The Jazz Butcher
The Highest In The Land
The Highest In The Land is the final album by The Jazz Butcher that was completed just before Pat Fish kept his promise, to never quit anything for another few years in the Sunshine Home, as he left us falling asleep at home at Fishy Mansions while waiting for his coffee to brew. His passing has hit me harder than almost any other musician, mainly as over the years Pat had become a good friend and was always cool to hang out and chat with, both at his own gigs and when I'd run into him at John Cale shows or the Big Star tribute show where he was one row behind me and was totally made up when Ray Davies came on to sing Till The End Of The Night. Going back to the first time I met and spoke to Pat at Le Troupeau in Paris, at his first four Solo shows, two sets a night the 6th and 7th April in 1989 in a fabulous cellar bar, we got talking between sets and afterwards about music and travel and all sorts of other things. During the chat Pat suggested that I should join his publicity team, also to make sure I kept all the music papers and fliers I was talking about that had to go on some future computer thing, a promise I have more than made good on. A week later The Jazz Butcher were playing at The Marquee on the 12th and I ran into Pat before he went on, he then introduced me to his label boss at the time Alan McGee, so he could get me onto the Promo team. Well Alan reacted in the same way he has reacted every time since, when any other friends introduce me to him, by replying "It's you, you tried to kill me!" and walking off or closing the conversation. Pat's jaw hit the floor suitably, I didn't quite know how to reply to that, other than saying sorry for the rather scary late night cab ride I had given Alan a few weeks earlier. Taking him back to his swanky Isle Of Dogs apartment, being new to the job I was rushing everywhere full pelt like a speed freak maniac, we had a close shave that Alan couldn't forgive me for, so my job on team Fishy had gone. Still it hasn't stopped me writing reviews and helping promote Pat ever since and I will miss adding more Live reviews of Pat and whoever is in the Jazz Butcher at the time, almost as much as I'll miss getting more albums by him. The album opens with live favorite Melanie Hargreaves Fathers Jaguar that has a real Slim and Slam style beat and shuffle for this wonderful story of what happened to that car and how it affected Melanie's father, when it went up in smoke, as the tune is adorned with some lovely mute trumpet and a very pretty acoustic guitar part, this is sophisticated and nicely jazzy with the call and response part having the merest echo of Cab Calloway. Time is Pat's thoughts on his upcoming demise, over a dubby backbeat, as he makes sure we all know he ain't changing and while he's still around he'll have Time for you. Well as he was commenting on my facebook status' two days before he died, I know that's the truth. As Pat freestyles about how kids are working down mines and making Tik Tok videos, as that ever precious commodity Time is running out for him, but not before he completed this album or made sure this song had a great guitar solo. Sea Madness is Pat's take on the madness of Brexit or wanting to leave the EU and the idiots who made the process as bad as they possibly could, as Pat was always more of a European Bon Viveur than English fop. As the rather redolent trumpet solo keeps things nicely downbeat as Pat has returned on the Eurostar to St Pancras one last time. Never Give Up opens with some sparkling acoustic guitar before Pat tells us repeatedly to Never Give Up in the same way he never gave up drinking or smoking or any of his other habits just for a few years in some dreadful hospice or care home. Instead, Pat tells us to embrace our dysfunction and be ourselves, it also makes me want to see evidence of Pat driving monster trucks. As Pat mentions it not being Condition Blue a line that caught me out in a live review a couple of years ago when he first played this song live. Thankfully Pat never gave up till the end. Amalfi Coast May 1963 has a lush summery feel to it, as if it could be Pat's very own Summer Holiday, or could have come from the soundtrack to one of those TV shows that were on in the school holidays it's a rather wonderful instrumental. Running On Fumes nicely sums up how exhausted everyone has felt in the last few years at how things have been headed that has only become more apparent in the last couple of years as he invited everyone he hates to a party. As he wants to make his own entertainment with Mackie Messer and others as he feels he is distracted as much as everyone else is while trying to avoid all the toxicity. The albums title track The Highest In The Land is a slow careful song about spirituality and how he has been a Monk since he was 8 years old, like some English Dalai Lama as this slowly unfolds I just want to be sitting in a pub garden with Pat as the smoke is passed around once more and we all try once more to be the Highest In The Land, but really Pat often really did seem to be that high both before and after performances as this becomes a blues shout out to Black Raoul and all sorts of other cats that had crossed Pat's path on his way to The Highest In The Land. Sebastian's Medication has a distinctly Syd Barrettesque feel to it, even as it switches from being a song of need for medicine, into a bile ridden song of despair at the mess of Brexit, the Gammons in charge of the whole shitshow, with the psych freak out guitars screaming like some troll in his basement, Pat is still riled up about political correctness as he always was from the first time we spoke back in 1989. This is a truly brilliant indictment of our times. Goodnight Sweetheart is the perfect passing shot and goodbye to all of Pat's friends and family from Pat to all of us who have known him and seen him around for all these magnificent years. This is Pats own eulogy to his life and career and is a real tearjerker, as I have over 35 years of memories and friendship with Pat to recall, as he sings Goodnight Sweetheart over and over like he is saying it to everyone who called him a friend and who he knew by name, when he says good night one last time at the end of the album it really is his last good night to us all and what a shame we won't be able to have any more Good Nights with Pat. But I am thankful for all the wonderful times Pat was a part of.
The Highest in the Land
It's not often that an artist gets to do a Bowie by consciously carving their personal epitaph into the grooves of their final LP. The Highest in the Land is that rarity of an album, and it could not have been made by a more brilliantly poetic and fearlessly sarcastic writer than Pat Fish, also known as The Jazz Butcher.
( www.tapeterecords.de )
( www.tapeterecords.de )
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