Album Listening Club – Juice discussion post

Ok, maybe not that kind of Juice. (Let me know when that gets old, mmkay?)

I have the CD Shack-man by Medeski Martin & Wood that I bought years ago. I have no idea why I bought it or from where – although I have a guess that it was from one of the album clubs like BMG or Columbia House. Maybe I was looking for something jazzy? If so, I found it.

Anyway, MMW is an experimental jazz-funk trio that has been around since the early 90’s. The wiki also describes them as “avant-groove,” which I think is pretty apt. Juice is their third collaboration with guitarist John Scofield. The record contains four covers, three of them are classic rock tunes, although they’re darn near unidentifiable.

So, let’s club this album, shall we?


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October 6, 2014 at 7:42 am

Wasn't feeling this one. I listened to an older MMW album that was quite innovative & unusual a few years back but this album was just too uninteresting to me since it was more straight ahead jazz with no interesting sounds. The covers made it even more uninteresting in my opinion. So there you have my opinion on this.

-Your Older Brother, Samreply
October 8, 2014 at 6:25 pm

For me, this type of music isn't the type of music that gets a track-by-track breakdown. This is jammy groove-y jazz, and, as such kind of flows together for me. There aren't any lyrics (even on the cover songs), so the music is about a mood for me. This is good dinner (or dinner prep) music for me. It's not music I would listen to with headphones and get all jammy on. For contrast, I'm thinking like "YYZ" on Exit…Stage Left by Rush. That's a song I'll study and pick apart.

Clearly, however, I'm not a jazz aficionado. I like jazz, some more than others, and I'm just now getting to a point in my life where I have the mental space to dig bebop more than I used to. By which I mean that I used to just hear speedy runs and/or extended slow jams and never really gave it the time or attention needed to appreciate it. I think I can do that now.

Juice doesn't need that from me, though. The guitar lends a rock element that's familiar (like the "Louie, Louie" riff on "Juicy Lucy"), but it's got enough of a shuffle jazz beat and stringy bass that it's not too based in rock.

I saw the 3 rock cover titles – "Light My Fire," "Sunshine of Your Love," and "The Times They Are A-Changin'" – and was interested to hear how the group would stretch them. Kind of like what we used to do with Silly Putty and the Sunday Comics. "Light My Fire" is the most recognizable of the three, however, because Scofield plays the opening organ riff on guitar a few times. "Sunshine" and "The Times" are close to being unrecognizable to me. "Times" has Scofield & Medeski picking up the lyrical melody and that makes it a little more familiar, but overall, it could be almost any song.

And that's ok, you know? I'm not coming to this album to be blown away by the covers. Knowing MMW as I do (which is to say only a little via Shack-man), I'm expecting a groove, a bouncy beat and a bouncy keyboard and a bouncy bass. Scofield adds that straight-up clean guitar sound, and there you have it. I ain't mad about it.

October 8, 2014 at 10:41 pm

I went through a jazz phase in college but mainly modern jazz like Herbie Hancock, Manhattan Transfer & Herb Alpert. It wasn't until the past 10 years that I started listening to some of the jazz masters. So I do appreciate jazz but to me this just isn't noteworthy and is more of a throw away album in their catalog from the few I've heard by them.

I agree with you, this is definitely background music. But in my opinion those covers tell me that the group had run out of ideas for this album. So who suggested this album? They need to be commenting here to justify choosing this & subjecting us to it haha.

Alan Ralphreply
October 9, 2014 at 10:00 am

This album was pleasant enough, but as a whole it didn't really grab me. The covers were interesting – I'm always interested to hear a song reinterpreted in a different style – and I'd be interested to hear more rock songs redone as jazz. The non-covers just washed over me, however. To my ear, the experimental, free-styling end of the jazz spectrum comes over as more noise than music. *shrug*

-Your Older Brother, Samreply
October 9, 2014 at 5:13 pm

Yeah, it doesn't seem like a fully-baked album, more like a "Oh, we have tapes of this, let's just release it. And let's call this piece "Sunshine Of Your Love" just to fuck with people." 😀

According to this Thom Jurek at AllMusic, we're missing some stuff, but in the end, we're about right: "While Juice is mostly engaging and satisfying, the pervasive "let's just see what happens" approach MSMW took here also has a downside: it delivers a self-contented vibe rather than one of discovery that their previous records revealed in spades."

-Your Older Brother, Samreply
October 9, 2014 at 5:15 pm

As I mentioned previously, it's not so much noise for me as just ambling music. There's not much cohesiveness, jumping from latin to reggae to rock-ish. So in that sense it's somewhat like Lazaretto (for me, anyway) in that there's nothing to string me along here. As background music it's fine, but as something for me to dig into and have itself reveal more over repeated listenings, not so much.

October 10, 2014 at 4:18 am

Nice to know a critic agrees w/us haha!

Tony C.reply
October 10, 2014 at 5:25 pm

Gave it a couple listens while working. Decent enough background music, but nothing made me stop what I was doing and check to see which track it was. Parts were mildly annoying as well. The first track in particular reminded me of something I'd hear from the house band in a low-rent club. The guitar in particular just didn't sound good. Other tracks were certainly better, but not something I'd choose to listen to other than for background music.

-Your Older Brother, Samreply
October 10, 2014 at 5:59 pm

That seems to be the consensus, for sure.

Do you listen to jazz much? Are there albums or songs that you do listen to on a more concentrated level?

Tony C.reply
October 10, 2014 at 9:41 pm

Very light on the Jazz (but not generally light jazz). I have a little Coltrane, a little Miles Davis, and a few other odds and ends like Prince's N.E.W.S. album (did you know he has a jazz album?) I know I have a few others, but I can't recall at the moment.

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