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The Thunderthief—8
Released: 2001

1)  Leafy Meadows  2) The Thunderthief  3)  Hoediddle  4) Ice Fishing At Night  5) Daphne    6) Angry Angry  7) Down to the River to Pray  8) Shibuya Bop  9) Freedom Song


The Thunderthief,” the follow up to John Paul Jones’s stellar “Zooma,” expands on the sound established on his debut.  The bass, although still steady and energetic tends to fade as lead instrument and doesn’t even appear on a few of the tracks.  Jones instead plays various guitars, mandolins, organs, and even a ukulele to sometimes astonishing results.  While this record does not have the unity that his previous album did, it is still easy to recognize Jones’s brilliance and is a fine overall effort.     


Leafy Meadows” starts off with the same thumping, driving bass as his debut, but soon develops into a showpiece for guest guitarist Robert Fripp.  Not the background, swamp sound of the guitars on “Zooma,” this guitar is in the forefront of the music and goes berserk.  With Jones’s bass as the backdrop, Fripp demonstrates why he is so critically acclaimed with his manic soloing.  In truth, this is not my kind of song, but I do respect the ability of those involved.  The title track comes in next and again features a forceful bass groove, but for the first time in his career on record, John Paul Jones sings.  His voice is set back in the mix and sounds heavily modified, almost as if it is another instrument, although the words are clear.  The song is far from his best, despite having a very cool organ break. 


Hoediddle” begins with what Deadheads would call space…soaring guitar without any backbeat.  After a few minutes, the bass and drum kick in and the song really cooks with a sick traditional sounding electric mandolin solo.  It ends with an acoustic, hoedown mandolin and is just a cool, illogical song.  Ice Fishing At Night” features Jones on piano.  He has an average voice (a little grandpa-story-telling sounding) and this song is kind of a lame Tony Bennett homage, but adds a different element to the album and Jones’s sound all together.  Daphne” uses the piano to a much more dynamic result.  There are annoying computer talking voices in the background, but the song itself rocks with a great pace and sound…the guitar soloing here (courtesy of Jones) is genuinely first-rate.


Angry, Angry” is old school punk played by someone who knows how to play.  Jones shouts the lyrics to what must be a bit of a tongue and cheek thing…I’m not sure what to think of this tune at all…very odd, but funny all the same.  Down to the River to Pray” is much more my style.  It is a traditional song arranged by Jones, played on his signature tripleneck mandolin, and is beautiful.  Quiet, pure, and proper.  The sound of “Zooma” returns with “Shibuya Bop” as it features pulsating bass and drums ala Primus.  But Jones takes the tune a little further than Claypool might, with a Japanese style organ and ridiculous sonic bubbles.  This is a chaotic, melodic experience.  The Oriental feel continues with “Freedom Song.”  However, this is acoustic and old-fashioned sounding with Jones singing over the plucked melody in his old English voice—a strange contrast, but a neat little tune.                              


Overall, "The Thenderthief" shies away from his debut and experiments with normal sounding songs.  While there are more than a few misses, the best tunes here are better than everything on “Zooma” (save “Snake Eyes”).  Taken as a whole though, it just doesn’t have the thump that “Zooma” does, but is still an amazing showcase for Jones’s astounding ability as an instrumentalist, songwriter, and arranger.   

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