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Articles Home » 1981 Articles » Jet - 1981 Empty Handed
Jet - 1981 Empty Handed

ALBUM: Empty Handed
LABEL: Third Coast
YEAR: 1981


LINEUP: Barbara Barrow - vocals * Michael Smith - guitars, vocals * Danny Torroll - guitars * Keith Montross - keyboards * Ricky Niez - bass * Billy Johnson - drums

TRACK LISTING: 01 Night Night Night * 02 Love Slave * 03 Stranded In The Moonlight * 04 Car On Fire * 05 Renegade * 06 Venus And Norma Jean * 07 Caribbean Snow * 08 Barbed Wire

Jet were a shortlived melodic rock band put together by the husband and wife team of Barbara Barrow and Michael Smith. Based out of Chicago, this outfit have a similar background to another local area entity from that same timeframe.. Tantrum, with a female lead singer, and playing a style that borders pomp rock and AOR. Smith in particular, has a long history stretching back years, and also moving forward ahead of time beyond Jet, though his musical upbringing is anything but melodic rock. His work has involved incursions into folk and bluegrass territories, as well as Theater work. So how on earth did Jet crash land onto the melodic rock scene considering the pre-history of Smith and Barrow? I'm not gonna try and second guess, perhaps they saw an opportunity, or perhaps wanted to let off some musical steam? Whatever, the end result (out of character though it may be) is pretty amazing all things considered.

The Songs
Singer Barbara Barrow has a powerful presence, coming off like a cross between Ann Wilson (Heart) and Stevie Lange (Night). Talking of night, that's the first track.. 'Night Night Night', a slow burner with a smooth chorus and dominated by the vocal gymnastics of Ms Barrow. This one reminds me of the Dixon House Band and is a great lead-in. 'Love Slave' features some spiralling synth and darker musical passages not unlike the aforementioned Tantrum. The relentless drive of 'Car On Fire' sees Smith and Barrow double-teaming on vocals, the track itself galloping across the pomp landscape. 'Renegade' veers on the side of quirkiness, though the chorus swings it back into the center-lane of melodia-ville. Check out the superb guitar solo on this one! 'Venus And Norma Jean' features some biographical lyrical references, but the whole affair is pomp based with choice keyboard layers. 'Carribean Snow' is an offbeat sort of tune, reminding me of local Kiwi/NZ female singer/songwriter legend Shona Laing. Jet finish up with a bang on the pomp masterpiece 'Barbed Wire'. The extended keyboard solo towards the end reinforces what this band is all about, but in reality, did this six-piece really know what they were about?

In Summary
Upon doing some research on this outfit, it amused me to find that alternate versions of some of these tracks have appeared in different guises and styles, such as 'Renegade', 'Car On Fire' and 'Caribbean Snow'. From a rock purists point of view, you'd wonder what they'd sound like? Somehow I'd just like to leave things just as they are, and not to spoil the show. Michael Smith has since appeared in other musical projects, and has played and toured extensively as a session/live musician, though not in the melodic rock genre. However, Jet's 'Empty Handed' is well worth a hunt on Ebay's vinyl/LP section if you're prepared to search it out.

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#1 | swazi on September 14 2011 16:28:29
Great release! And definitely worth to be reissued on CD. Rock Candy ?!?!
#2 | super80boy on May 19 2013 18:53:59
Pulled this one out after many years of not listening to it and i recently upgraded to a sealed copy. There are definitely a handful of excellent female fronted melodic AOR rock songs on tap here. The first two lead off tracks are great. 'Renegade' does have an odd quirkiness about it and it also reminds me of Grace Slick circa Software LP. There is a nice melody change up with the mid-tempo 'Carribean Snow'. The finishing 'Barbed Wire' has a real rock edge with strong vocal deliveries. Empty Handed is a fine female fronted obscurity that is highly recommended from this collector.
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