Jukin’ Bone has crossed the big one off its bucket list. Long considered the top live band to come out of Central New York, the hard-rockin’ outfit — John DeMaso, Mark Doyle, George Egosarian, and Joe Whiting — reunited last year to finally record the album they were unable to create.
Unfinished Business (Free Will Records) offers 10 tracks of gripping rock’n’roll characterized by craftsman-like composition, passionate, pitch-perfect performances, meticulous mixing and the propulsive percussion of guest drummer Josh Dekaney. The new disc vividly spotlights Jukin’ Bone’s varied talents, a spotlight that famously dimmed after the band’s major-label signing in 1971.
Unfinished Business will be available Friday, March 2, at CDBaby.com, in record stores and on most streaming services. Visit jukinbone.com for information.
Originally named Free Will, that band also featured drummer extraordinaire Tom Glaister. A second version of the group replaced Glaister with two drummers, Danny Coward and Kevin Shwaryk.
Jukin’ Bone released two LPs on RCA early in that decade, Whiskey Woman and Way Down East, but the albums’ production missed the mark, while business affairs — including national tours — were mishandled. As a result, the Jukin’ Bone of the 1970s never fulfilled its potential and broke up acrimoniously in 1973.
Individual members accomplished much in subsequent decades. Doyle and Whiting continued to work together in various formats, building an enviable catalog of recorded music on Blue Wave and Free Will Records.
Over the years, Doyle became a widely respected record producer and arranger, working with acts such as Bryan Adams, The Stylistics, Cindy Bullens, New Kids on the Block and Meat Loaf.
Jukin’ Bone/Free Will reunited two decades later to perform in 1993 at the first-ever Syracuse Area Music Awards (Sammys) show at the Landmark Theatre. They also staged a few more live shows, including a memorable Clinton Square concert in 1999 and a 2004 gig that was recorded at the Dinosaur Bar-B-Que.
Doyle and Whiting were inducted into the Sammys Hall of Fame in 1996, and last year, the entire band was inducted. That late-in-life honor led to a discussion.
Whiting telephoned Doyle, DeMaso and Egosarian and asked, “What if we finally got to make the album we always wanted to make?” Everyone agreed it would be worth the effort. Serendipity smiled again when Doyle, acting on the band’s behalf, signed an exclusive licensing deal with Akarma Records in Italy for the release of five albums’ worth of early Free Will titles on high-quality vinyl and digital downloads.
With Doyle at the controls from March through August 2017 at Jocko Randall’s More Sound studio, Jukin’ Bone finally laid down tracks that capture the grit and authenticity missing from the RCA releases.
“Nothin’ to Lose” penned by Doyle, Egosarian and Whiting, might well have been the record’s title tune with its lyrics outlining a candid band bio:
We’ve been down so long, we’ve taken too many hits.
We’ve been pushed around ’til we almost called it quits.
But we won’t stop…we’re not done yet.
We ain’t got nothin’ to lose.
The track’s intense drums-and-bass intro is followed by Doyle’s twangy, devil-may-care guitar. DeMaso’s bass lays down a solid bottom, Dekaney’s uptempo tom-toms rock the joint and Whiting’s confident, committed vocal makes this song a true statement of purpose.
Wizened by their major-label mishap, the band members know that a little luck goes a long way in show biz. Everybody needs a little “Gris Gris.” A remarkably versatile singer, Whiting takes on a Dr. John persona here, with a coarse and throaty vocal:
There’s a black cat standing right in my way
And two white horses waitin’ on my grave
But I feel luck wakin’ up each day
Gonna keep on wearin’ my gris gris.
While Whiting wails, rhythm guitarist Egosarian cranks his whammy bar and Doyle’s stinging six-string complements the vocal on the “takin’ no chances” chorus before his guitar lead tells a haunting story. The song ends on a foreboding note as Whiting’s bare vocal is backed by nothing but Dekaney’s woodblocks.
Another of the disc’s most memorable tunes is Doyle and Whiting’s “Born Bad,” a 21st-century profile of a luckless ne’er-do-well who ends up on the wrong side of a knife. Mid-song, Doyle’s noir-style guitar slowly and solemnly reflects on the dark side of life.
“End of the Bar” is a slightly less frightful tavern tale involving a game of eight-ball with a gal who knows how to chalk her cue. Doyle’s guitar pushes the vocal throughout and then lays low over Whiting’s spoken outro.
The only non-original on Unfinished Business is “Today I Sing the Blues” by Curtis Lewis, recorded by Aretha Franklin in 1961 on her second studio album, Aretha: With The Ray Bryant Combo, and again for her 1969 album, Soul ’69. After a minimalist guitar-drums intro, Egosarian’s subtle rhythm guitar chording keeps the tune rolling as an instrumental for its first two minutes and 30 seconds. Then Whiting’s aching vocal rises declaratively while walking “the darkest avenue,” and his simmering singing builds to a screaming falsetto.
Listeners will relish Unfinished Business from first note to last. The opening track, “Big Money,” a moody musing over the concept of compensation, is built on a tom-tom foundation that suggests the ticking of a big clock, the passing time punctuated by Doyle’s angry, ripping guitar lead plus gang vocals and hand claps before a dreamy fadeout.
“Changin’ Minds” is a satisfying, straight-ahead rocker with just a hint of country; think Macon, Ga., circa 1972. “Mona’s Gone” bemoans one that got away with plenty of wah-wah pedals, whammy bar and Doyle’s keyboard adding a churchy B-3 organ ambiance.
“I Ain’t Got Nothin’” is a downbeat title but a decidedly upbeat song on which Doyle’s carefree guitar carries listeners away. And the closer, “One Good Reason,” gives Egosarian a chance to play some lead guitar and More Sound engineer Andrew Greacen a chance to sing backup.
Every one of Unfinished Business’ 10 tracks benefits from Doyle’s skillful production and arrangement sensibilities as he deftly mixes the instruments into a riveting rock’n’roll rumble.
Longtime band manager and booking agent Dave Rezak puts the new disc in perspective. He describes it as “a deliciously just outcome in which great music prevails! Brothers, who suffered at the hands of unscrupulous moguls and plain bad luck, triumph in the end.”