Music

Jesse Dee: On My Mind / In My Heart

Dee embraces authentic soul as well as unrelenting focus on On My Mind/In My Heart.


Jesse Dee

On My Mind / In My Heart

Label: Alligator
US Release Date: 2013-02-26
UK Release Date: 2013-02-25
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Soul singer/guitarist Jesse Dee makes his Alligator Records debut in impressive fashion with On My Mind/In My Heart, a follow-up to Dee’s self-produced and self-released debut, 2008’s Bittersweet Batch. Dee’s rousing vocals connect with the listener, like a direct reflection of the old-fashioned hard work the artist invested in developing his musical career. In addition to those soulful, raw pipes, the Boston, Massachusetts bred Dee wrote or co-wrote each of the eleven songs on this effort. Further controlling the direction of the disc, he serves as the set’s producer, alongside Jack Younger.

“On My Mind, In My Heart” establishes the vibe of the album at the onset, presenting retro-soul production at its best. Steve Mossberg embodies the cliché of vintage piano lines while John Aruda throws down on a strong tenor sax solo. Dee delivers a vocal that fuses soul and jazz; his tone is breathtaking. “No Matter Where I Am” continues the retro-/neo-soul ruminations, with Dee contrasting his full-bodied voice with the occasional sweet falsetto. The lyrics also evoke sweetness in innocent simplicity: “When trouble comes around/you world comes tumbling, tumbling on down…you can count on me/matter where I am.”

“Fussin’ And Fightin’” channels the Memphis sound, often associated with Al Green. Spare production on the verses allows Dee’s vocals to shine brightly. The songwriting, similar to “No Matter Where I Am”, continues to reflect both innocence and naïvety, as well as hopeful positivity (“Stop fussin’ and fightin’/ain’t no need to scream and shout… we can work it out somehow”). “I Won’t Forget About You” features backing vocals channeling The Supremes and bringing about a playful, cutesy approach. Dee also embodies the tongue-in-cheek sensibility, showing superb personality while delivering lyrics like “You’re not the proper pronunciation that always comes out wrong…you’re not the words to this song".

“Tell Me (Before It’s Too Late)”, another standout, keeps the momentum flowing without a hitch. “Tell me/tell me what’s on your mind”, Dee sings on the catchy refrain. “I’m tired of watching you trying to hide/there’s something, something isn’t right/now it only gets worse the longer you wait to/tell me, tell me”. Dee’s passion shines especially towards the end. “From The Start” allows Dee to have some fun, blending well with guest vocalist Rachel Price. Price’s tone impeccably straddles the line of soul and jazz, much like her duet partner; great minds think alike.

“The Only Remedy” showcases both grit and falsetto from Dee, while the grand “What’s A Boy To Do?” draws the deep-soul influences of Solomon Burke and Aaron Neville. The aura of “What’s A Boy To Do?” feels like an organic soul cut, as opposed to a carbon copy or a knock off. “Sweet Tooth” is a departure of sorts, finding Dee digging into a rock-soul based sound. Compared to more controlled, nuanced cuts, “Sweet Tooth” may feel overwrought. What is undeniable, however, is Dee’s passion, emotion, and his lighter side. “Boundary Line” slows the tempo down, contrasting the explosive “Sweet Tooth”. For all its brilliant orchestration, the true highlight of "Boundary Line" is Dee’s brilliant voice. “Stay Strong” does just that, closing the effort as capably as it began.

Overall, On My Mind/In My Heart gets it done. Jesse Dee delivers the goods consistently and excellently over the course of each and every track. There are gems that stand out among the rest, but generally, any one of the 11 tracks won’t let you down. In a time where consistency and focus is often hard to come by, Dee and his supporting cast of musicians embody and embrace it. A superb effort by all means. 


8

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

Editor's Note: Originally published 30 July 2014.

10. “Bedlam in Belgium”
(Flick of the Switch, 1983)

This is a massively underrated barnstormer from the boys off the much-maligned (unfairly, I think) Flick of the Switch. The album was missing Mutt Lange, but the Youngs did have his very capable engineer, Tony Platt, as co-producer in the studio at Compass Point in the Bahamas. Tony’s a real pro. I think he did a perfectly fine job on this album, which also features the slamming “Nervous Shakedown”.

But what I find most interesting about “Bedlam in Belgium” is that it’s based on a fracas that broke out on stage in Kontich, Belgium, in 1977, involving Bon Scott, the rest of the band, and the local authorities. AC/DC had violated a noise curfew and things got hairy.

Yet Brian Johnson, more than half a decade later, wrote the lyrics with such insight; almost as if he was the one getting walloped by the Belgian police: He gave me a crack in the back with his gun / Hurt me so bad I could feel the blood run. Cracking lyrics, Bon-esque. Unfortunately for Brian, he was removed from lyric-writing duties from The Razors Edge (1990) onwards. All songs up to and including 2008’s Black Ice are Young/Young compositions.

Who’ll be writing the songs on the new album AC/DC has been working on in Vancouver? AC/DC fans can’t wait to hear them. Nor can I.

 
9. “Spellbound”
(For Those About to Rock We Salute You, 1981)

"Spellbound" really stands as a lasting monument to the genius of Mutt Lange, a man whose finely tuned ear and attention to detail filed the rough edges of Vanda & Young–era AC/DC and turned this commercially underperforming band for Atlantic Records into one of the biggest in the world. On “Spellbound” AC/DC sounds truly majestic. Lange just amplifies their natural power an extra notch. It’s crisp sounding, laden with dynamics and just awesome when Angus launches into his solo.

“Spellbound” is the closer on For Those About to Rock We Salute You, the last album Lange did with AC/DC, so chronologically it’s a significant song; it marks the end of an important era. For Those About to Rock was an unhappy experience for a lot of people. There was a lot of blood being spilled behind the scenes. It went to number one in the US but commercially was a massive disappointment after the performance of Back in Black. Much of the blame lies at the feet of Atlantic Records, then under Doug Morris, who made the decision to exhume an album they’d shelved in 1976, Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap, and release it in-between Back in Black and For Those About to Rock.

In the book Phil Carson, who signed AC/DC to Atlantic, calls it “one of the most crass decisions ever made by a record-company executive” and believes it undermined sales of For Those About to Rock.


 
8. “Down Payment Blues”
(Powerage, 1978)

This is one of the best songs off Powerage -- perhaps the high point of Bon Scott as a lyricist -- but also significant for its connection to “Back in Black”. There are key lines in it: Sitting in my Cadillac / Listening to my radio / Suzy baby get on in / Tell me where she wanna go / I'm living in a nightmare / She's looking like a wet dream / I got myself a Cadillac / But I can't afford the gasoline.

Bon loved writing about Cadillacs. He mentions them in “Rocker” off the Australian version of TNT and the international release of Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap: Got slicked black hair / Skin tight jeans / Cadillac car and a teenage dream.

Then you get to “Back in Black”. Bon’s dead but the lyrics have this spooky connection to “Down Payment Blues”: Back in the back / Of a Cadillac / Number one with a bullet, I’m a power pack.

Why was Brian singing about riding around in Cadillacs? He’d just joined AC/DC, wasn’t earning a lot and was on his best behavior. Bon had a reason to be singing about money. He was writing all the songs and just had a breakthrough album with Highway to Hell. Which begs the question: Could Bon also have written or part written the lyrics to “Back in Black”?

Bon’s late mother Isa said in 2006: “The last time we saw him was Christmas ’79, two months before he died. [Bon] told me he was working on the Back in Black album and that that was going to be it; that he was going to be a millionaire.”

 
7. “You Shook Me All Night Long”
(Back in Black, 1980)

Everyone knows and loves this song; it’s played everywhere. Shania Twain and Celine Dion have covered it. It’s one of AC/DC’s standbys. But who wrote it?

Former Mötley Crüe manager Doug Thaler is convinced Bon Scott, who’d passed away before the album was recorded, being replaced by Brian Johnson, wrote the lyrics. In fact he told me, “You can bet your life that Bon Scott wrote the lyrics to ‘You Shook Me All Night Long’.” That’s a pretty strong statement from a guy who used to be AC/DC’s American booking agent and knew the band intimately. I look into this claim in some depth in the book and draw my own conclusions.

I’m convinced Bon wrote it. In my opinion only Bon would have written a line like “She told me to come but I was already there.” Brian never matched the verve or wit of Bon in his lyrics and it’s why I think so much of AC/DC’s mid-'80s output suffers even when the guitar work of the Youngs was as good as it ever was.

But what’s also really interesting about this song in light of the recent hullabaloo over Taurus and Led Zeppelin is how much the opening guitar riff sounds similar to Head East’s “Never Been Any Reason”. I didn’t know a hell of a lot about Head East before I started working on this book, but came across “Never Been Any Reason” in the process of doing my research and was blown away when I heard it for the first time. AC/DC opened for Head East in Milwaukee in 1977. So the two bands crossed paths.

 
6. “Rock ’N’ Roll Damnation”
(Powerage, 1978)

It’s hard to get my head around the fact Mick Wall, the British rock writer and author of AC/DC: Hell Ain’t a Bad Place to Be, called this “a two-bit piece of head-bopping guff.” Not sure what track he was listening to when he wrote that -- maybe he was having a bad day -- but for me it’s one of the last of AC/DC’s classic boogie tracks and probably the best.

Mark Evans loves it almost as much as he loves “Highway to Hell". It has everything you want in an AC/DC song plus shakers, tambourines and handclaps, a real Motown touch that George Young and Harry Vanda brought to bear on the recording. They did something similar with the John Paul Young hit “Love Is in the Air”. Percussion was an underlying feature of many early AC/DC songs. This one really grooves. I never get tired of hearing it.

“Rock ’n’ Roll Damnation” was AC/DC’s first hit in the UK charts and a lot of the credit has to go to Michael Klenfner, best known as the fat guy with the moustache who stops Jake and Elwood backstage in the final reel of The Blues Brothers and offers them a recording contract. He was senior vice-president at Atlantic at the time, and insisted the band go back and record a radio-worthy single after they delivered the first cut of Powerage to New York.

Michael was a real champion of AC/DC behind the scenes at Atlantic, and never got the recognition he was due while he was still alive (he passed away in 2009). He ended up having a falling out with Atlantic president Jerry Greenberg over the choice of producer for Highway to Hell and got fired. But it was Klenfner who arguably did more for the band than anyone else while they were at Atlantic. His story deserves to be known by the fans.

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