My introduction to Jules Shear began with 1978’s Jules & the Polar Bears’ Got No Breeding & 1979’s Phonetics.
That band was quirky yet, Shear’s writing & vocals were fabulously original songs. From dark “Black Fever Sleep,” “Driftwood to Disaster,” “Love It Again,” “You Just Don’t Want to Know,” to the remarkably catchy rockers “Good Reason,” “Fate,” “Faded Red,” & “Brave Enough.”
With his 1st solo LP Watch Dog produced by Todd Rundgren, the maturity was evident on “Whispering Your Name,” hot out of the starting gate with a deep cello run & Jules’ finest vocal tone. The entire LP had many dynamic songs. The Cars’ Elliott Easton was on lead guitar (Easton also produced & played on one of my own songs “Gone Beyond Magdalena,” written with California’s Stuart Guest).
However, despite hit covers by known artists, Jules Shear became a successful go-to songwriter. In the music business Shear is a well-known reliable songsmith. The solos were light years away from the bite & sting of Jules & the Polar Bears but found Jules more mature. He never lost his cleverness, & savvy delivery (“Love Will Come Again”). His music was never diluted just enriched by originality few songwriters possess.
Over the years Jules’ originals were delivered a bit stripped down & sensitive but always gripping. His choice of words & phrases — expressive. While not all solo LPs had the crunch of Watch Dog, they had inspiration.
With his new LP Slower (drops Nov 13 – Funzalo Records) Shear composed personal songs in an increasingly laid-back competent Tin Pan Alley-Brill Building-Great American Songbook manner. The strength of his songs is significant. “It’s Love,” “Feels Like Fall,” – all steer into an area where his musical wealth of talent lies.
Some fans will be surprised. Shear’s dive into middle-of-the-road flavors like “Today Like Tomorrow,” is a slow piano-driven ballad with jazzy snare brushing & deep Shear vocals that border on lounge jazz. The value of this? It’s not schmalzy, just beautiful. It’s worthy of torch singers like Mel Torme or Sinatra. The boldly stylish “One Pretty Please,” “Until Now,” are jewels.
Shear, who never sounds like anyone is not concerned with radio airplay, streams, sales or even being cool. He has longevity, confidence & quality on his side. What makes me happy is that Jules has written this LP with words first & music second. Much the way Stuart Guest worked with me & found it challenging & refreshing. Sculpting the notes around existing words & being able to edit & fill in gaps.
Will that be Jules’ new method? Maybe not. But it’s like the difference between composing on an acoustic guitar versus a piano. Joining Jules is veteran John Sebastian (harmonica/autoharp/guitar), Pepe (piano), Sara Lee (bass), Joe Majestro (drums), Perry Beekman (guitar) with producers Lee Danziger & Jules (all the rest).
The 10-cut, 39-minute CD was recorded at Woodstock. Available @ Amazon. https://julesshearshow.com/about/