My Journey with Jess – An appreciation of The Jess Roden Anthology – Part One

3 05 2013


It’s been well documented on my various sites and blogs that I owe a great debt to Jess Roden, one of the U.K.’s finest ever singers. It might not always be apparent in my diverse live and recorded work, but I assure you, along with a very few others, he was instrumental in igniting the spark that took me from my hometown of Derby to some of the greatest venues in the world. I can count on one hand the musicians that have inspired me to become a professional, and Jess is one of them.  His voice just spoke to me above so many others, from the first time as a 14 year old, holidaying with friends in Bournemouth and discovering the ‘Bumpers’ compilation in a second hand shop. The current generation perhaps cannot understand the pleasure of bringing home a prize such as this: a gatefold-sleeved double LP feast – a cornucopia of diverse artists on the forward-thinking Island label. I immersed myself in it. Bronco’s ‘Love’, written by Jess quickly becoming a firm favourite. He seemed to dip off my radar for a while then, until a friend turned up on my doorstep with a new LP. “Look how COOL this is!” he exclaimed, producing it with a flourish. Cool indeed it was, it looked like a vintage Fender amp, the illusion continued on the back, where you could see the speakers. Closer inspection revealed the amp logo not to be Fender, but rather ‘Butts Band’.

Always blessed with a forensic nature where music was concerned I was delighted discover this album featured Jess and a fair old proportion of The Doors. That album became one of the soundtracks of my life, and I followed Jess’s career diligently from then on.

Let’s dolly back, fade to black and cut to many years later. I have relocated to Spain and I’m surfin’ the internet as us 50 somethings are prone to do in an attempt to remain ‘with it’, whatever ‘it’ is.  I’m searching for info on one Mr. Roden. Except there really isn’t any.  This completely baffled me. I mean, you can find anything on the internet, can’t you? I’d already been managing a fairly widespread online presence myself, both alone and via the bands I work with, and I had an idea.  I began a series on a specially created blog called ‘Unsung Heroes’, as a means of highlighting artists that I considered worthy of attention and not having received the recognition they deserved. Jess was Number One. I just threw it out there, on the cyber winds…and something magical happened.  It was as though I’d wandered down a virtual highway singing ‘Sweet Danger’, and from every corner, every nook and cranny, people poked their heads out and smiled in recognition. One by one, the comments from strangers the world over flooded in, overwhelmingly stating ‘YES!- HE was the man – I thought I was the only one who ‘got’ him!’  – I was staggered at the outpouring of love for Jess’s music. It was heartwarming to find so many people who felt as I did, true appreciation for an artist who emerged from a time when music mattered – and to these people, it matters still. Their enthusiasm, their dynamism powered the engine. We were rolling, and a certain Mr. Neil Storey heard the rumblings, as did Jess’s brother, and soon, there was talk…there were dreams…and it began to unfold.  We had a singer, we had an audience, and we had a curator. Someone who cared about this stuff, who was close to this stuff, and was prepared to work to make something happen against all the odds.

It’s almost impossible to conceive, if you’re not in the music business, the enormity of the task that lay ahead for Neil and Jess. Thousands of hours of tapes to be found, never mind listened to, deteriorating, mislabeled. A task that would have put off many a chap. But, as those of you who now hold The Jess Roden Anthology in your hand are now aware, Neil Storey is no ordinary chap. He cares about the music. Simple as that. I doubt very much there are too many of his ilk left in the industry today, more’s the pity. One of the joys for me is the pieces of pure gold that have been unearthed in the course of compiling the anthology. I can tell you know, I feel a huge amount of pride for having played a small part in helping these songs see the light of day. I would go so far as to say it is one of the things in my musical life of which I am the most proud.

I have begun listening to the Anthology today. I received it on Monday. “Why wait?” you may ask. I needed to give it the time it deserved. I will not allow my first listen of this incredible achievement assume the role of wallpaper while I do something else. It requires, no, demands, my full attention. What struck me immediately is how exactly right Jess was to insist that they not succumb to modernity, simply because they could. As I faded back in time with The Alan Bown recordings, they weren’t so much ‘now’ as opposed to ‘then’, beautifully mastered, as crisp and vibrant as the day they were created. Thereafter, I am in a time tunnel through the 60’s , 70’s and beyond, with Jess’s voice as my guide, as he effortlessly wraps his voice around each era, his take on the times. Sometimes, I’m smiling with familiarity, sometimes delighted when one of those unheard gems I’ve spoken about pops up…Joys & Fears, and Song 3….was ever a title so understated?  It’s an oft used phrase, but Song 3 actually moves me.

As I move through Discs 2 & 3, I re-appraise the Jess Roden Band. No backing band this, an integral, living breathing funkin’ thing, at one with the Voice. Damn! they was funky!  I saw them live in Derby in the 70’s. That’s real live music, and I mourn its loss. But here, they jump right out of the speakers and reclaim their crown, one of the very best British band son the live circuit. Not many could live with them. As I listen to ‘Raise your Head’ they are pushing Jess – his vocal responding to them, the perfect foil, exactly what a band should be.

It’s not just the unheard tracks that are a delight in this collection. Many of the familiar songs are presented on CD for the first time, and getting the treatment they deserve. The Bronco material for instance, sounds beautiful and crystal clear, compared to the ‘double CD’ that’s out there.

As a bass player as well as a singer, I really need  to throw a spotlight on the simply wonderful playing of John  Cartwright – a delight to these ears, listen to the effortless switching back and forth between fluid, funky lines and consummate wah-wah bass on “What took so long?” – just divine! I can’t pretend to be as acquainted with Trombone as I am with the bass, but by God, Chris Gower knows one end of it from the other. His fluid, soulful playing is a huge JRB trademark.

Ray Charles’ “Black Jack” is another fabulous surprise. The number of white English vocalists who can deliver this song so soulfully must be very few and far between indeed. You can’t learn this sort of thing. It is innate, part of Jess Roden’s DNA. Just when you think that’s polished disc  4 off nicely, you’re blown away by a sublime version of  “Blowin'”, right out of a Gospel left field, Jess’s voice accompanied by a beautiful piano courtesy of Billy Livesey. Phew.

Songs from The Rivits and the hugely underrated Seven Windows project which surely deserved to be in as many homes as Windows 7, lead us into Disc 4, and there are some lovely moments, including a brace of songs with superlative B.V.’s from Jaki Whitren. Then, after the familiar yet beautifully arranged “Misty Roses” – another undiscovered gem, the hauntingly beautiful instrumental “Vital Sign” , with Jess on synthesiser and  Peter Wood on synth and Piano.

As I gaze out of the window over the Sierra Cabrera, I notice the sun is going down now as “Bird of Harlem” glides  out of the speakers and seems to blend beautifully with the early evening light.  It’s time to put away this box of treasures until tomorrow. So much more to discover. This is a very, very special collection indeed.

Kev Moore


60% and counting! – The interest in the Jess Roden Anthology continues to grow….

15 11 2012

They are out there. The Connoiseurs. The Astute. The true music fans. The ones who instinctively know something is good from the first note. Many of them are of a certain age now. But they don’t forget. They have long memories. Rich memories. And they remember Jess Roden. They remember that voice. Whether it be backed by the cream of New Orleans, delivering a ballad to take your breath away, or by the mighty funk and swagger of the Jess Roden Band, the vocals roaring out above them, this was a man with something special. His career reads like few others, spanning more than thirty years and collaborations with a host of other artists, so there was sure to be something special lurking in the vaults. Add that possibility to the chance to preserve and digitize some of his best known works, and you have a mouthwatering selection now on offer from Pledge music in a host of personalized formats that indeed do justice to the rich legacy of Jess Roden’s recording years.

Hidden Masters in conjunction with Pledge Music have prepared a strictly limited edition release of the Jess Roden Anthology, comprising 950 hand-numbered copies. The Pledge site has only been active since 12 noon on Monday 12th November, and has already realized 60% of its target, which means this little piece of music history is being snapped up fast! Order your copy today and re-live, or perhaps discover for the first time, just how good this guy is.

Order by clicking on the Pledge music symbol below, or visit

Kev Moore

In just 2 days we’re halfway there! – The Jess Roden Anthology

14 11 2012

When the Pledge site for The Jess Roden Anthology site went live at 12 noon on Monday, all of us close to the project knew there would be a surge of interest. Many fans have been waiting with bated breath over the last few years, wondering if a) such a project were possible, and b) whether it could truly come to fruition. Well the tireless work of Neil Storey and Jess himself have made the creation of this beautiful box set a reality. But I don’t think we could have foreseen how quickly the pledging would take off. Just 48 hours later, we are at the halfway mark! Truly a testament, if ever one were needed, to the enduring appeal of one of Britain’s finest ever vocalist.  it is a very limited edition, with a number of wonderful specialist versions within that framework. If you’re a fan of great music, and appreciate the historical significance of this release, don’t hesitate to order, because when they’re gone, they’re gone. Just click on the Pledge Music logo to be taken directly to the site to masker your pledge and buy yourself a bit of British Music History!

Kev Moore

Worthy of an article in itself: The lowdown on the tracklisting of CD6: The Sub’s Bench – Jess Roden

13 11 2012

When the man behind Hidden Masters and Jess, Neil Storey, took the time to pen a reply to the interested parties in one of the threads on here, I thought his superb overview of the ‘hidden’ disc deserved a wider platform, so I’ve turned it into a stand alone article. For those of you that have happened upon this and are wondering “huh?” or similar monosyllables to that effect, permit me a brief explanation before we move on to Neil’s words.

The Jess Roden Anthology is a work in progress, comprising initially 5 CD’s , but as more and more treasures were unearthed it became clear that a sixth disc would be needed to get anywhere near doing justice to Jess’s body of work.  Disc 6 was kept ‘under the radar’ but now the Pledging has begun (nearly half of the target met within 24 hours) -the musical beans, as it were, have been spilled.


“….Here is the track listing for The Subs Bench, the bonus CD (6) that will be only ever available with the 1st edition of the Anthology. None of these tracks have ever been released before.

1. Storm And Stone (Shine On Joe). Sourced from the ¼” master and recorded during March 1972 at Basing St during the Rabbit Sessions (for Jess’ first but aborted) solo album. The track features Rabbit (keyboards), Robbie Blunt (guitar), Kellie (drums), Pat Donaldson (bass) and Jess (acoustic guitar)

2. Love Me (The Alan Bown Set). A demo recorded at Pye Studios in London on December 19th 1966. Sourced from the original ¼” tape.

3. On Your Life. Written by Rabbit and also recorded during the sessions from which, ultimately, only What The Hell became part of Jess’ first solo album. Kellie plays drums with Rabbit mixing Mellotron and Hammond Organ as well as playing bass pedals. Sourced from the original ¼” master. As a footnote, the version that Rabbit has in his own archives is different again (indeed, he never knew this version existed until very recently… and was pretty surprised that it did).

4. Desperado (The Jess Roden Band). As a track, it needs no introduction whatsoever. This was recorded live at Leicester University during November 1976 on the Island Mobile and has been sourced from the original 2” multitrack.

5. Loving In Your Sake. Also recorded during March ’72 at Basing St this features Gerry Conway, Rabbit and Pat Donaldson and has been sourced from the 2” multitrack. The actual take (there are two) of this demo is a good deal longer but… in the cold light of day… the coda contained way too much ambient noodling (Jess’ phrase) equals it really didn’t work so we extracted the song and… here it is.

6. Special T’anks (Jess Roden / Pete Wood). One of the short instrumental tracks that were to have formed linking passages to the (never recorded) 2nd Rivits album that Jess and Pete were working on at Compass Point while waiting for their riddim section (the mighty Sly ‘n Robbie) to tip up. They were delayed for ‘business’ reasons in Jamaica and… this was one of the tracks recorded at that time… indeed, at the same point that Jess and Island finally parted company. Sourced from the original 2” multitrack.

7. Surrender To Your Heart (Jess Roden & The Humans). Could be described as a Humans demo… only very recently discovered (by Bob Pridden) and recorded at Quarwood, John Entwhistle’s home studio on the day the actual writing of the tune was completed with Jim Capaldi (drums), Gary Grainger (guitar), Nick Graham (bass) and Steve Winwood (Hammond Organ). Harmonica courtesy the singer of songs.

8. Too Far Gone (The Jess Roden Band). From the first (recorded) night at The Marquee… sourced from the 2” multitrack.

9. Love Will Grow. A vocal demo (#take 1) from the Summer ’78 Player Not The Game sessions with John Cartwright (bass), Rob Mounsey (Fender Rhodes) Cliff Morris (guitar) and Chris Parker (drums). Jaki Whitren (John’s wife) can also be heard (briefly) on backing vocals. Sourced from the 2” multitracks.

10. Let Me Make Something In Your Life. This is Jess backed by The Muscle Shoals ‘Swampers’– essentially the main Muscle Shoals rhythm players who later formed the backbone to Traffic at the time of the Low Spark / Shoot Out and On The Road albums – together with the Muscle Shoals Horns… Sourced from the ¼” and recorded in 1974… as a possible contender for Jess’ first solo album.

11. Eight Days On The Road (The Jess Roden Band) Sourced from the 2” multitrack and recorded in September ’76 during the Pinewood Sessions… sessions that, for a number of reasons, were largely unproductive… just prior to the proper recording of the Play It Dirty album.

12. Feelin’ Easy (The Jess Roden Band). Live at The Marquee (altho’ for those who were actually there or remember JRB perfomances of the time, not all of the band featured on this track when played live) and sourced from the 2” multitrack.

13. Sweet One. Recorded during October ’72 this, for a while, confused us. How so? Well… it was actually one of the first tunes that we unearthed and, when we listened back (all those many months ago)… all was running along in ship-shape Bristol fashion until… up pops a Soprano Sax. Nothing weird there as you may imagine… The Sax worked perfectly within the context of the tune but… who the heck was the mysterious Sax player? We simply didn’t know. After a bit the song title assumed brackets in which it said: The Mysterious Sax Player edit. Months went by and we still couldn’t work out who it was. Undeterred, we started listing out every Sax player we could think of who might have been around Basing St at the time (some, sadly, no longer with us) and… still… we couldn’t work it out. More months went by. Until (spooky as this is) on the very same day about six months ago there was an exchange of early morning emails that crossed each others incoming path. Jess’ note said: I reckon the sax player is… while mine to him said; d’you think it might be..? And the answer..? It most certainly is John Helliwell.

14. Ain’t No Sunshine. Recorded one late night in March ’73 at Basing St… its just Jess and an acoustic guitar… We found it, unmarked, on a 2” multitrack in amongst a whole heap of ambient studio nothingness… there were two takes… and this is the best of ‘em…….”

Now, if you haven’t already done so, you can grab your own special piece of musical history by clicking on the Pledge Music logo below, which will take you to where you need to be to reserve the version of your choice. Remember, this exclusive set, limited to just 950 hand-numbered copies, is only available from PLEDGE MUSIC, and when they’re gone , they’re gone.  This special release will be the ONLY one to feature Disc 6 in addition to the original 5, so hurry!

Kev Moore

It’s almost time…..

11 11 2012

The Definitive Anthology of the definitive British vocalist will be available to pre-order from PLEDGE MUSIC tomorrow, at Noon. Don’t miss this opportunity to re-acquaint yourself with, or discover for the first time, one of the UK’s finest vocal talents and all his works.


Just click on the Pledge music symbol below and follow the links:

Kev Moore

And so it is revealed…and the day is almost upon us….

9 11 2012

A peek behind the curtain at the treasures in store on this wonderful collection of a master vocalist’s canon, spanning three decades and beyond…

Just click on the image to see what delights await! -and don’t forget – ordering commences at noon on Monday, November 12th for this strictly limited (950 hand-numbered copies) edition.

Get ta steppin’!!

Kev Moore

The Ultimate Jess Roden Anthology is upon us!

30 10 2012

Several years in the planning, and decades in the creation, the project to realize the definitive collection of this seminal British vocalist’s body of work is finally coming to fruition. You can obtain a piece of musical history via the good people at Pledge Music, wherever you are in the world. The JR PledgeMusic page will go live at 12 noon on Monday, November 12th, at which point you will be able to place an order for this strictly limited edition collectors piece. There will be 950 hand-numbered copies only! In the meantime, you can whet your appetite with a free mp3 download of ‘Song 3’, the first treasure unearthed in this labour of love. Just click on the image below:

Kev Moore