Music review: Jesse Rae

Independant candidate Jesse Rae
Independant candidate Jesse Rae
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The story of Jesse Rae is one of the most fantastic and unlikely in Scottish pop, that of a farmer from the Borders whose full clan regalia and videos shot in dramatic rural landscapes were alleged to have inspired the look of the Highlander films, of a longtime supporter of Scottish independence who ran for parliament in 2015 but wasn’t permitted to take his signature claymore into the polling station and, most bizarrely yet incontestably of all, of a self-styled funk warrior who forged strong bonds with the cream of America’s funk musicians in the late 70s and early 80s, penning Odyssey’s chart-topping hit Inside Out along the way.

Stereo, Glasgow **

For those of a certain age, their introduction to Rae came a few years later when his panoramic, transatlantic Over the Sea video featured on Friday night music show The Tube, ensuring overnight notoriety. Since then, the heather has remained stubbornly unlit but Rae has continued with his ambitious cottage industry funkfest, launching new album Worae at this rather forlorn event, sparsely attended by dedicated youngsters whose parents may not even have been born when Rae first wielded his claymore.

Rae still performs in Highland battle dress behind a claymore-shaped mic stand but, while it can literally be difficult to see beyond the uniform, there is intermittent full fat funk value in the music. Worae is a fond tribute to his late funk compadre Bernie Worrell, the trailblazing electro funk keyboard player who was a founding member of the brilliant Parliament-Funkadelic.

Unfortunately, Rae doesn’t have the means to render his Worrell collaborations live so this was effectively a PA, with lusty live vocals synched to previously unreleased instrumentals and faintly ridiculous video footage of Rae striding through fabulous Scottish scenery accompanied by dogs or fellow clansmen, relayed by temperamental DVD.

For every heavy duty funk rocker such as the George Clintonesque (It’s Just) The Dog In Me, or outbreak of blistering Prince-like shredding courtesy of P-Funk guitarist Michael Hampton, there would also be a tedious novelty funk ditty like (O We) Wish You 
Merry Disco (“for the children”) or Milkmaid Me (with cow noises) to trawl through before the rather surreal proceedings tailed off with smoother new material written in Miami with the esteemed producer Jimmy Douglass.

Forty years on, Rae is still working those respected connections; this was just not a convincing showcase for this curious character of Scottish pop.

FIONA SHEPHERD