My favorite album of all time this week – Start the Car

jude_cole

It is interesting how serendipitous coming into contact with new music can be. Commercial radio is ordinarily a vast wasteland of songs you’ve heard over and over again. Then one day, you tune in at just the right time and you are treated with a pleasant surprise.

In 2008 I found myself working by myself on a work project that consisted mostly of long stretches of tedium punctuated by multiple moments of hurried, stressful activity. During the moments of tedium I passed the time by listening to music. One of the days I decided to go hunting for “the greatest classic rock radio station ever” on the Internet and my search turned up 100.3 The Sound out of Los Angeles. I have no idea if The Sound is “the greatest classic rock radio station ever.” However, I am very glad that I found it.

On that day in 2008 that I tuned in I heard primarily songs with which I was familiar–songs by The Eagles, The Doobie Brothers, Steely Dan, Fleetwood Mac, Boston, Don Henley, and others. Into that familiar mix drifted a song that I had never heard. The song grabbed me immediately and I found myself hooked. It was a song that was so catchy, so sing along-y, and so “feel-good” that it was well nigh irresistible. “Why have I never heard this song and how was this not a massive hit?” I thought to myself.

The on-air personality did not back-announce the song when it finished and so I was forced to consult Google and search for what lyrics I could remember from the chorus. After some digging, I had the song’s title and the artist. That song was “Worlds Apart” and the artist was Jude Cole. Here is a YouTube of the song and I’ll give you a few minutes to listen to the song and meet you after the jump.

Released in 1992, Jude Cole’s Start the Car album was already many years out of print. So I picked up a used copy and dove in. What I found was that Cole was anything but a one-hit wonder. This album produced no hits, but it sure could have with songs like “Worlds Apart,” “Just Another Night,” “Right There Now,” and “A Place in the Line.”

If there is one overriding sentiment on Start the Car it is found in the opening lyrics of the title track: “I’m tired of the pressure, so tired of the pace/Just wanna grab you, baby, and get out of this place.” This is an album full of songs about hitting the open road either in pursuit of a better life or to decompress from a life gone wrong. There is even a song entitled “Open Road” on the album.

Cole managed to surround himself with a star-studded list of musicians to help him realize his road music. The sing along-y background vocals on “Worlds Apart” were provided by Jack Blades and Tommy Shaw, who were together in Damn Yankees at the time. Other notable session greats appearing on the album include John Robinson, Jim Keltner, Jeff Porcaro, Pat Mastelotto, Robbie Buchanan, Lenny Castro, James Newton Howard, Steve Porcaro, David Paich, Mike Finnegan, Tim Pierce, Michael Thompson, Lee Sklar, and Neil Stubenhaus. For his part, Cole has a wonderfully gritty voice that perfectly suits his songs. And he is also quite an accomplished guitarist who plays many of the guitar solos on the record himself.

On an album that has no clunkers or filler, one of my favorite tracks is “Tell the Truth.” The song contains a great lyric about a relationship headed in the wrong direction. Cole sets the scene with an ominous opening lyric: “Something about the way your eyes, lately, look up and down, at everywhere but me.” The song contains a soaring chorus and a killer bridge that really adds something to the song with the lyric “Let’s start it over or call it over somehow.” “Tell the Truth” also contains a sumptuous rhythm track from Porcaro and Sklar. In fact, while listening to this song without the credits in front of me I thought to myself, “That has GOT to be Jeff Porcaro on drums and Lee Sklar on bass.” Here is a Grooveshark link to the song:

Start the Car is the kind of album that would best be enjoyed by fans of Bob Seger, John Mellencamp, or Bruce Hornsby. Cole’s songs are more intensely personal and less “bemoaning the ills of society” than those other artists. Even when Cole does tackle a social issue–as he does on “First Your Money (Then Your Clothes)”–the results are still quite personal and contain the traveling meta-motif of the album (the opening lyric is “I left home on the southbound train one September in the pouring rain”).

Head over to Amazon and purchase a digital copy of Start the Car. Or, if you would like to do my heart good, head over to Amazon, and pick up a used CD copy for a few pennies plus shipping. The liner notes and the sleeve photography are worth it.

 

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