Scream for Help
[Click above for album images]

While any discography of John Paul Jones will (rightly) list Scream for Help as his first solo album, this is in reality a little misleading. Scream for Help is a soundtrack album, the music being composed by Jones for the Michael Winner TV movie of the same name released in 1984. That said, the music here does not have the feel of soundtrack music, the tracks being substantial songs in their own right. Winner originally asked Jimmy Page to write the music, but as Page was unable to fulfill the request, he suggested asking Jones.

I should say straight away that there is no connection whatsoever between the music here and that of Jones' day job with Led Zeppelin. The album does though give some indication of what we can expect on his first true solo album, Zooma. There is a rather incoherent feel to the album overall, the songs not sitting together particularly well, but heard in isolation they are of a decent quality. All of the tracks are written or co-written by Jones, two with his daughter Jacinda.

The album opens with the instrumental Spaghetti Junction, a track with a strong resemblance to the music of Booker T and the MGs, and not just because of the dominant organ work of Jones. The following Bad Child sees Jones taking on vocals himself, and doing alright at it. His voice reminds me a bit of Tony Banks' solo effort (Fugitive). Silver Train features Jon Anderson's distinctive vocals, supported by some incisive guitar work by Jones. It sounds like it should be good, but unfortunately, the actual composition is repetitive and very ordinary. The following Crackback sees bandmate Jimmy Page contributing lead guitar while Graham Ward adds some heavy drums. The track is effectively a solo improvisation by Page, which sees him performing something somewhat jazzier than we are used to from him.

Chilli Sauce is a synth instrumental performed entirely by Jones. The piece reflects his jazz influences, the synth tones being suitably slurred. Take It or Leave It sees the first of two appearances by the fine vocalist Madeline Bell (of Blue Mink etc.) who also co-wrote the song. This lighter song with a straightforward dance rhythm is one of the highlights of the album. Christie is a delicate ballad sung by John Anderson and again another highlight. When You Fall in Love is the second and final song sung by Jones. The piece has a strong folk/Simon and Garfunkel feel, the acoustic guitar of John Renbourne (Pentangle) being familiar but effective. The album closes with a further ballad Here I Am (omitted from the first pressings of the LP), Madeline Bell displaying her vast talents with tenderness and grace.

Despite the film credits, there is no orchestration on this album, the focus when compiling this release clearly being to gather together the songs rather than the background music. The result is an eclectic mix of disparate songs, some of which are highly appealing while others much less so. We should however recognize that these songs were composed with the film in mind, and may well have complemented the on-screen happenings well. -Bob McBeath
Statistics

Released:
Mar. 22, 1985

Tracks

1. Spaghetti Junction
2. Bad Child
3. Silver Train
4. Crackback
5. Chilli Sauce
6. Take It or Leave It
7. Christie
8. When You Fall in Love
9. Here I Am
Quick Fact

John Paul Jones recorded tracks for Scream for Help at his recently-built 24-track digital recording studio, named Sunday School.
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January xx, 1974 - Recording Physical Graffiti at Headley Grange
January xx, 1974 - The band resigns with Atlantic and forms their own label
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January 17, 1975 - The band rehearses in Minneapolis for the upcoming US tour. Bootleg "Johnny Kidd And The Pirates" evolves out of this rehearsal
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