“The Works” is another great set of songs from the criminally under exposed Jonatha Brooke even if it is a little bit of a strange project. I say strange because Jonatha, who is a great lyricist in her own right, has here chosen to record an album which contains mostly someone elses lyrics. Mind you that makes a little more sense when you realise who and why.
Basically Jonatha was approached by Nora, the daughter of Woody Guthrie, and invited to sift through a mass of unreleased and unfinished works from his archives and adapt some of them for release. The result of that labour of love was an album that featured eleven Guthrie/Brooke compositions and two lone Brooke compostions ……. ergo ‘The Works’.
Picking out individual tracks in such a consistent set seems neither easy nor necessary. Of course the flip side to that is that there is no real standout and sometimes that can eventually lead to under appreciation. With that in mind I’ll suggest that there really isn’t a poor track on here and make out one or two blindingly obvious comments about some !
‘My Sweet and Bitter Bowl’ opens the album in classic Jonatha fashion. Regular fans who may have feared a non Brooke-like set should be reassured virtually straight away. The following ‘You Oughta Be Satisfied Now’ almost struts its way out of the speakers before giving way to the wonderfully laid back almost soul duet with Keb Mo ‘All You Gotta Do Is Touch Me’. ‘My Flowers Grow Green’ is almost a jazz shuffle with some great instrumental performances as well as the usual vocal brilliance displayed by Jonatha. ‘Madonna On The Curb’ features some more socially thought provoking lyrics than on the rest of the album which veers more to the sentimental side of Guthrie. ‘There’s More True Lovers Than One’ whilst not exactly grammatically pleasing is a nice faster paced track and leads nicely into ‘Sweetest Angel’ which is a perfect vehicle for Jonatha’s voice and also features some nice acoustic guitarwork. ‘My Battle’ however, may just win out as the best vocal with its country like twang bringing out the best in some deep and meaningful lyrics “….. I will never dread the day that I die cos my sunset is someone elses morning sky’ words not easily spoken by most. The two Jonatha Brooke originals ‘Little Bird’ and ‘Taste of Danger’ also fit perfectly.
Superbly produced by Bob Clearmountain and featuring some great performances from a host of talented musicians “The Works” is a welcome addition to the hopefully ever expanding catalogue of Jonatha Brooke and would sit comfortably in any music lovers collection.
© Martin Leedham. Originally published on RYM October 2010