Jakko Jakszyk – Secrets and Lies (Album Review)

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In a world full of concept albums, overplayed musical workouts with shredding guitar, outrageous time signatures and more, sometimes it’s a welcome respite to enjoy a recording that is purely rooted in solid, diverse songwriting. That its author has a smooth, pleasing voice and expert guitar playing is a plus. That the material also has progressive tendencies and features many of rock’s absolute top musicians is a further boast. In a sense, “Secrets and Lies” rewards the listener in all respects: solid songwriting at its foundation which is layered with ornate musical arrangements. It’s a winning combination which proves that Jakko Jakszyk can succeed as a chameleon in many settings, whether the backdrop is crimson in color or otherwise.

An early fan of live music, Jakszyk was able to experience many of rock’s legends in concert in the early 70s as he had just entered his teens. Nearly fifty years later, Jakszyk can look back at an impressive career of having played with and befriended many of his heroes, from Allan Holdsworth to Pip Pyle to Peter Hammill and many more. Of course, most noteworthy is his connection to Robert Fripp and the ensemble of King Crimson, of whom Jakszyk has been a member for the past many years. Now, over a decade since his last solo album, Jakszyk makes the most of his alliances with an album full of stunning yet restrained performances which go down smooth even as they stimulate. Revolving around a theme of stories that are filled with deception and obfuscations – many of them autobiographical in their origins – the album offers a wide array of musical styles from ballads to intense Crimson-esque meditations to instrumentals to even an acapella piece.

Opener “Before I Met You” expertly balances between being a dark pop-rock hit on the one hand, due to Jakszyk’s remarkably radio-friendly vocals and catchy songwriting, and a full-on Crimson tribute on the other hand, given its jagged guitar soloing. Propelled by Mark King’s bass and Gavin Harrison’s drumming, this is quite the “single” for prog rock fans and an impressive beginning. “The Trouble With Angels” follows, a gorgeous ballad featuring Tony Levin’s alluring bass and once again, Jakszyk’s beckoning vocal tones made all the more enticing through pristine production. “Fools Mandate” is a highlight, going Middle-eastern with its rhythm section and bringing in Peter Hammill as a guest vocalist, guitarist and songwriter. It’s a haunting piece which exemplifies the diversity of the album. Jakszyk then takes the opportunity to salute his friend Pip Pyle in “The Rotter’s Club Is Closing Down” with tender vocals and fluid, clean guitar lines. A moving tribute. “It Would All Make Sense” is a dark ballad of sorts, recounting a tale of betrayal of a protagonist in denial. The outstanding musical support of John Giblin on bass and Harrison on drums, along with Jakszyk’s flawless guitar playing, elevates the straight-forward songwriting structure into a prog-worthy accomplishment.

“Secrets & Lies” album art

Three of the album’s pieces were originally written for Crimson, partially written in collaboration with Robert Fripp. “Uncertain Times” is the first of these, Harrison’s signature percussion on full display with a surprise bass player in tow: Django Jakszyk who nails the time signature changes with an impressive performance much to the admiration of his father. “Under Lock & Key” adds a few signature Frippertronics to this sublime atmospheric piece, along with subtle well-positioned Mellotron. Utterly spellbinding. But the big payoff comes in closer “Separation” which King Crimson biographer, Sid Smith, once described this as “The best song King Crimson never did.” Bringing in Mel Collins to hit the right mood, this rocker easily sits alongside classic Crimson while sounding fresh and modern at the same time. It’s such a delight hearing Levin and Harrison root the piece underneath the frenetic guitar and sax soloing with Jakszyk’s vocals adding another layer of urgency. These three songs add to the range and heritage of the overall recording but honestly they don’t overshadow it. Rather, they blend right in which is more of a testament to the strength of the rest of the material, not least of which includes Jakszyk’s jagged guitar playing throughout which gives the whole proceeding a taste of that Crimson vibe.

Breaking up the songwriting pattern are two brief but gorgeous instrumentals: “Secrets Lies & Broken Memories” finds Jakszyk’s tone-perfect guitar as a soloist overtop an orchestration by Nigel Hopkins, calling to mind David Gilmour’s similar exploration from the 80s with “Let’s Get Metaphysical”. At under three minutes, it’s just a tease of a hopefully longer composition to come. Elsewhere, Jakszyk’s daughter Amber surprised him one day by playing a brief original piece on a public upright piano at a London station, which he recorded and then embellished upon in the studio. The touching instrumental “Trading Borders” resulted, flavored by Celtic overtones and even includes some snippets of that original recording by his daughter. Finally, Jakszyk takes a hands-off approach with the a cappella “The Borders We Traded” which hypnotically layers his vocals into an aural treat for the listener. It details the confusing history of his birth mother (he was originally adopted) and the mixed truths he heard from her, a theme which runs through several of the pieces presented here.

Thanks to the encouragement of Peter Hammill and Inside Out’s Thomas Waber, Jakszyk found that the timing was right to bring forth this collection of creativity. He’s signed a three-album deal which means more will come to follow. Given the strength of “Secrets & Lies”, that can only be a good thing. This is likely to be one of the prime sleeper albums of 2020, coming in under the radar but deserving constant rotation on your audio player. An extremely impressive and diverse album of the highest calibre.

Released by: InsideOut Music
Released on: October 23rd, 2020
Genre: Progressive Rock

Musicians:

  • Jakko Jakszyk / vocals, guitar

With: 

  • Mel Collins / saxophone, flute
  • Robert Fripp / guitar, keyboards
  • Gavin Harrison / drums
  • Tony Levin / basses, stick
  • John Giblin / bass
  • Mark King / bass
  • Peter Hammill / vocals, keyboards, guitar
  • Al Murray / vocals

“Secrets & Lies” track-listing:

  1. Before I Met You
  2. The Trouble With Angels
  3. Fools Mandate
  4. The Rotters Club is Closing Down
  5. Uncertain Times
  6.  It Would All Make Sense
  7. Secrets, Lies & Stolen Memories
  8. Under Lock & Key
  9.  The Borders We Traded
  10. Trading Borders
  11. Separation

9.1 Excellent

With a lifetime’s worth of experience, collaborations and friendships, Jakko Jakszyk finds himself well-positioned to make an album filled with creative, diverse and musically satisfying material. “Secrets and Lies” fully realizes this potential, offering one engaging song after another with an all-star cast of supporting musicians. Despite surrounding himself with virtuosos, at the end of the recording what is most evident is the singular talent of Jakszyk himself as writer, producer, singer and guitarist.

  • Songwriting 8.5
  • Musicianship 9.5
  • Originality 8.5
  • Production 10
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