JON LUCIEN-MIND’S EYE.
JON LUCIEN-MIND’S EYE.
When Jon Lucien released his debut album Mind’s Eye in 1970, his smooth baritone voice immediately drew comparisons with two legendary singers, Nat King Cole and Lou Rawls. Jon was best known for two songs, a cover of Dindi, written by Brazilian composer Antonio Carlos Jobim and Rashida, the title track to his second album, Rashida. Released in 1973, Rashida was his second album, and was the follow-up to his debut album I Am Now, released in 1970. Two of two songs from Rashida, which I’ve previously written about, were nominated for a Grammy Award. This was the second of three albums he released for RCA, the third one being Mind’s Eye, which this article is about. Mind’s Eye was released in 1974, and saw Jon work with Dave Grusin, who orchestrated and conducted the band on the album. Although Jon wrote all the songs on the album, Larry Rosen co-produced the album. Like his two previous albums, Mind’s Eye wasn’t a huge commercial success, although his music was popular on traditional jazz radio stations in the US. However, in the past ten years, there was been a resurgence of interest in Jon’s music, with his first three albums being rereleased and compilations of his music being released. At last, it seems, the music of one of the most underrated soul singers of the past forty years, Jon Lucien, is finding a wider audience. Having told you about Jon’s early years, I’ll now review Mind’s Eye.
Mind’s Eye begins with A Sunny Day, which opens quickly, with the rhythm section, percussion, guitars and strings combining as Jon sings. His voice is gentle and thoughtful, as he sings about losing his love. Behind him, the arrangement unfolds, with a keyboards joining subtle, sweeping strings, chiming guitars, rhythm section and percussion to create a slight Latin sound. Later, Jon’s voice strengthens and he scats, ad-libbing his way towards the track’s end. During this track, Jon demonstrates not only his versatility as a vocalist, but his talent as a songwriter, writing some sad and thoughtful lyrics. Not only that, but he co-produced, what is a great opening track.
An acoustic guitar plays crisply and brightly, and is joined by piano and Jon scatting before the rhythm section and percussion join Jon and backing vocalists. What follows is a brilliant combination of almost spiritual interplay between Jon and his backing vocalists. Accompanied by piano his deep baritone voice and soaring, backing vocalists sing call and response during Prayer For Peace, a plea for peace. This combination and a much more subtle arrangement make this a stunning song, with Jon and scatting and the backing vocalists uniting joyously. Quite simply, it’s a beautiful, spiritual song, easily one of the highlights of the album.
As Adoration opens, Jon scats, accompanied by a gentle acoustic guitars, flute and keyboards combining, as Jon sings about love, and his love for his partner. The arrangement has a lovely understated quality, with the arrangement meandering along behind Jon. Strings sweep in, their sound sweet and lush, as the acoustic guitars and keyboards combine. Meanwhile, Jon’s vocal has a restrained quality, as he serenades his new found love. His vocal is a mixture of a traditional soul vocal with elements of jazz, with the scatting. Together, it’s an intriguing combination, with his vocal lilting beautifully and subtly during the track, as waves of strings, guitars and keyboards combine behind him beautifully. This combination works brilliantly, to produce a beautiful love song, where Jon gives thanks to his new found love.
So Little Time has a quicker tempo than the previous track, and sees Jon’s vocal strengthen and get louder. Guitars, rhythm and brass sections combine to accompany a stronger and louder vocal from Jon. Subtle backing vocalists accompany him, their voices gently uniting, providing a perfect contrast to Jon’s vocal. They sing soulfully, while brass and rhythm sections combine with guitars, to produce a much fuller and bright, joyous arrangement. During the track, one of the backing vocalists almost duets with Jon. Their voices are a perfect contrast, with Jon’s strong and loud, the backing vocalists much quieter, with a lovely sweet, melodic sound. The combination of a much fuller and brighter arrangement, with the interplay between Jon and the backing vocalists, make this a track that’s both uplifting and joyous.
When Listen Love begins, it’s a track that gradually and dramatically emerges. Starting slowly and hesitantly, with guitars and keyboards combining as Jon’s deep voice slowly sings, there’s no indication of what will soon follow. Quickly, the track changes totally, with the tempo increasing and a much fuller arrangement unfolding. Keyboards, rhythm section, percussion and guitars combine, producing an arrangement that combines elements of jazz, soul and Latin music. Meanwhile, Jon’s vocal is much faster, his voice still deep and loud, as he clearly sings the lyrics. His voice soars, while the tempo really quickens, with drums and percussion contributing a Latin sound and feel. Jon scats, his vocal quick, taking his lead from the arrangement, his tempo matching its. Listen Love is an epic track, one that’s very different from the previous tracks. Here, Jon really demonstrates his talent and versatility as a vocalist, his voice loud, deep and the tempo quick, as his vocal takes on a jazz style, improvisation being the style used. He roars, yelps and shrieks as he scats, while behind him, the arrangement is similarly fast and furious. By the end, both Jon and his band have given a dramatic and passionate track, one very different from previous ones, but one that demonstrates his talent and versatility as a vocalist brilliantly.
It’s a Latin feel and sound that opens The Pleasure of Your Garden, which opens with whistling, percussion and a flute combining before Jon sings another love song. His voice is much more restrained, gentle, but with a lovely warm sound. He’s accompanied by strings, percussion and keyboards. The tempo is quick, the arrangement quick, catchy and melodic, as Jon gives a vocal that’s a paean to love, his voice soulful, full of warmth yet gentle. It’s similarly quick, and suited to the almost exotic, Latin influenced arrangement. Although just a short track, it’s a beautiful one, one that’s melodic and hook laden and made all the better by Jon’s beautiful vocal.
World of Joy has a slow, melodic start, a combination of strings, keyboards, rhythm section and keyboards playing behind Jon’s soothing vocal. His vocal is quiet, restrained as he sings some beautiful lyrics. A harp plays, just another component of one of the most beautiful songs on Mind’s Eye. Wave upon wave of lush, gentle and beautiful music, emerge, with Jon’s gentle lilting vocal, sitting atop the arrangement, providing the finishing touch to the track. Strings sweep, beautifully and melodically, while keyboards and percussion gently play. Overall, it’s a beautiful arrangement, with Jon producing one of his most gentle, thoughtful and beautiful vocals, as he sings some wonderful romantic lyrics.
After a beautiful, gentle track, Ghetto Song is a very different sounding track. Here, the arrangement is much fuller and louder, with Jon’s vocal much more forceful. The track begins with backing vocalists, rhythm section, wah wah guitar and blazing horns, providing a funky and dramatic backdrop for Jon’s vocal. He rises to the challenge, singing much louder and stronger, giving a vocal that’s both charismatic and dramatic. Backing vocalists, like the blazing horns, interject dramatically. His vocal is full of social comment, and the problems people were suffering from. However, the combination of vocal and arrangement produce a track that wouldn’t be out of place on a Blaxploitation soundtrack. Although very different from the preceding tracks, it’s a dynamic and dramatic, funk laden track, which features a fantastically funky arrangement and a much more forceful and dramatic vocal from Jon.
After the near Blaxploitation sound of Ghetto song, Soul Chant opens with Jon scatting, accompanied by an acoustic guitar and backing vocalists. They produce a sound that has a spiritual quality. Although it’s just vocals and guitar, this works well, as does the improvisational style, which is quick and veers between a gentle and slightly louder style. Although this style of music might not appeal to everyone, I really enjoy hearing this side of Jon Lucien. Again, it demonstrates his versatility and talent as a vocalist.
Mind’s Eye ends with When the Morning Comes, which has a lovely gentle and meandering introduction, with guitars, keyboards and percussion playing before Jon sings. His vocal is back to a much more gentle, restrained style, which has a lovely lilting and melodic sound. Behind him, strings sweep, while keyboards, guitars, guitars and rhythm section all combine, producing an arrangement that has a gentle, lush, ye melodic sound, perfect for Jon’s vocal. Jon scats, while the arrangement meanders, sweeping gently to the tracks end. By the end, it’s impossible to resist the subtle charms of this beautiful song. It’s a love way to end the album, thanks to the arrangement and Jon’s subtle, lilting vocal.
I’ve long been a fan of Jon Lucien’s music and Mind’s Eye has always been one of my favourite of his albums. Between 1970 and 1973, he released three great albums for RCA, I Am Now, Rashida and Mind’s Eye, which although not a huge commercial success, were full of wonderful music. During his career, he continued to release albums full of similarly wonderful music, on a variety of labels. However, my favorite period of Jon Lucien’s music, has always been the music he released on RCA. His debut album I Am Now, saw him covering a number of songs, but on Rashida and Mind’s Eye, the material was mostly original material. On Mind’s Eye, he wrote every song himself, and this album features some brilliant songs. There isn’t a bad song on the album, and there are a number of different styles of music on the album. Slow and fast, ballads and love songs, even a song which sounds as if it belongs on a Blaxploitation soundtrack. Throughout the album his vocal style veers between a traditional soul vocal to a jazz influenced scat. This combination creates a sound that’s unmistakably Jon Lucien. If you’ve yet to hear his music, you can buy various compilations, or even better, a two-disc set that features the three albums he released for RCA entitled I Am Now, Rashida and Mind’s Eye. It’s the perfect introduction to the brilliant and beautiful music of Jon Lucien. Standout Tracks: Prayer For Peace, Listen Love, Ghetto Song and When Morning Comes.
JON LUCIEN-MIND’S EYE.
- Posted in: Jazz ♦ Soul
- Tagged: Dave Grusin, Ghetto Song, Grammy Award, I Am Now, Jon Lucien, Listen Love, Mind's Eye., Prayer For Peace, Rashida, When Morning Comes