Joel Gion - Joel Gion

by Jim Harris Rating:10 Release Date:2017-11-10
Joel Gion - Joel Gion
Joel Gion - Joel Gion

So we finally know what Joel Gion is all about with his next solo release, the self-titled Joel Gion.  As the tambourine player for Brian Jonestown Massacre, he is known and loved for standing in front of a large set of brilliantly tight guitar players in the greatest alternative band in the land, jamming on the tambourine and adding background vocals. Until his 2014 album of psych jams and gems called Apple Bonkers, little did any of his fanbase know how good Joel really is as a songwriter. This, his second long player, truly has Gion settling into his own definitive sound with considerable distance from his BJM-sounding first album.

No one should be disappointed with this new direction. The album Joel Gion is a tight, cohesive blend of shimmering, well-constructed, west coast, surfer psych that tones down the guitars and replaces them with a 60s-influenced mod blend of piano, flutes, and the like, paired with Joel's breathy and whispering vocals.

While I’m more of a hard psych fan, the compositions here grow on you, and are strikingly original as well as perfectly executed. Joel’s rather inflected slant on the vocals adds a nice edge to the tracks. Also, the lyrics aren’t insipid or inane like much of this beatnik psych territory. The brilliant track, ‘Come to Light’ is a solid example of this. The introductory flute solo and underlying, quietly-funky beat takes you back to a side street in a quiet moment from an old James Bond movie, when the girl finally sits down with James Bond while Joel’s lyrics explore his pursuit of individuality.  Love it. Love it.

The whole album evokes this wonderful atmospheric psych journey from the first track on through the last track, and if this is truly the heart and soul of Joel Gion, his growing fan base should rejoice. Joel Gion securely establishes himself as a songwriter on this album, and not just a one-off dude who released Apple Bonkers with his BJM mates and then hopped back onstage with his 2/4 backbeats.  If ‘Gone,' the strongest track, is any indication, he can take this sound even richer and deeper.

Joel Gion is onto something and any fan of BJM and the countless other psych bands should be delighted he has decided to share it all.  Another strong release in a year chock full of strong releases. In a perfect world, Joel would open for Anton and Company and we could all enjoy several hours of bliss. Pretty please come to St. Louis!

Overall Rating (1)

5 out of 5 stars