JERONIMO — Cosmic Blues (review)

JERONIMO — Cosmic Blues album cover Album · 1970 · Proto-Metal Buy this album from MMA partners
3/5 ·
Certif1ed
It's blues, Jim, but not as we know it...

Assuming that there is a point at which hard blues based rock suddenly became heavy metal, you could do far worse than choose this album as the splitting point, and choose the track Hijack as one of the first bona fide Heavy Metal songs.

On the whole, it's still rooted in Cream style heavy blues rock, as Jeronimo were a power trio, but there are moments when something more metallic shines through, and the music is generally heavier, more aggressive, and a bit less predictable than you might expect.

News starts this trend with a solid blues style riff, which is harmonised on the second iteration, reminding me strongly of Sunshine of Your Love, or maybe something by Wishbone Ash.

The first surprise comes in the verse riff, which appears to be modelled on You Really Got Me - but is drop tuned to D, and includes the minor 3rd. This latter is a quite important distinguishing feature, as Metal tended towards diatonic minor scales rather than the pentatonic, which blues bands used by definition, and, by extension, Hard Rock acts would also more typically use this scale. Deep Purple were an obvious exception to this, but Deep Purple wore many hats, musically speaking.

Not so Jeronimo - the intensity in heaviness is kept up throughout this album, which is quite astonishing given that it was released in 1970. A back beat provides a Hendrix-styled chorus, before the intro to the insstrumental, which is a notable little passage of harmonic experimentation, hinting at diabolus in musica before copping out slightly and using the verse riff to form the solo over, with Blue Cheer or Groundhogs-like intensity. Although mostly pentatonic-based, the solo does also include minor scale drop-ins, confirming a consistent approach to breaking away from pure blues rock.

The Key is an unusual track, as a piano takes over from the rhythm guitar, but although the gospel/boogie roots prevalent in the Beatles et al are plain, that is not the style utilised here. The vocal delivery is also notable, strongly impassioned, indeed, often cracking under the strain. Again, this is one heavy song.

More surprises await in Hands with its dischordant intro and almost gospel-style vocal harmonies that remind me quite strongly of Blue Oyster Cult, who were yet to record their first album (although BOC formed in 1967).

So Nice To Know is a superb, if not particularly heavy song with some fantastic key and time changes, and nicely maintained intensity combined with very catchy melodies.

Na Na Hey Hey, the 1969 Steam hit, was also a hit for Jeronimo all over Europe - although you don't really feel that they took this seriously when they recorded it. I guess everyone has to get publicity somehow - and this is a very good cover, delivered with feeling - and some nice drum work.

Let The Sunshine In is, of course, the song from the musical Hair done inna heavy stylee.

Highjack is the reason any Metal historian should hear this album. It's kinda Groundhogs in style, but you can clearly hear heavy metal crushing its way through the underlying hard rock sound. That opening riff just kicks your ass, and there are riff fragment interjections and all kinds of sections that go off at completely insane tangents while remaining coherent in context. But it's the re-emergence of that opening riff that keeps the excitement up - what a monster!

Small wonder Steppenwolf were anxious to lay claim to "Heavy Metal Thunder" - their support act delivered it. Hope they didn't Hijack the show!

Number 5 feels like filler. A kind of crunchy and otherwise unremarkable blues rock song with a pentatonic solo that mercifully lifts the tempo out of the dirge around 3:30. Quite frankly, I'd just have kept this hi-energy section and dumped the rest of the song.

No No No is hard to pin down - kind of Zeppelin-ish but not, if that makes sense. Even if it doesn't, that's probably enough for a summary.

The Light Live Needs comes across strongly as something from the medley on Abbey Road, and Heya was Jeronimos 2nd hit single from this, their debut - not too shabby, especially for a song about forming a circle and doing a snake dance.

It's the self-titled follow-up that really packs a punch, but this debut from Jeronimo must warrant a place in any fan of early metal's collection, even if it's only the track Highjack, followed somewhat by Keys that really ticks the box.
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