Laurence Juber – Standard Time (1982; 2018 reissue)

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Laurence Juber, an accomplished musician and former member of Paul McCartney’s band Wings, is well known for his dexterity on acoustic guitar. He has released 25 solo albums, and received deserved acclaim for his tributes to the Beatles and Wings: One Wing, LJ Plays the Beatles, and LJ Can’t Stop Playing the Beatles.

While still a member of Wings, Juber recorded his debut solo album, Standard Time, with some assistance from McCartney and fellow Wings mate Denny Laine in 1979. It features an array of covers ranging from rock to jazz to even holiday tracks. Originally released as a vinyl EP in 1982, Standard Time languished out of print until now; Laurence Juber recently reissued the album on his own label, HoloGram Records, as a digital download.

What Standard Time reveals is an artist whose interests lay beyond rock. Yet some of the tracks reflect the disco craze of the time, particularly the Latin-tinged “Don’t Let Go.” (Just listen to the throbbing bass and percussion reminiscent of Paul McCartney’s own “Goodnight Tonight.”) However, his swift finger picking on the electric guitar leans toward jazz. Juber’s take on “You’re No Good” also favors a danceable beat over Linda Ronstadt’s country-rock hit.

Juber wrote one of the most interesting tracks on the album, “Maisie,” during Wings’ Back to the Egg sessions. Featuring a distinctly country twang, the song includes McCartney on bass, Laine on harmonica, and Steve Holley on drums. What results is a fun jam that sounds timeless; Juber’s guitar may not be as prominently featured as on other Standard Time tracks, but “Maisie” has arguably aged best.

More than 35 years after its initial release, Laurence Juber’s smooth take on “There’ll Never Be Another You” would fit in nicely on a contemporary jazz station, as the guitarist executes typically tasteful solos. Indeed, the track reveals how Juber is as influenced by R&B and reggae as rock and jazz. As on other Standard Time tracks, vocals are sparse; the chief focus remains on Juber’s elegant fretwork. The towering horn section also transforms the song from a 1940s standard into something much more modern.

Once again, Juber displays a willingness to alter traditional arrangements with “Stormy Weather,” an ambitious but ultimately unsatisfying remake of the classic ballad. The electric guitar aims to give the song an edge, with piercing horns adding an element of funk. However, the string arrangement conflicts with the aforementioned elements, resulting in an overly busy take on a delicate standard, ultimately burying its melody. Conversely, his rendition of “Autumn Leaves” accurately depicts its melancholy and tenderness simply, employing only his acoustic guitar and a lovely string arrangement. Those familiar with his Wings and Beatles cover albums will find this track most similar to his current work.

To display his jazz chops, Laurence Juber bravely undertakes Woody Herman’s “Four Brothers.” In the original version, four saxes take on the “voices” of each brother; here, Juber attempts to recreate the effect through acoustic and electric guitars, using different effects on the latter. While his version will not make listeners forget Herman’s landmark recording, it demonstrates Juber’s adeptness at alternating among various genres.

Interestingly, the album closes with a smooth, guitar-powered “The Christmas Song,” again leaning toward contemporary jazz rather than Nat King Cole’s iconic rendition. It nicely summarizes Juber’s seemingly effortless style of playing guitar. Yet his inventive rearrangements and tasteful but complex style of picking illustrate Juber’s gifts as a guitarist and musical interpreter.

Standard Time functions as a stepping stone in Laurence Juber’s career, his first attempt at standing on his own as an artist. Some of the production and arrangements sound dated today; indeed, the disco-tinged sound is a product of its time. Yet Juber’s talent still rises above the material, and the album provides a launching off point for a highly respected musician who specializes in sophisticated yet graceful interpretations of standards from yesterday and today.

Kit O'Toole

Kit O'Toole

Kit O'Toole is a lifelong music enthusiast who maintains a stand-alone music blog called Listen to the Band. In addition, she is the internet columnist and a contributing editor for Beatlefan magazine. She also holds an Ed.D. in Instructional Technology. Contact Something Else! at
Kit O'Toole
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