Album Review – Garland Jeffreys 14 Steps to Harlem
For someone who have been in the business for close to 50 years, Garland Jeffreys is working at a pace faster than most artists who are a fraction of his age. 14 Steps To Harlem is his third album in 6 years, which like other masterpieces such as Ghost Writer, Escape Artist and The King Of In Between, looks back at his past while staying completely in the now.
Family is extremely important to Jeffreys and it’s a recurring theme throughout the album. The title track is a gospel-influenced, part spoken word piece that honors the work ethic of his father (who traveled each work day from Sheepshead Bay to Harlem) and his mother (who worked at the Domino Sugar Factory). Jeffreys also offers moving salutes to his wife Claire with “Venus” and “Time Goes Away” – the latter featuring his daughter Savannah on piano and vocals.
Being the quintessential New Yorker, Jeffreys has established musical and personal relationships with some of the city’s greatest homegrown and adopted sons and daughters. He first met Lou Reed while they were fish-out-of-water students at Syracuse University and remained friends until Reed’s death in 2014. Jeffreys pays homage to one of New York’s greatest street poets with a spirited performance of The Velvet Underground’s “Waiting for the Man”. Lou is no longer with us, but Jeffreys continues to keep that connection alive through his widow, Laurie Anderson, who plays violin on “Luna Park Love Theme” – an elegant love song set in his beloved Brooklyn.
While performing a set in 1981, Jeffreys found a familiar face among the many in the audience: Joe Strummer, who was in town with The Clash during their epic fun of shows at Bonds in Times Square. “Reggae on Broadway” remembers that encounter and that edgy time in the city’s history.
In 1979, Jeffreys (who was recording the 1979 album American Boy & Girl at The Record Plant) struck up a friendship with John Lennon; who was there recording Double Fantasy with Yoko Ono. Jeffreys honors the late Beatle with a beautifully re-worked version of “Help” that really puts the emphasis on the hurt and anguish in the lyric.
Whether you like gutbucket blues, Latin infused pop, doo wop, folk infused social commentary or just some good old fashioned rock ‘n’ roll, this album has it all. It’s another gem from one of New York’s greatest contributions to the world of music
14 Steps To Harlem by Garland Jeffreys is available now through all major music outlets. You can also go to http://www.garlandjeffreys.com/ for tour dates and more information.