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JC I is the first album by the band Jeff Cullen/ JC released on November 4, 1994.
On November 4, 1994 JC the eponymous debut album from Sunset Strip Hollywood heavy metal glam rock band Circus members James Black drums, and Jeff Cullen guitar, piano, keyboards, bass, vocals, and string arrangements. The album was produced and engineered by Cullen at The Record Plant, Las Palmas Studios, Bobby Landgraf's private SIR Studio in Laurel Canyon, Hollywood, California and Dick Grove Music Studios, Van Nuys, California.
Circus had dominated the Hollywood Sunset Strip live music scene with record breaking crowd attendances until the departure of lead singer Tanzal Thorne in 1992 just prior to signing the bands multimillion dollar record deal to SBK Records due to "illness" he was never replaced. Auditions of over 800 vocalists took most of 1993 with potentials flying in from all over the world to fill the position.
The demo recordings of the band featured Cullen performing said duties on lead vocals intended as guide tracks only for the bands future front-man. All songs; and lyrics written by Cullen and published thru Circusongs publishing company established by Cullen while in Circus. These recordings were influenced, encouraged and promoted by Tower Records GM Neil Gonsieur who managed 56 Tower Record stores across the United States and was in the running to manage the next evolution of Circus. Gonsieur was a guiding force for the band to look within as votes from independent critics, fans of the band and Tower Record customers chose Cullen as the best singer out of the many recording applicants some of which were well known or famous at the time in that genre.
These recordings caught the attention of Pete Angelus who had acquired some of Cullen's recordings through fiancé Karen Mulholland, most notably the song "Seasons" which was written about her and appears on the second album JC II. Angelus offered Cullen a management contract, changed the name of the act to JC and suggested an iconic symbol to represent the band. Neal Walter, stage manager for the band from the beginning, re-styled the logo into the artwork that appeared on the album cover, he also designed all the artwork for the inner sleeves of the CD.
The style of the album had obvious Circus influences "Catch 22" and Suzi Quatro cover "Devil Gate Drive" which were performed live by Circus. The third song on the album "Longtime Gone" was recorded as a demo with Randy O, previously of Odin as featured in the movie The Decline of the Western Civilization Part 2 (as did Blacks previous guitar player Kim Kelly aka Reza Amiri) with consideration as a potential replacement for Thorne. As the recording process continued the songs and lyrics took on a more classical rock music style incorporating the use of strings and piano on songs. "Free," "Easter Song," and "Beginning to End" a composition written about the abandonment trials and emotional tribulations of growing up alone in a broken family tortured by an abusive parent forbidden to see his elusive father. This track opened the album setting the stage for what JC was to become with a 'life flashing before your eyes' last look at ones time spent on earth before passing away, all epitomized by an appropriate sound track of audible memories. Beginning To End is to be the 1st chapter of a biographical book based on the 7 album set to be released later in his career.
"Mourning Light" was another departure from the now pre-established sounds that had comprised the tangible but yet diverse formula that was to make up the JC audio experience, this song focused on the Ying and Yang metaphorically Mother and Father relationship issues. Always writing in double entendre and often dark subtext the penmanship lyricism styling's of Cullen were taking shape and the cast of vocal characters that make up the concept of JC were emerging one by one. As a concept character based artist JC, or Jesus Christ as some base the reference, Cullen was able to explore many directions through poetry and music including some very controversial theological subjects thus potentially detaching the act from commercial success by default by some opinion often resulting in unfair and harsh criticism from certain religious based factions.
"I'm not throwing stones I'm getting stoned" or "It's not Jesus Christ it's a Jesus Crisis" just two of Cullen's controversial comments in a "Rock On" magazine interview 1995.
"Firey Nights" featuring aspiring actress Lati Grobman aka "Deni" as the introduction voice to the song saying "Meet me at" is an example of some of the many vocal characterizations most recognizably Lemmy Kilmister, Ian Gillan, Sammy Hagar and Steven Tyler as Cullen juxtaposes these vocal greats in one song to make up individual opinion excises of the often touchy subject matter.
Y.I.L.Y previously recorded with Thorne was the last Circus track ever recorded. Cullen re-recorded the vocals as an homage and gesture of love to Thorne and " the greatest band that never was" as Cullen wrote in the 1st edition liner note of the JC I album. Neal Walter created the album artwork which features pictures of the band performing live and a photographic portrait of JC by renowned rock n roll photographer Lex Remlin.
"Loco-Motion" is a short instrumental dedicated to bassist Johnny Crook D'Angelo who adopted the D'Angelo part if his stage name to denounce Crook, the name handed down by his emotionally distant father but as it turned out was more than appropriate considering his persona & character portrayal in Circus. This role, a Darth Vader type of evil daredevil dressed in custom tailored ominous black leather, studs and handmade Pasquale DiFabrizio hi heeled boots rounded out his persona.
All this combined with the meteoritic rise to fame and subsequent comet crashing into flames demise of CIRCUS led to manic depression and frequent visits to psychiatrically oriented doctors and psychologists resulting in darkness and despair bouts of moodiness coupled with mind altering medication and loss of direction. These issues manifested themselves into a culmination of pressures all coming to a head with D'Angelo totaling his 60's classic Ford Mustang by crashing it head on into parked cars off the Sunset Strip. Some called this a cry for help suicide attempt.
D'Angelo was rushed to hospital after he went through the windshield and suffered major head trauma, he barely survived. The song Loco-Motion musically expresses a train (created by Cullen's trademark custom made guitar the Axciter) and Blacks drums shuffling along and passing from right to left emulating a train passing in the night with the band crying out "Johnny come on... yes you!" and "All aboard... all aboard!" Johnny Crook D'Angelo departed from the band in a wake of sadness in 1994 and has remained in reclusive isolation with no communication with the band or press ever since. "That band, was at times, powerful enough to turn goat piss into gasoline" a quote from the Darkness.
Originally the album had an indexed silent ID segment with a hidden track appearing at ID# 30. Jesus / 31. Died / 32. at / 33 Track 33 is a subliminal poem called "Hate" written by Cullen in spoken word layered over demonic sounding feedback guitars at extreme volume intended as a wake-up call to spirituality. This feature was later dubbed "Reprise" by Eire Records during the re-mastering process as an attempt to retain a mode-comb of relevance to the original recordings intent. The album however labeled the short instrumental afterthought to "Free" (written about Lati Grobman) "Reprise". The original limited edition recording has become a collector item.
A semi truck of equipment was loaded into a 30,000 square foot out of business Dick Grove Music School in Van Nuys, California, more specifically the 15,000 square foot huge live arena stage with adjacent orchestral recording studio divided up into massive soundproofed rooms architecturally engineered to record world class orchestras and so the sessions commenced for the balance of the first JC album and consequently JC II.
The thunderous drum sounds were achieved by suspending a custom made DW drum kit, handmade to James Blacks specifications by Drum Workshop founder John Goode, in the air with a first of its kind Voelker drum cage also designed by Black and painstakingly welded together by Greg Voelker with solid stainless steel weighing over 1000 lbs.
The very distinct sound of the haunting opening piano on the first song is an antique 1922 Heintzman grand piano, a 9ft Steinway was also used on the other piano songs. 68 speakers were used in the studio, 4 Jeff Cullen custom designed heads and cabinets and 4 triple Trace Elliot stacks along with a myriad of other equipment choices, guitar and bass selections and drum choices.
The Record Plant is another studio used to record primarily because of the piano. The mixes were done at Dick Grove Studios and the masters were re-mastered digitally in 2013.
- James Black - drums
- Jeff Cullen - bass guitar, guitar piano, keyboards, vocals, and string arrangements
- To be added later.
- Anthony Cormican – re-mastering
- Dick Grove Studios - re-mastering
- Jeff Cullen- engineer
- Jeff Cullen - producer