JONES: MERCY / FIRE AND GASOLINE
(Rock Candy: Candy363/364)
Following the success of Steve’s autobiography a
couple of years ago, it seems fitting that his two solo albums have
from ‘87 (Mercy) and ‘89 (Fire and Gasoline), the albums saw Steve
emerge from a drug induced wilderness with a major record company
behind him and a ton of good will from a raft of musicians he had
inspired. Although Steve wouldn’t achieve complete sobriety until after
both albums had seen the light of day, the later 1980s found him
focused and creative. Having found his musical feet again playing and
co-writing with the likes of Andy Taylor and Iggy Pop, he was at last
able to make his own mark, free of Sex Pistols baggage.
most striking indication of this ‘new’ Steve was his look, all long
hair and motorbikes. Steve was wiping the slate clean and asking to be
judged on the here and now. Forget the Pistols.
The two albums were themselves vastly different beasts. Mercy was
largely restrained; a mix of both the mellow and the tough with some
spine tingling solos. Boasting some introspective and personal song
writing, it was the product of a tight knit group, with Steve providing
guitars and bass throughout. Steve’s difficult years informed both the
music and lyrics. Mercy cannot in any way be labelled an upbeat album,
far from it, but it is ultimately optimistic.
himself was never comfortable with his singing style, yet his laid back
understated delivery captures the mood of the album. Despite his own
misgivings, over 30 years later Mercy remains a terrific piece of work
brimming with a feast of Jonesy licks. Steve had announced his return.
Steve answered those bemoaning the lack of power
chords on his debut with his follow-up two years later. Fire and Gasoline is a rock
and roll juggernaut produced by Mark Dearnley whose credits include
AC/DC, Ozzy Osbourne and Motorhead. The radical
change of direction was reflected by the input
from contemporary rock and rollers such as Ian Astbury, Billy Duffy and
Axl Rose. In reaction to the mellow vibe of Mercy, Steve gave us an
album of full-on rock guitar with the poses to match. From the album’s
title to the gruff vocals, it seemed so far removed from its
predecessor, it was difficult to reconcile the two. There was just one
aspect remaining to link the pair, the unmistakeable guitar - those
magical solos run through both pieces of work.
Lyrically Fire and Gasoline was all bikes, birds
and causing trouble. Although somewhat a reflection of his Los Angeles lifestyle, the macho content does rather date the album
unfortunately, but hey, that’s where Steve was at in ‘89. For pure
energy and rock splendour it still delivers.
Steve gave us two vastly different albums in what would prove to be a
short lived solo career. Whether you love one or both, he was back. It
was some showcase.
Rock Candy have reissued the albums as they originally appeared on CD
back in the day, with Suffragette City included on Fire and Gasoline.
Great care has been given to the presentation; from the disc and cover
designs through to the booklets which include excellent lengthy essays
covering the origins, makings of, and later reflections. Full marks to
the research which draws from various sources, including interviews,
resulting in an informative and balanced overview. There’s some nice
pictures included as well.
Soundwise, the mastering has ensured the discs sound as good as ever,
clear and crisp without unwanted tinkering, just like it should be.
In a perfect world it would have been nice if some extras had been
included, i.e. the versions of Mercy tracks which featured on various
soundtrack LPs, along with the Steve Jones Live promotional only record
from the Fire and Gasoline period. However, that aside, Rock Candy
should be applauded for bringing Steve’s solo albums back to life to
such a high standard.
If you don’t own the originals these are definitely
for you, and even if you do, there is much to admire in this new
offering. The music and the CD presentation are top notch. Steve Jones,
guitar hero? Mercy and Fire and Gasoline deliver the conclusive answer.
Review & pictures by Phil
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