Album review: Jackie Lomax, Is This What You Want?

Posted: February 1, 2011 in Album Reviews, Beatles

Jackie Lomax never made it big in the record business, although the opportunity was certainly there for him in the late 60s. The stars aligned perfectly for him when he landed on the Beatles’ Apple Records label in 1968.
The Beatles had known Lomax for several years, as the soul singer hailed from Liverpool just as they did. Lomax toiled in a few bands and was eventually noticed by Beatles manager Brian Epstein, who was interested in signing Lomax in 1967. Epstein died of a drug overdose that year, but when the Beatles launched Apple Records in early 1968, Lomax had his big chance at stardom.
He certainly had the chops to make an impact, and his debut single with Apple Records, “Sour Milk Sea” is one of the greatest rock songs you’ve never heard. For on this track, 3/4 of the Beatles (George Harrison, Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr), Eric Clapton, and Rolling Stones session ace pianist Nicky Hopkins join Lomax on one hell of a rocker. Clapton and Harrison exchange guitar solos as Macca, Ringo and Hopkins lay down a relentless groove. “Sour Milk Sea” was a tune Harrison had written just prior to the White Album sessions, but he wrote it with Lomax in mind. The song fits his vocal style perfectly, and I really wish there were more kick-ass rockers like this one on the corresponding album, Is This What You Want?, recently reissued by Apple as part of their massive reissue campaign.
While “Sour Milk Sea” is the unquestionable highlight (how could it not be with all that star power), the rest of the album is a bit of a forgotten gem, as Lomax takes on a number of musical styles effectively.
Harrison produced the album and plays guitar with Lomax on most every track on the album (aside from the few rarities included as bonus tracks), while Clapton pops up again on the bluesy “You’ve Got Me Thinking.”
The other rocker on the set, “The Eagle Laughs at You”, features a double-tracked guitar solo from Harrison, and it was released as the B-side to “Sour Milk Sea” in August 1968 (the same day the Beatles’ Hey Jude/Revolution single was released, talk about overshadowing).
This set has other interesting tunes, such as the almost “I Am the Walrus” vibe given by title track “Is This What You Want?,” the soulful “Little Yellow Pills,” and lovely ballads like “Fall Inside Your Eyes,” “How Can You Say Goodbye,” and “Baby You’re A Lover.”
Of the bonus tracks, “Thumbin’ A Ride” is notable since it was produced by McCartney as a B-side to the Harrison-produced “How the Web Was Woven”
Overall, this is enjoyable stuff for any Beatles fan. There aren’t many releases featuring members of the Beatles that are less known as this. And at least one Beatle performs on every track, another plus.

Sod rating: *** 1/2

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