June 6, 2008
Honestly, production-wise their earlier work doesn’t have the ‘teeth’ I wish it did, in hind-sight – I actually prefer live versions of many of those songs off of their debut. And yes, if you have at any time in your life been a Jars of Clay fan, the consistent quality of their output means that there are surely fan favorites that are not included (I’m still in shock that the songs “Good Monsters”, “The Eleventh Hour”, “Collide” aren’t on here). However, if you’re already a bit more familiar with their work, and want a wee bit more ‘bang’ for just a little more ‘buck’, you may want to look here:
No, not ALL of these songs are ‘essential’, but it is a very solid collection.
That’s enough ‘reviews’, though.
I remember the Summer after my Junio year in college when a friend of mine (who was also their good friend – I think he was in the studio at some point with the band for all of their first 3 or 4 cds) pulled out a little demo called “Frail e.p.” and asked us to listen. At the time it didn’t really strike me as fantastic – we had been working in the studio on our first c.d., so we were feeling pretty over-confident about ourselves – but they were a good band, and pursuing some of the same ‘edge’ that my band at the time, Set on Edge, were toying with. We (both bands) were still playing coffee-house style venus (shortly there-after we would move up to ‘bars’ – they would move up to ‘stadiums’), so we talked on numerous occasions about doing shows together. In fact, at one point our drummer told them they might consider “opening for us sometime”. In hindsight, that’s quite funny. Through a strange set of circumstances involving one of the their sisters, two singles on their debut full-length ended up being produced by Adrian Belew, the lead singer and one of the guitarists of King Crimson, from whom – oddly enough – I had purchased an electric guitar just a couple years before (he lived in Cincinnati at the time). Belew’s touch took Jars of Clay’s sound into top 40 land, and one moment we were making phone calls to still try to finalize pulling together an elusive gig together, the next minute Jars of Clay were the opening act for Sting (you may have heard of him?), and totally in a league of their own.
Since then I’ve bought all of their c.d.’s, and I’m proud to say that they’ve done some really fine work. On occasion I’ve slipped back stage – some of them vaguely remember me. I’m fascinated also by how – in spite of how different our ‘careers’ have been, how our ‘theological journeys’ parallel each other very closely: the signs of that in their songwriting may be one of the reasons I’m still drawn to them, as they always seem to speak to me where I am. As it goes, the world moves on – times change. The largest audience Set on Edge ever had in one room was 3,000, and we only sold a little over 4,000 cd’s in our time – Jars, let’s just say, has done far better.
Sometimes it’s odd to look back over your life – not bad, but most definitely odd. That said, pick up one of these two discs. I think you’ll be very glad that you did.
I’m going to start a new series today. Given that I have written so many reviews over the years, at least half of which were for publications that are no longer available online, I’m going to reprint some of the highlights. Today’s is of my old friends in Jaspergate. I loved their music so much that I eventually asked them to join my own band. Patrick ended up being responsible for a large part of the lead guitar work on A Story to Cling To. He’s awesome.
Patrick and Dawn Davis, the creative and musical core of Jasper Gate, are no strangers to their trade. Patrick, a local guitar instructor and a DJ for NPR, graduated from UGA with a degree in music, and can be heard playing on such productions as MTV’s The Real World. His playing is professional and restrained, a far cry from the oft “wanking” of the young upstarts. Dawn, a local voice instructor and a part-time model, has been singing live for over 10 years. Since ’92 they have released two full-lengths CDs together, an unknown number of cassette EPs and songs for compilations, and have performed nationally with such varied acts as the Dead Milkmen and Sixpence None the Richer. Jasper Gate have been around the musical block a time or two, and it shows. Read the rest of this entry »