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Jim & Jean

Mad Haiku on Jim & Jean's "Changes"


Jim and Jean Index

I'm guessing that you've never heard of Jim & Jean who had the misfortune of releasing their first album just as the folk revival was being crushed by the weight of the British Invasion and its own pretentiousness. (And the dopes at the Newport Folk Festival booed Dylan when he plugged in and went a electrified. Sheesh.)

Anyway, Jim Glover and Jean Ray recorded a couple of albums on the Verve Folkways label in the mid-1960s, then seemingly vanished off the face of the earth. Their first album, Changes, was released in 1966 and covered songs by Phil Ochs, David Blue, Eric Anderson and Dylan. The rest were penned by Glover himself who is said to have introduced Ochs to the music of Woody Guthrie and taught Ochs guitar when they were roommates at Ohio State. It was Ochs who wrote the liner notes on the Changes album.

"The folk boom has come and gone like a plague," Ochs wrote ruefully. "As the scene came to its inevitable shift, some resigned and officially became salesmen, others became ethnic defenders of Mother Earth tradition even though there were no attackers.

"Many grew their hair down to their wallets and jumped on the Beatle bandwagon in true hands-across-the-sea spirit. Palms upward as usual.

"Myself, I also planned to form a new group of former folkies. We would expand our hair, be backed by an electronic symphony orchestra, we would play sitars and various other eastern instruments we learned of by reading record jackets, and we would talk about the free-form ultra-Zen music on television. The group would be called the Pretensions."

Of Jim & Jean, Ochs said, "Into this melange of ultra hip and ultra hyped scenes leap Jim & Jean, a true blend of Americana, the kind of couple who might well persuade people from Iowa to buy U.S. Savings Bonds.

"Can they sing? Are they worth listening to? I think so, because unlike many of the people you have come to know and love in the folk and folk-rock scenes, they actually have voices with timbre and tone, control and intelligence."

OK, Ochs was a bit overwrought, but it was the 60s, and he would later kill himself (hanged himself in 1976), and there would be big tributes to him (I remember reading how Allan Ginsberg wore Ochs' gold lamè jumpsuit on stage at one event). But he had a point when he wrote, "There has been a vacuum of decent interpreters of the new wealth of songs pouring out of the New York decadence. These lyrics demand sensitive treatments, and don't necessarily need the overwhelming blare of drugged speakers. They demand phrasing, harmonies, counterpoint and higher wages."

I first bought this album right after it came out; found it in a store downtown. Or rather it found me. It's not the greatest album in the world. I didn't think so then and I don't think so now. On some harmonies Jean's full, high-pitch warble can get downright irritating. But Jim & Jean do a killer version of Ochs' song Crucifixion, which is like a postmodern, pre-psychedelic interpretation of the New Testament. And the title track, Changes, which Ochs also wrote, has that snap and pop of quintessential hippie dippy Sixties. He wrote some damn good songs, Ochs did, and Jim & Jean did them justice after all.

But don't go looking for this album at your local CD store. You won't find it there. Or online, for that matter. It doesn't exist on CD, at least not that I've been able to discover. (If you know how I can get my hands on a pirated version, e-mail me.) What I've been playing all these years is (gasp!) a vinyl record, warped and scratched, with popping sounds in the background that even a Dolby™ noise filter can't eliminate. (Yeah, I have a turntable, which my wife forced me to buy, and I'm glad she did.) Rather stupidly, I gave away my first Jim & Jean album, then decided I couldn't live without it, so I went searching for it at used record stores and found a copy for $14, or about twice what I paid for it new.

Somewhere on Earth there is a vault containing the master tape of this album. If you have it, ferchrissakes bring it out and put it on CD so I won't have to listen to the noise of a scratchy vinyl record anymore.

As Ochs said in the liner notes, "All decent Americans will buy and love this record. The rest of you will have to fend for yourselves."

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