Repertoire Records are fast becoming the reissue label that set the standard for others to follow. Ace Records’ crown is very close to being stolen; Repertoire have issued some very interesting and definitive box sets over the last few years, all lovingly assembled and remastered superbly. The Graham Bond issue from a year or so back is a fine example, and just when you thought nothing more could be done with the Zombies back catalogue after Ace’s sterling work with it Repertoire took that a stage further.

Now they’ve issued a career overview of Mickey Jupp’s work following on from their reissues of a few of Jupp’s earlier albums. So what do we get? There’s three CDs taking in seventy tracks including Jupp’s work with Legend and a handful of alternative versions, a run through of Jupp’s history by none other than Will Birch (which is worth the price of admission alone) and Repertoire’s usual excellent remastering of the songs featured by Jon Astley (who has a long list of credits but is maybe best known for those remasters of the Who’s back catalogue).

But as if that’s not enough also included is a DVD (the first) of the Marquee documentary, ‘Mickey Jupp-Long Distance Romancer’, which was originally shown by ITV Anglia on 23rd December 1994 and which is one of those rare music docs that you simply have to watch more than once. Almost stealing the show from Jupp in this documentary is the enthusiasm and respect pouring out of a young Wilko Johnson as he talks about Jupp’s achievements. Wilko’s response to Jupp’s view that he (Jupp) isn’t that great on guitar is boarding on shock. “You can’t be that good and not know it!” he exclaims. Jupp comes across as a modest and honest bloke, and by the time the short documentary is finished you find yourself loving the man and his music even more than you did to begin with.

But where do you begin with an artist like Jupp? Born in the seaside town of Worthing in Sussex, it wasn’t until Jupp’s family moved to Southend in his teens that Jupp started to really get into music via a meeting with the Paramounts whose Gary Brooker and Robin Trower would soon go on to greater things and who would also play a part in Jupp’s future career. Jupp immersed himself in the local music scene joining bands like the Black Diamonds and the Orioles, playing a mixture of blues, R&B and the rock ‘n’ roll that has underpinned much of Jupp’s work ever since. Jupp, like most artists, doesn’t like to hear his music being categorised, and, as Will Birch writes in the accompanying book, Jupp asked him, “Please don’t stick labels on it, I didn’t fit in anywhere. I don’t want to be stereotyped or pigeonholed. I was like someone going down a supermarket aisle picking up a bit of this, a bit of that. I had no direction.”

Not so sure about having no direction and unfortunately, in the UK at least, Jupp is forever going to be associated with the pub-rock crowd (due to his tenure at Stiff Records), but there is so much more to the music Jupp makes than your usual rock ‘n’ roll magpie.

It is fascinating to look at the credits on this box set. Just to read the different producers that have been involved with Jupp is testament to the regard fellow musicians have for his work. There are unlikely names such as 10cc’s Lol Creme and Kevin Godley and maybe even Quo’s Francis Rossi is a little of a surprise. Gavin and Iain Sutherland certainly seem like they don’t belong there but there are also names you’d expect; Nick Lowe, Gary Brooker, Robin Trower, Mike Vernon and Tony Visconti. But, for all the different qualities each producer brought to Jupp’s recorded sound, the one thing that shines through on each and every song here is Jupp’s songwriting talent and his vocals. Jupp must be one of the most underrated singers of his generation, and it’s only when we are given the chance to sample all of his work as in this collection that it strikes you just what a talented singer he is.

Disc one kicks off with the Stiff Records B-side ‘You Know What I Mean’, and leaves the listener in little doubt that, even with the input of those name producers and with backing from some of the UK’s most respected musicians, it’s still Jupp’s show. Jupp’s love of old-fashioned rock and roll was never more prominent and, like many of his heroes like Jerry Lee Lewis and Chuck Berry, Jupp throws in the occasional witty line to show that although he’s putting his all into the song he knows when to lighten the mood.

There are always problems with collections; there will always be at least one song that should have made the track listing but didn’t. With a back catalogue the size of Jupp’s, this could have been a major problem. There are whole albums that some feel should have been on here in their entirety, but really there should be few complaints. ‘Switchboard Susan’, Cheque Book’, ‘Down at the Doctors’, ‘My Typewriter’, ‘National Gas’ they all make at least one appearance and at seventy tracks surely this is one compilation that is going to satisfy even the most demanding Jupp fanatic.

Although Jupp has cherry-picked from that supermarket quite shamelessly, there’s little doubt that without his songwriting talent and his own vocal style he wouldn’t be as highly regarded as he is by his contemporaries. So it’s rock and roll, so it’s classic R&B, so what? When it’s executed with the care, love and soul that Jupp injects into any song bearing his name. it makes you fall in love with this music thing all over again. For every influence that Jupp has worn so proudly on his sleeve through the years there must be a band that he has been a major inspiration to. How can anyone listen to ‘Old Rock ‘n’ Roller’, produced by Nick Lowe and backed by Dave Edmunds and Rockpile, and not smile while thinking that this is what it’s all about?

It’s understandable why Jupp feels his music shouldn’t be pigeonholed; while there’s no denying that Jupp has a rock ‘n’ roll heart when he displays a more sensitive side, as on tracks like ‘Make It Fly’, shades of Dylan creep in and even his vocals take on a totally different slant.

The inclusion of the mono single mixes of Legend tracks such as ‘National Gas’ and ‘Gerorgia George’ are most welcome, and the fact that the CDs are not presented chronologically makes for an interesting listening experience although Jupp’s country tendencies are nicely illustrated by the opening run of Legend tracks featured on disc three.

‘Kiss Me Quick Squeeze Me Slow’ shows what an underrated talent Mickey Jupp is. While this box set will be eagerly snapped up by Jupp’s already adoring audience, there is much here that will surprise those who have only heard Jupp during one particular period of his long career. For this writer ‘Only for Life’, which was apparently issued on Towerbell Records in 1984 and was one of the Sutherland Brothers’ productions, is a previously undiscovered gem. Despite a now slightly dated production, Jupp’s soulful vocals are a revelation. It’s just waiting for one of the new breed of soul singers to pick up on this track, and maybe Jupp will finally be rewarded for his songwriting efforts in this country.

Is there a category for box set of the year anywhere?







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