Jelly Jam- 2 (Inside Out Music)
review by Jim Clark

Track Listing

1. Not Today
2. Coming Round
3. Empty
4. Drop The Gun
5. Allison
6. Maybe
7. She Was Alone
8. Angel Or Devil
9. You Don’t Need Me Anyway
10. Runaway
11. War Is…
12. Message

After hearing “Not Today,” the opening track from the second release by the Jelly Jam, I thought that I was hearing the ghosts of Led Zeppelin being channeled by this trio of master musicians – guitarist/vocalist Ty Tabor from King’s X, bassist John Myung from Dream Theater and drummer Rod Mergenstein from the Dixie Dregs. There was that crunching guitar riff that seemed to come straight from Led Zeppelin 2 and a pounding rhythm that conjured up memories of John Bonham. And despite Tabor’s vocals sounding completely different from Robert Plant’s, the music on this track sounds so much like Zeppelin, even down to Mergenstein’s Bonhamesque drum fills.

But when the second track, “Coming Round,” starts, you know that this disc isn’t going to be a cheap Zeppelin rip-off. With a blending of acoustic and electric guitars and loads of vocal harmonies, this track actually reminds me very much of Spock’s Beard without the keyboards. “Empty” starts with a guitar part that sounds like it was taken directly from a Jimi Hendrix LP.

And so goes 2, Jelly Jam’s follow-up to their eponymous 2002 debut. Tabor, Myung and Mergenstein effortlessly merge 70’s hard rock with modern prog to create an enjoyable listen. And unlike some of the current prog supergroups that thrive on lengthy epics, the Jelly Jam create concise hard rock songs that are actually much more accessible than the music of their respective bands.

What sticks out on so many of these songs is Tabor’s uncanny similarities to Neal Morse as a vocalist. If you listened to “Maybe” and were unaware of who this disc was by, you could swear that it was Morse. The same goes for “You Don’t Need Me Anyway.”

But despite some of these obvious influences on some tracks, there are others that sound entirely unique. “Drop The Gun” is a dark number with atmospheric vocals, subdued percussion and an understated guitar line. And the crunching “War Is…” includes some growling vocals and heavy drumming mixed with more straightforward singing.

In all, 2 is quite a fun listen. Just don’t expect it to sound like some of the other Dream Theater side projects (Liquid Tension Experiment and Transatlantic come to mind). 

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