Legendary singer/songwriter Jack Lee has been on the radar of rock fans since the late '70s, when he formed the iconic power pop band The NERVES, alongside Paul Collins and Peter Case.
His songs have been covered by a multitude of artists (BLONDIE, SUZY QUATRO, CAT POWER, PAUL YOUNG), but fans have found his solo work very hard to come by prior to this release.
Bigger Than Life is a double album filled with 23 memorable songs, all reissued for the first time since the 1980s, and showcasing the incredible songwriting craft of this reclusive pop genius.
Following 2008’s One Way Ticket, featuring reworked Nerves and solo songs, Alive have compiled this set on which tracks such as Crime Doesn’t Pay, Paper Dolls and I’m Gonna Have Fun crystallise the upbeat US bubblegum jangle of the 70s with big melodic choruses and heartfelt yearning delivered in his reedy voice.
Oddly, such was their consummate makeover of Lee’s sole hit it’s possible to fantasise Blondie taking several tracks to their swooning pop heaven. Unsurprisingly, his version’s the highlight here but Lee’s talent obviously deserves wider recognition. – Kris Needs / RECORD COLLECTOR
Yet still not big as he deserves. The former frontman of L.A. legends The Nerves (with Peter Case and Paul Collins), Lee wrote Hangin’ on the Telephone (covered by Blondie) and Come Back and Stay (for Paul Young). You’ll find his own recordings of both on this anthology, along with 21 other crunchy power-pop nuggets cut in 1981 and ’85. Try it on for size. – TORONTO SUN
While he hits his stride throughout, the power ballad ”The Girl in the Picture” and the purposeful “Breaking Into My Heart” inject depth and diversity into his singular stance.
Skilled songwriters have been rock ‘n’ roll’s secret weapon since the beginning, so credit Jack Lee with continuing in that hallowed tradition. – Lee Zimmerman / ELMORE MAGAZINE
It was Lee who wrote “Hangin’ on the Telephone,” and yet his profile still suffers in comparison to his bandmates in the Nerves, Paul Collins and Peter Case. Comprised of Lee’s hard to find ’81 and ’85 albums plus B-side “Small World,” this 2LP should give recent converts to the power-pop cause reason to celebrate. “Hangin’…” and a few other Nerves tunes are given solid updates, but this largely resists falling back on past laurels. Dated production does abound, particularly on the ’85 stuff, but the quality songwriting still shines through. B+ – THE VINYL DISTRICT
If Jack Lee went to his grave only known as the guy who wrote the Blondie hit “Hanging On the Telephone” he’d be more noteworthy than all of us combined and then some. The irony is that only music publishing houses and fans of his former band, The Nerves, would know this. Sad, but that’s the state of music in the ‘00s. – I 94 BAR
The first 11 numbers are from the Jack Lee’s Greatest Hits, Volume 1 LP (wishful thinking at its finest), and include Lee’s rough and tumble takes of the aforementioned “Come Back and Stay” and “Hanging On the Telephone,” as well as snappy power pop ditties such as “Women,” “Give Me Some Time” and “Good Times,” all sung in Lee’s edgy, soulful rasp. The rest of the tunes (save one b-side) are from Lee’s hyper-rare, self-titled 1985 album, originally released only in France. These range from the raging “Sex” (cut with the semi-legendary Rubber City Rebels) to a whole batch of slightly mellower songs that rely more on synthesizers than guitars. The best of these sound like could-have-been-hits: “Bird in a Cage,” the melancholy “From Time to Time,” “The Girl in the Picture” and “Time Machine,” a sadly sweet tale of longing that’s been begging to be heard by a wider audience for 30-plus years. – John Borack / GOLDMINE (Grade: A)