Once in a while you come across an artist and wonder why they aren’t better known. Jakko Jakszyk, here known as Jakko M Jakszyk, is certainly one of those. He’s probably best known for his King Crimson connections, first as a member of the 21st Century Schizoid Band, and then as a member of the reformed Crimson since 2013. He has, of course, an impressive musical history before that, including a tenure in Level 42. He also has quite a well-deserved excellent reputation for his 5.1 Surround mixes of various albums too. This album is Jakszyk’s first solo album in eleven years and it proves to be more than a good’n!
With even a casual glance it is obvious that this album will have quality. Jakszyk is an excellent guitarist and effective singer in his own right, and is something of a multi-instrumentalist. But on this release, he has the company of some brilliant musician friends – an impressive guest list that includes King Crimson’s Gavin Harrison, Robert Fripp, Tony Levin and Mel Collins, as well as progressive rock legend, Peter Hammill, bassist John Giblin and Level 42’s Mark King. Quite a formidable line up for anyone. But it would be meaningless if you could not back it up with material worthy of such talent. Markedly, Secrets And Lies is not just a platform for virtuoso workouts, grandstanding, or even noodling. It’s a carefully crafted collection of songs and pieces, imbued with a broad emotional depth and subtlety, exploring the psychology of relationships, betrayal, and politics but infused with the possibility of hope and redemption in unlikely places. The result is a very listenable album, beautifully crafted, with impressive choruses that are served by a rich musicality and excellent production values.
Of interest to King Crimson fans will be the inclusion of three tracks from aborted writing sessions for a Crimson album that never materialised. Quite intricate pieces they are too. The CDs final track, Separation, almost harks back to King Crimsons heyday, and proves that this style can be just as valid today as it ever was. It is a powerful attention capturing piece that quite thunders its message. Indeed, King Crimson biographer, Sid Smith, has described this as “The best song King Crimson never did.” There are changes of pace though. The Rotters Club Is Closing Down is a piece of Canterbury, a doffing of the cap to Jakszyk’s friend Pip Pyle who died in 2006. It is very much influenced by Hatfield And The North and is a fine piece. Trading Borders, a piano miniature written and largely performed by Amber Jakszyk, with her father adding keyboard washes, delicate guitar lines and a low whistle has a hint of an ethereal, almost Celtic texture and feel.
It is worth taking notice of the lyrics. The songs explore themes and issues such as obsession, betrayal, the shifting nature of contemporary politics, and the tangled threads of family history. It is a balance of sensitive and heartfelt lyrics, backed with musical technique, and accessible tunes cast within an engaging cinematic sound world. Uncertain Times’ featuring Jakko’s teenage son, Django on bass, was originally written for King Crimson in 2016. Although it was written in direct response to racist graffiti left on a Polish community centre in the wake of the UK’s 2016 Referendum to leave the European Union, its appearance here railing against the moral and political corruption of the body politic makes Uncertain Times very much a song for our age.
This is an album, then, that you have to engage with and live with for a while. It’s highly reflective subject matter is worth revisiting, but even on a casual engagement there is much to admire. The quality of the musicianship is tremendous, creating music that is powerful, sincere and passionate in equal measure. An album to savour and linger with.
1. Before I Met You (05:41)
2. The Trouble With Angels (05:30)
3. Fools Mandate (04:13)
4. The Rotters Club Is Closing Down (04:06)
5. Uncertain Times (05:00)
6. It Would All Make Sense (05:25)
7. Secrets, Lies & Stolen Memories (02:45)
8. Under Lock & Key (04:06)
9. The Borders We Traded (03:05)
10. Trading Borders (02:32)
11. Separation (06:43)
Jakko M Jakszyk – guitars, vocals, keyboard,
Gavin Harrison – drums
Mark King – bass
John Thirkle – Trumpet
Tony Levin – bass
Amber Jakszyk – backing vocals
Peter Hammill – Vocals guitar
Al Murray – Drums
Django Jakszyk – bass
John Giblin – Bass
Robert Fripp – guitar, Frippertronics
Nigel Hopkins – orchestration
Mel Collins – saxophone
Limited CD+DVD Digipak (featuring 5.1 mix), Gatefold LP + CD & as Digital Album.
Release date: 23rd October 2020