Reeling in the Years: Jake and the Family Jewels

Jake and the Family Jewels made two highly regarded but slow-selling albums for Polydor in the 1970s, but then—in a familiar tale—vanished from the face of the earth. Most such bands are never heard again, and certainly not 40 years later, but Jake and his Jewels have just had a miraculous rebirth, with not only live concerts but a crackling new album.

jake and the jewels

The reconstituted Jake and the Rest of the Jewels at Lyric Hall in New Haven. (Jim Motavalli photo)

It sounds like Al “Jake” Jacobs and crew have never been away. The reformed group, with many former members waiting to sit in, held a reunion show at Lyric Hall in New Haven, Connecticut recently, and the good vibes were intact.

Jacobs’ highly melodic music has many roots: Motown, doo-wop (Dion was an idol), the folk-rock of Bob Dylan and the Band. A New Yorker through and through, Jacobs was briefly in the underground sensations known as The Fugs, and led a memorable duo named Bunky and Jake (the late Andrea “Bunky” Skinner sings on six of the new album’s songs). It’s party music of a very particular kind, and should have found a wide audience. Check out the urban tale “I Remember Cissy’s Baby” on video here:

In concert, Jacobs unveiled a batch of new songs in a solo set, then unleashed the full band. I especially liked the tune celebrating unrequited love for Ann Sternberg, the bassist in an obscure all-female 60s rock band called the UFOs. Jake was a warm and friendly host, plus the old-new band wrapped around the old chestnuts like a shell. Steve Asetta, the driving force behind the Lyric Hall gig, was a particular asset on muscular tenor sax. And keyboard player Jan Jungden was very effective, doubling on vocals and flute.

Jacobs lived in New Haven for a while back in the day, and the evening brought out not only many old fans but a plethora of musicians who’d been Jewels at one time or another. Even Terry Adams, keyboardist in NRBQ (another band with Connecticut roots) turned up and did an ace duet with Jake.

Jacobs was over the moon with the success of the New Haven show, so it’s unlikely to be the end of the story. The band will also play New York’s Bitter End (an old haunt) at some time in the near future. Meanwhile, A Lick and a Promise is out for all to enjoy. The Polydor albums haven’t been reissued, but you can find some of the songs, including the original version of “I Remember Cissy’s Baby,” on Youtube. Here’s “It Came Without Warning”:

For years, I used a Jake and the Family Jewels instrumental, “Mother of Pearl,” as a theme song on my radio show. It never got old. The group may have white hair now, but they didn’t get old, either.

2 thoughts on “Reeling in the Years: Jake and the Family Jewels

  1. LOST TREASURES – Jake and the Family Jewels | Pop Geek Heaven

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