I guess I’m officially elderly, because I still have my original vinyl LP of the album that was released in the U.S. as Pure Pop for Now People in 1978. Back then, punk and new wave were still fringe, and fairly frightening to label execs, and apparently there was no way U.S. label Columbia was going to release an album that proclaimed Lowe the “Jesus” of anything. (It was controversial enough that his label mate was being called “Elvis.”) Jesus of Cool, in its “pure” form was only available on Stiff Records in the UK. Now, thanks to indie label Yeproc, the album is here, with its original title, packaging and sequence (all of which were altered by Columbia), and 10 bonus tracks to boot.
In whatever order you play these tunes, Jesus is a new wave-era classic, showcasing the artist’s reverence for rock ’n’ roll (“Tonight,” “Heart of the City”) and extreme irreverence for the music business (“Music for Money,” “I Love My Label”). The arrangements are pretty simple, with Lowe’s elegant vocals out in front of various configurations of the great musicians who were part of Lowe’s circle. At that time, he was an in-demand producer as well as performer, so many of his clients and friends appear, including drummers Pete Thomas, Steve Goulding and Bobby Irwin; guitarists Martin Belmont, John McPhee, Larry Wallis and Dave Edmunds; keyboardists Steve Nieve and Bob Andrews, and more. Thirty years later, on the rare occasion that he tours, Lowe’s fans still shout for chestnuts like “Marie Provost” and “Cruel to Be Kind,” and it’s a joy to listen to Jesus the way the artist/producer intended. But I’m not giving up my LP; the photo of Lowe playing in front of a gold lamé curtain in a green Riddler suit is well worth the babysitting money I paid for it.
Must Play: “I Love the Sound of Breaking Glass”
Original producers: Nick Lowe, Jake Riviera (co-producer, tracks 6 and 20). Original engineers: Barry Farmer, Roger Bechirian, Vic Keary, Vic Maile. Recording Studios: Pathway, Eden, Chalk Farm, Jack Johnson’s Studio (all in the UK). Remastering producer: Gregg Geller. Remastering engineer: Vic Anesini/Sony Music Studios (NYC).