What Happened To Jeff
GlobalNet Records, 1998
REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 03/08/1999
Some publicists might ask why I don't like reading press clippings of artists before listening to the albums of their clients? Simple: A good review might falsely set me up for what I think will be a killer performance, while a bad or mixed review might scare me away from touching a disc for a few weeks. (If you saw the growing pile of promotional discs in the "to be reviewed" section of the Pierce Memorial Archives, you'd know that I have no shortage of things to listen to.)
In the case of Massachussetts-based musician Jeff Onore, his disc What Happened To Jeff came on a heavy mail day - and, to be honest, reading one review that said his voice was not the strongest wasn't the strongest endorsement I'd seen for bumping a disc to the top of the list.
Granted, Onore's vocals aren't the strongest - his sound is similar to that of John Prine meeting Lowell George in a bar for a few drinks. But What Happened To Jeff is an album that, for the most part, rises above any weaknesses and proves itself to be a charming independent effort.
Onore has a gift at providing sometimes biting social commentary; his pictures of love gone wrong on "Say Hello To Linda" and "Twenty Years" are poignant (though the subject of stalking is a sore one with me), while "Tap Tap (Online)" is an all-too-true account of the realities of dealing with people in cyberspace.
Often, Onore goes the route of speaking his vocals - and on a track like "Money And Sex," this works to the best advantage of the song. It adds a more sinister, dark side to the story of a woman who does not find honor in the way she earns her living.
If you were to label Onore as a comic performer in the veins of "Weird Al" Yankovic, you'd be doing Onore a disservice. While there definitely is a sense of humor in Onore's music ("Dental Hygenist"), Onore's style has roots more in the social commentary than the humor. It reminds me a little of the work of Tom Lehrer, in a sense.
Only the ending of the album ("Monster On The Campus," "Sunday Night Blues") drags things a bit, but for the most part, What Happened To Jeff is a surprisingly open, solid album that should bring Onore more attention than just in the New England area. Who knows, in due time, the whole nation might know what happened to Onore... he went on to be a star.