4.5 out of 5 Stars!
Although to some fans of this L.A. group it may be an odd comparison, but Jo Jo Gunne always reminded me of Mott The Hoople. Indeed, were you to replace Jay Ferguson on lead vocals with Ian Hunter, this collection of songs would likely fit rather neatly into the Mott The Hoople catalogue somewhere between that group’s All The Young Dudes album and the following Mott album. Moreover, the guitarist on this release, Matt Andes, often had the same tones and playing techniques as Mott’s Mick Ralphs, and with Ferguson’s piano and some organ and synth featured throughout the album, you can almost imagine Mott’s Ian Hunter or Morgan Fisher playing the keys, while the rhythm section of bassist Jimmy Randall and drummer Curly Smith could be straight out of Mott as well. And ironically enough, Smith ended up being Ian Hunter’s drummer on the sorely overlooked 1977’s Overnight Angels album, so the connection between Jo Jo and Mott isn’t entirely off-base. See, I’m not totally crazy—or at least that’s what I keep telling myself.
Anyway, my mental status notwithstanding, Bite Down Hard is a solid and straightforward slice of rock ‘n’ roll from a band that, sadly, didn’t last long enough to release an extensive collection of material during its original run (apart from the brief reunion in the new century). A mere four albums, but thankfully, all of them quite enjoyable.
And on Bite Down Hard, with foot-stompin’, boogieing tracks such as the terrific opener “Ready Freddy,” plus “Rock Around the Symbol,” “Rhoda,” “Broken Down Man,” and “Take Me Down Easy,” along with a few mid-paced rockers like “Special Situations,” “60 Minutes to Go,” and the wonderfully catchy, harmonica-enhanced “Wait a Lifetime,” this ended up being not only Jo Jo Gunne’s second studio album, but also my second favorite of the band’s releases, eclipsed only by their fourth and final release from the ’70s, So…Where Is The Show?—but frankly, not by much, since I still play both albums about equally.
True be told, every time I listen to Jo Jo Gunne albums, I wish Jay Ferguson hadn’t left the group to pursue a solo career. Certainly, he achieved semi-success with 1978’s Thunder Island and, later, with some film score work, but in my opinion, none of his early lone efforts in the “rock” territory matched the same quality level as the Jo Jo Gunne releases, with much of his output being too light and too Pop-oriented for my liking. Therefore, it’s a shame Jo Jo Gunne wasn’t able to continue through the ’70s as a vehicle for Ferguson’s songwriting talents or perhaps the world might have had several more collections such as Bite Down Hard to cherish through the past decades.