Just Jay (& his Sonic Sphere of Acquaintance) - 2019 - Steps 1971-2019

(78:42; Oho Music)

Track list:
1. Bleeding the 5th 3:57
2. Porcupine Time 3:32
3. Primal Scream 6:18
4. Penultimatum 4:02
5. The Song 2:08
6. Slag 6:08
7. As Good As It Gets 3:47
8. Long to Be Latin 5:05
9. Scared Money (Don’t Win) 2:41
10. Diane 3:57
11. Is That What You Said? 4:12
12. Masculine Intuition 1:59
13. Another Crack in the Jaw 2:43
14. I Won’t Run Away 3:35
15. Palisades Park 1:52
16. You Should Envy Me 2:41
17. Maiden Voyage 4:13
18. Per Ipsum 2:19
19. The Plague 3:59
20. We Never Wanted This 2:53
21. Laotian Craters 4:07
22. Quae Cum Ita Sint 2:34

Jay Graboski - vocals, guitars, bass
Birnie - vocals
Tracey Tiernan Brown - backing vocals
Kelly Grochmal Butcher - vocals
Steve Carr - bass
Johnny Cochran - bass, keyboards
Bob Cushner - backing vocals
Tony Drummond - vocals
Julius Fischer - piano
Bob Funk - bass
P. Daly German - guitars
Jeff Graboski - drums
Matt Graboski - vocals, guitars
Chuck Gross - bass, backing vocals
Gyro J. Scope - vocals, bass
Grace Hearn - vocals
Steve Heck - bass
Don Henritz - drums
Garrett Henritz - drums
David Jarkowski - vocals, bass
Patsy Shock Jarkowski - backing vocals
Bill Joy - vocals
Ray Jozwiak - keyboards
Spencer Jozwiak - bass
Mike Kearny - bass, guitars
Kraig Krixer - vocals, guitars
Ric Levine - bass
Greg Lief - keyboards
Magoo - drums
Mark O'Connor - keyboards, backing vocals
Joseph O'Sullivan - guitars
Karen Parr - backing vocals
Bill Pratt - keyboards, backing vocals
David Reeve - drums, percussion, backing vocals
Barry Lee Reichart - vocals, guitars
J. Paul Rieger - bass
Jerry Siegel - drums
Steve Simcoe - saxophone, backing vocals
Sunny Schnitzer - backing vocals
Steve Sroka - drums
Bob Tiefenworth - glockenspiel
Mike Welsh - flute
Trent Zeigen - keyboards

US musician Jay Graboski has been a feature in his local music scene in the US for more than 50 years, an active contributor for bands recording material in the studio as well as performing their creations on stage. The compilation album "Steps" was released back in 2019 through the Oho Music label, and document Graboski's contributions in various bands over the years.

Just how many bands Graboski have been a member of throughout the years I don't know, but on this compilation we get to enjoy material from nine of the bands he has been a member of, with a bit of an emphasis on his long ongoing tenure in progressive rock band Oho. The focus on this album appears to be documenting his skills, abilities and versatility as a performer just as much as his abilities as a composer, which does add some depth to this retrospective career compilation for sure.

While the recording quality of many of the tracks here aren't always of the quality people will expect to hear in 2023, the main weak points in this department is that the recordings can come across as a bit rough sounding and lacking in clarity. Otherwise the songs are generally well balanced and separated. While this aspect of the album isn't all that important, this isn't a production that will be a good pick for any audiophile fans out there.

Beyond the technical aspects of the compilation we are provided with a compilation documenting a versatile musician. Progressive rock fans will find plenty to enjoy among the oldest material here in particular, with songs that are comparable in style and mood to the earlier days of bands such as Rush and Kansas, as well as various endeavours into both folkier and more psychedelic landscapes. With a few cuts residing somewhere inside of a garage rock sphere that probably merits a mention too, some of them come across as a meeting of minds between The Doors and The Rocky Horror Show. That we have a few songs throughout that comes with a bit of a theatrical flair in general probably merits a mention too, for songs within these fields of reference as well as the ones exploring slightly different musical traditions. Much the same is the case with the songs that make use of elements pulled in from roots music and Americana.

We get plenty of cuts here with more of a hard rock feel to them, ranging from more traditional aspects of hard rock and over to creations with ties to garage rock, southern rock and more radio friendly AOR-tinged landscapes. With a song or two with a bit more of a classic heavy metal swagger present, but also some instances of songs that have a bit more of a proto-punk feel to them. That we get a good, old fashioned feel good disco song is a charming addition to the styles of music present, and that we have some rock songs here with a bit of a quirky and off kilter feel to them that in spirit made me think about a band like Talking Heads is another interesting tidbit to take note of.

This is a career retrospective documenting the skills of a versatile musician and composer, and the more you listen to this compilation the more you realize just how versatile this veteran musician is too. This isn't an album for people with a specific genre or style interest to seek out though, as the width and the scope of the material here goes way beyond a more narrow interest in a specific style and genre. But for those who find the notion of exploring the artistic virtues of a veteran musician through the decades and also have a wide interest in several types and traditions of music, this album will be quite the interesting experience I gather.

Olav "Progmessor" Björnsen, March 2023



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