prove Me Wrong” – Another prayer, but a defiant one. Very unconventional drum rhythms drive the tune, making it seem harder than it really is. Excellent use of that multilayered vocal thing he does so well.
Cole recently released a fifth album, “Falling Home” and achieved a bit of commercial success with “Speed of Life” from his fourth album “I Don’t Know Why I Act This Way” which we’ll spend some time with one day.
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Tagged Jude Cole