The JTQ’s second album for Acid Jazz came at a time when the label and the act were at loggerheads. Tensions that always tended to run high between label owner Ed Piller and James Taylor had boiled over in May 1995 when a dispute over the video for the second single from the “In The Hand Of The Inevitable” LP led to the single being scrapped. A feeling of injustice lingered, compounded when, in early 1996, Acid Jazz scored their biggest hit single with Goldbug’s ‘Whole Lot Of Love’, the same song featured on James’ abandoned single. With this in mind James recorded the album that became “A Few Useful Tips About Living Underground” as quickly as possible, as far away from the Acid Jazz hub of office and studio as possible, by using the Battery studio, home of James’ publisher Zomba Music.
It is ironic that the recordings were far closer to what Acid Jazz had wanted from the band than “In The Hand Of The Inevitable” LP. “A Few Useful Tips” is an album shorn of adornments: out went the strings, the backing vocals, the guest musicians and the star vocalists, replaced for the most part by the sound of the touring Quartet (actually a six-piece, plus a percussionist) doing what they did best. The rhythm section, plus John Willmott, had been playing together since late 1991 and had an almost telepathic understanding of where each of them was going within any song. James, his brother David and John Willmott had become expressive soloists, whose skills as jazz players are frequently overlooked. This album lets you see their many guises – from the pulsating ‘Creation’, through the rousing cover of Gil Scott-Heron’s ‘It’s Your World’ onto the more delicate ‘Summer Fantasy’ and ‘Serenity’. James never restricts himself to the Hammond but is equally at ease on a whole barrage of keyboards including Moog and electric piano. The album was the essence of the band as so many of their fans loved them and it absolutely rocks. It was preceded by a single of ‘Creation’ that had been remixed by then in-vogue dance DJ Derek Delarge under his Ceasefire moniker. It’s issued for the first time on a JTQ album.
Three other tracks are included for the first time outside the US. ‘Austin’s Theme’, ‘Theme From A Faraway Land’ and ‘ Man Of Mystery’ were all issued on the revamped version of “A Few Tips” in the US, named “Creation”. All three are rumoured to have been written with a view to being used in Mike Myer’s film Austin Powers, although only ‘Austin’s Theme’ made the cut.
This final album for Acid Jazz was the last time that two of the most important figures in the birth and development of the acid jazz scene – James Taylor and Eddie Piller – would work together. JTQ continue to fill venues the world over, and are as good as ever.
By Dean Rudland