The Jazz Butcher: Girls Say Yes
Chris F., who introduced me to the Jazz Butcher’s music when I was at sixth-form college, also introduced another friend, Pete Crouch. Around this time Pete was primarily into Mark Knopfler and J. J. Cale, and Max Eider’s guitar work grabbed his attention very quickly. For a brief while he had a covers band, called with seeming arbitrariness Peter’s Walnut Whirls, and they did a set of cover versions that was half Dire Straits, half Jazz Butcher, with ‘Roadrunner’ thrown in. Pete went off to University somewhere to do American Studies, but continued to follow the Jazz Butcher around. This led to Pete doing some guitar and a guest solo on Pat’s 1991 album, Condition Blue, and becoming the main guitarist on the tour that followed (documented in soggy low-fidelity awfulness on the live album Western Family — something went wrong with the master tapes), and on the next studio album, Waiting for the Love Bus.
Condition Blue is one of the great Jazz Butcher albums,though it divides fans: those that like the more whimsical and gentler side of Pat’s writing aren’t so fond. It came out of the breakdown of Pat’s marriage and apparently some kind of breakdown. The lyrics are generally more abstract and oblique than usual; witty, but with less of an obvious point to make. The music is louder, and more exuberant, and several of the songs have extended play outs where it’s clear that every one is having a lot of fun. If I’d allowed myself more songs for this blog I’d certainly want to be writing about the tribute to Harlan Ellison (and crazy people who stand at junctions shouting at the traffic), ‘Harlan’; ‘Honey’, ‘Shirley Maclaine’, and ‘Racheland’. And the track ‘Vodka Girls’ belongs to this session.
‘Girls Say Yes’, along with ‘Still and All’, is one of the gentler tunes.
From the very beginning, the sound is rich and seductive: from the female ‘has’ (presumably courtesy of Sumishta Brahm), and in the rich chorus of vocals around ‘don’t try, don’t try’. Pete’s guitar solo bears the fruit of those years listening to Knopfler and Eider. There’s a pair of triplets somewhere in the middle of it that are straight out of Knopfler (at about 2:55), but the great thing about this solo is that it doesn’t sound like an alien imposition, or an imitation; it has its own identity, and it belongs perfectly to the song; it lifts the song in just the right way, and doesn’t feel like it’s in competition.