JC-“Desire” (1989 Jumpshot Productions/USA)

This cd released on the Lilliputian Jumpshot Productions label in 1989 has managed to stealth under the collecting radars of even the most prolific of AOR hunters for over ten years! After listening to just one track from the album, you really begin to wonder whether it’s the sheer obscurity of the release or just plain old dumb luck as to the reason why it has eluded the ears of so many for so long. Thankfully, this reviewer is here to state the long overdue case for this lost gem!

The band moniker “JC” is actually an acronym version of the albums musical mastermind John Clouse. He could easily be labeled as the 80’s version of PHIL VINCENT, given the fact that he handles all of the lead and background vocals and the solo and rhythm guitars, in addition to keyboards, bass and drums as well. Clouse is backed by the efforts of some other musicians on the album too, but he alone is the primary writer and troubadour contributor to the album’s sound….and what a sound it is! Let’s start listening shall we?!

The album begins with “Stay With Me”. Clouse’s love for the use of massive tempo setting keyboards becomes evident right away, as the song takes flight under the sweet harmonies of their synthesizing wings. Soon the song includes a great rhythm section of guitar and drums, and of course Clouse’s fabulous melodic vocals. His style is comparative to some of the better singers in the AOR genre, and although specific examples evade me at present, I can’t help thinking of names like JAY GRAYDON and Peppy Castro from BALANCE when I hear his voice. However this is not West Coast style AOR at all. This is pulse quickening high energy AOR with a steady beat and a strong melody, smooth and classy like the West Coast style, but with a lot more attitude and flare. “Stay With Me” has a nice chorus and good solo section in addtion to some extra keyboards over the ones in back and tops out as one of the better tracks on the album. You get the idea right away that this is very good!

Next up we have “What Do You Want”. Once again the keyboard sounds are ominous and form the powertrain of the amazing melodic heartbeat for this cut, which is quite possibly the best on the album. This reminds me a bit of early STAN BUSH and perhaps VAN STEPHENSON is a nice comparison too. The verse parts and vocal harmonies are nothing short of almost dead solid perfect and the track evolves from a bubbling cauldron of emotion for the first 45 seconds into another fast and steady paced rocker with a great chorus and an outstanding guitar solo. All hugely melodic! That’s a word you get used to repeating when listening to this album and it will most likely come up in every song I talk about, so please forgive the repetitive journalism on my part, there’s no other word to properly describe the music. “What Do You Want” leaves you answering that question very easily…..MORE!

Third in line is “Walk On Wind”, and the beat is established early on with good light guitars and bass, a snare drum, and of course….keyboards! Once the initial instruments establish the backbeat we again find ourselves listening to another great melodic (sorry!) AOR tune. This song sounds like it could easily have been on one of those great 80’s movie soundtracks. It would be right at home on films like Iron Eagle and St. Elmo’s Fire. The song has a fabulous chorus and we hear a new musical element amongst the keys and big melodies halfway through the song when a roaring sax solo occurs. Uncover your ears all you true AOR fans, it doesn’t slow things down a bit and along side the energetic backdrop reminds me quite a bit of bands
like ADRENALIN circa “Road Of The Gypsy” (see, Iron Eagle I tells ya!). In short, it’s another classy, smooth, heart racing, melodic and somewhat jazzy (for just a few seconds) winner for JC and company on this one.

“Say Lana” marks the fourth track of the album’s ten cuts. This is about the only truly balladesque effort from JC and his gang on the entire album. The track begins with a quaint blending of keys, acoustic guitars and some ocean sound effects from YANNI’s relaxation audio series (just kidding all you Chameleon fans!). I can’t help but instantly think of OUTSIDE EDGE when I hear this song get underway. No, the vocals aren’t nearly as scratchy, they’re smooth and clear, but the sound is really similar to a lot of their slower paced material. JC manages to create an extremely emotional landscape for this ballad whilst also not failing his undying love for all things electric with a moving guitar solo around the songs mid-section. “Say Lana” slows things down only a little bit and doesn’t leave you dripping in sap from head to toe. It’s a good thick sounding ballad in a well placed position on the album.

Open your mind up now and think back to the last time you found an instrumental track on an AOR or hard rock album that was anything but a filler. Can you remember such an occasion? Well you’re going to have something to remember when the title track “Desire” hits your ears. The track is, quite literally, too cool for words! By beginning with one of the most classic grooves I’ve ever heard on any AOR record with the perfect portions of keys and guitar, the stage is set for some unexpected orchestral arrangements to come in the mix. Nothing overly LONDON SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA mind you, but just enough to add that extra something that any instrumental needs to hold your attention while you’re busy not following along with the lyrics. The songs rhythm section becomes a melodic journey of accelerations and steady braking which allows Clouse to show off some of his fine guitar work and let his chords climb the musical Matterhorn in the framework. Truth be known, when I heard this song begin for the first time, I was disappointed at the outset when I realized there would be no vocals on this track. But as I listened more, I began to understand that a cut like this doesn’t need words to tell it’s story. It is, at it promises to be….”Desire”!

If we were listening to an LP I suppose we’d be flipping to side two now, but since this is a cd, we can just say that we’ve past the halfway point on the album and are now on track number six. “Since You’ve Been Gone” arrives after we’ve finished off a ballad and an instrumental and within a few seconds immediately reestablishes the album’s main theme of classy melodic power. The keys are massive and once again a major instrument in the forefront. As with many of the other tracks on the album, this is a slick up tempo AOR rocker with a great melodic sound and the chorus is particularly extraordinary on this track. Contrasts? Well, the keys lead me to start thinking about names like SHY and FORTUNE and even newer high class AOR acts like NEWMAN. But overall, I’d have to send this one down the pathway of VAN STEPHENSON type material. Actually, my initial comparison to PHIL VINCENT is not a bad heir apparent if you need one to file this song next to. Think “Circular Logic” era and you’re at least halfway there. Anyway you slice it, another fabulous cut and another one in the running for best on the album.

In seventh position we find “Feels Like Love”. Keyboards, keyboards, keyboards! They command this track from the get go yet again! This song is, yep, you guessed it, another rocky up tempo melodic classic! I hear so many influences at work on this song. “Beat Street” era PRISM and DUKE JUPITER’s “White Knuckle Ride” pop in as first impressions. The track is rockier and more modern sounding than these classic early and mid 80’s references however, and certainly more melodic, and when the saxophone reappears in the middle of the track to give us another jazzy solo blast, I can’t help but stray back to
ADRENALIN again or perhaps FRANKE & THE KNOCKOUTS crossed with JOHN PARR or AIRPLAY’s “Close To The Edge” (remember the St. Elmo’s Fire soundtrack?). This one could have definitely been on the radio and making a run to crack the top forty during the 80’s. Another really fine piece of work from Clouse and his entourage. Not to be missed and not to be ignored during the course of this album.

“I Never Knew Someone Like You” holds the eighth position on the album. This begins with the typical keyboard parts that by now you’ve gotten accustomed to hearing from JC, and evolves to include another fine rhythm section of knifing guitars and bass parts. When this gets going, you’re nearly thinking that it should be time for another ballad, and in the opening few seconds the track actually has the feeling that it may be just that. But it turns into a much speedier and steadier paced AOR song than that. With all the trademark elements frimly in place, Clouse scores another radio worthy AOR power ballad that’s really more of a heartfelt rock song in disguise. The keyboards do a ton of the work in this track as they do in nearly all the others too. This is, by comparison, the shortest song on the album and also in this reviewers ears, qualifies as one of the best as well. Keep piling up all the keyboard laden classic 80’s AOR acts you can think of and you won’t miss the mark by much in comparison.

By song nine you’re reasonably certain that Clouse is not about to throw you a major disappointment, given the strength of the other material on the album, and he in deed delivers yet another powerful and classy melodic AOR track in “I’m Coming For You Tonight”. Although the keys are big on this track as in the others, the guitar seems to be the more dominant sound this go around and it’s a bit of a welcome relief to hear Clouse wailing out so many powerful solos as he does throughout this number. It’s one of the more simplistically structured of the ten cuts, although not by any wide margin because none of the album’s songs
are tremendously technical in their arrangements. This one may be a bit long by about 30 seconds or so is all, it’s another good one and if you were to have singled it out and played it before you did the rest of the album, it’s actually very good! But by now you need something pretty amazing to make you forget the moves you’ve already heard from JC and on a whole “I’m Coming For You Tonight” just doesn’t quite get the job done. One thought that comes to mind at this point on the album though, is that Clouse must not put any syrup on his pancakes because he loves to belt out the steady hard driving rockers and seemingly
almost deliberately stays away from the sticky sweetness of too many ballads. It’s a rarity within this genre of music and one of the nicest attributes about the album and JC’s music. Me likes!!

Closing out the album at song number ten is “Talkin’ About An Angel”. Stack another rock hard flapjack on Clouse’s pile of melodic AOR and hold the syrup! No ballads allowed! This song much like many of the rest is a steady paced AOR tune driven by it’s nice lead guitar and of course the keyboards. There are a few acoustic guitars spinning about the fray and the chorus is a little bit tamed and layered with some fine background vocals to help give it somewhat of a soothing feel. This could easily qualify as a rock ballad because of the chorus parts but again the guitar solo seems a bit too noisy for that to be the case. It’s one last reminder of the high class melodic AOR music that spans the course of the album’s 45 minutes. Not as strong as some of the other songs on the album, but again very good and leaving you wishing this was a double length cd!

Closing arguments are few for this disc. It’s good, in fact, it’s very good. I’m not sure how the rest of you rate a classic, but surely this has to be one of the better discoveries of the last few years for me and upon hearing it for yourself, I think you’ll agree. Perhaps not quite stupendous enough to warrant “classic” status, but it’s got to be making a strong case to at least come close. I’m on the case at present to try and find out if Clouse had his hands in any other AOR projects during the 80’s and 90’s. He’s obviously a very talented musician and surely went on to a few other creative endeavors before he was finished. I have no idea where he hailed from, but given the fact that the label of this cd (Jumpshot Productions) was based in Concord, California and that the only geographical reference he makes lyrically on the entire album is on “Talkin’ About An Angel” when he mentions “the gates of California”, it leads me to believe he may have been from San Francisco or the surrounding area. Any new information I manage to track down on Clouse will certainly be shared when it comes to light. In the mean time, enjoy this cd should you run across it. I’m not certain of how rare it is but it seems to be a popular fixture in some of the cut-out bins around cd shops in the United States, since I have now had two copies of it, one of which came from just such a bin. Who
knows, if it gains a cult following, it could be worth quite a bit someday! Certainly the music alone is a worth while investment!

Rating: 9.0 out of 10

Reviewed by Christian Hansen, United States Of America