TOM ROBINSON, BBC6: "It's a joy, an absolute joy from the opening chords of the opening song it leaps out of the speakers.
Fine songwriting, fine performances, all fired with an unignorable joie de vivre and life-affirming exuberance. Without hesitation I warmly recommend a recent discovery from my 6 Music Evening Sequence show: JAY SPEARS. I like Jay's album "Boy Howdy" so much that if you buy it from his website and don't agree, you can post it on to me at PO BOX 3185 London SW18 3JG and I'll refund your money personally!"
Robert Farrar, www.psychodrome.co.uk:"Spears is an eccentric and an original, less pretentious than the established gay pop stars, but funnier, more radical and more now.
Funny, angry, sexy, generous and badly-behaved, he enjoys himself more than a pop star should. He has no interest in being cool or post-modern or evasive. He is a true heir of the '60s, when style and political engagement were more congruent, and pop music had more spiritual energy."
JASON ROUSH, BOSTON BAY WINDOWS: Los Angeles singer-songwriter Jay Spears is just the kind of troubadour the gay world needs.
Spears' acclaimed debut, "Boy Howdy", perfectly captures his easygoing West Coast sensibility. The classic guy's guy, Spears writes and sings from a jockish, happy-go-lucky perspective, inviting people to think about the issues in a way that's moving and real.
I just saw your "I Like Mike" video -- what a refreshing, fun, and great song. A guy likes a guy and sings about it in a guy kind of way. It's a great fun song and I like it. -- David, Portland, ME
GREGG SHAPIRO, CHICAGO FREE PRESS: Jay Spears has a habit of infusing his tunes with a wink and a smile.
Many of the songs on his long-awaited second full-length disc "Playin' On My Team" feature his humorous side on prominent display, such as in the title track, the electro-hop of "Drive Time," "Cheapskate," and the wonderful "Smak Dem Christians Down."
"Playin' On My Team" scores big by mixing sincerity, fun, and pop music tributes in a breakthrough style of manly homo-pop.
-- Bill Stella, Highest Common Denominator
We Are All Born Lucky - the only cd you'll need this summer!
Singer songwriter Jay Spears has long been a favorite of mine, a witty fellow whose music is infectious, outrageous, and (quite often) heartfelt.
Having recently survived a major health situation, Spears has bounced back full of optimism and sass, and delivered his latest creation for our listening pleasure, We Are All Born Lucky; a sunny, LA-centric collection of songs that tackle topics ranging from earthquakes to politics. But don't let that put you off, Spears is such a genius, that he can take even the darkest, or most controversial subject and make it musically palatable.
Backed by a terrific group of musicians and background vocalists, We Are All Born Lucky is a musical poke at the funny bone that mocks religion (Guy In the Sky) vegans (Meat) and even driving the infamous highways and freeways of LA (Drive Time). But just when you think you might have Spears musical modus operandi nailed down, he presents a loving homage to his home town (City of Angels).
By the time we make it to the title song of the CD, (We Are All Born Lucky)...well, if you're not smiling, singing along, tapping your feet and agreeing with the lyrics, you might be dead. This is the point where Spears acknowledges his recent cancer battle and turns that horror upside down and inside out, and then reminds the listener that, no matter what his or her current circumstances, he or she is damn lucky just to be alive.
One of my favorite songs on this CD is Sleep With Me, a Beatlesque charmer about crawling into the sack with a lover and sailing off for the land of nod... just gorgeous, this one, with it's allusions to nautical mythology - a perfect lullaby for a troubled world.
In a nutshell, We Are All Born Lucky is probably the only album you'll need this summer, no matter if you are cruising the 101 in Hollywood California, or Route 295 in Mount Holly, New Jersey - this one will get you where you are going all year long.
--- PAX ROMANO
More listener reviews:
PLAYIN' ON MY TEAM
Jay Spears: Gay Troubadour and Musical Alchemist Extraodinaire!
Once again, Jay Spears brings joy and romance, love and laughter to his music loving audience. But this time he spices it all up with a dash of socio-political satire and "religious" fervor. He also takes a few "oldie goldie" 60s hits and gives them a good gay spin, literally and figuratively. This man has talent! Yet despite his musical bravura and stylish bravado, he's still just one darn nice, normal gay guy. When it comes to Jay, what's not to like! -- Greg
Jay -- I already have the hard copy, and just have to say that My Boyfriend's Back and Christian Smackdown are both fantastic. So is the rest of the album, but those two are my faves. Keep it up! -- AHL
Jay -- Totally 100% outstanding! Absolutely loved "Smak Dem Christians Down". Almost fell off my chair while clapping and laughing. In fact I liked it so much I just sent an email (copied below) to the Yahoo e-group of my church (Broadway United Methodist Church of Chicago). I'm sure it will be a hit, as most of us are worn down and frazzled in our battle with the so-called evangelical, right wing conservative faction of our denomination (why do I always want to spell that "demonization"?).
Once again, you've done us proud! A thousand (and more) Thank You's. -- Greg, Chicago
Felicitations, Jay! Thanks for sending the new disc which has been getting heavy rotation chez moi. "My Belinda" is really clever and so is the freeway song. Also like the Herman's Hermits guitar lick on "Arnie"...and of course I'm always glad to hear about Christians getting "smakked" around :) -- Ron Romanovsky
Ron is half of Romanovsky & Phillips, who brought gay music mainstream in the '80s & 90's with seven albums.
Love it--and my first thought is how much of your music makes me smile and even laugh out loud, which is so welcome right now. You don't shy away from serious issues, there's depth to what you do, but somehow you make it a bit cracked and easier to deal with. I love the density of your lyrics, and the individual way you deliver them.
Right off the bat I was struck by many of the rich guitar moments, background harmonies, Kim Williams' opening on "Smak Dem Christians Down" (a song I immediately connected with that is long overdue), and especially the violin work on "Who is This Guy?" (I'm a sucker for great fiddlin')--some beautiful/funny/inspiring work, and I'm sure I'll connect even more as I hear the songs on repeat listens.
And the almost-nekkid pictures of your hot bod should be a sales plus, too! -- Gerry, CA
Well now, I did something I rarely do and that is order on line, but I was so anxious to get your new CD I couldn't wait to call and order it from CD Baby over the phone. I took advantage of the site and gave a listen to excerpts from the album. Much to my surprise and pleasure what do I hear but your rendition of one of the girl classics from the 60's, "My Boyfriend's Back". I always knew that would make a great gay song. Now I don't feel so weird doing '60s Karaoke.
You are truly now a man after my own heart. Next CD you have to do the gay boy's lament over dating a bisexual, "It's my party and I'll cry if I want to" or the haunting "Johnny Angel". -- Kev
Jay, Playing on my Team KICKS ASS. It rocks. I love it, can't wait to get the cd. Erlin, NY
Hi Jay, my Jay Spears CD/DVD bundle arrived in the mail yesterday and I'm just as pleased as can be!! Nice touch with the autographed DVD holder -- thanks, Jay!
I really like how the album "Playin' On My Team" compliments your other album "Boy Howdy" so well. There is continuity in everything from the packaging to same wide variety of rhythms, instruments, emotions, etc. The fold-out lyrics sheet with a certain hunky image in the background is nicely done for both albums. And I love the credit at the end of the "Hey, Arnie" lyrics. ;-)
Once again, there are TONS of subtleties to appreciate, the more I hear each song. Right away, I picked up on the "wallet" phrase in "Cheapskate", harkening back to that reference in "Oh Hell". Cheers to you! -- Mike, MO
So like I'm driving like a NASCAR nut to Palm Springs. I had resisted the temptation playing your new CD until I could listen to it in one sitting. So there I am in the middle of the desert, and a familiar Herman's Hermits guitar riff gets going. NTS, I'm laughing my ass off. And My Boyfriend's back just made me snort on the water I was chugging. Hey, let's not forget your tribute to DaVinci on the disc graphics...you ol' beefbo you. -- Larz, Mission Viejo
Hey Jay! Phil, the boys and I just returned from a weekend in Chicago and were thrilled to open our mailbox and find "Playin' On My Team"! The kids were so excited that you had recorded a whole second album. We burst out laughing at Cheapskate and then laughed with a bit of "we're going to hell" fervor over the brilliant Smak Dem Christians Down. Oh my lord, what great songwriting! Glad to have some new Jay treats and we hope you are doing well! -- Brian, Phil, Max & Spencer; WI
P.S. Thrilled to have Bougainvillea Waltz on with the back-up...we love that version!
Jay, my but the playin' on "Playin' On..." is superb. Krist on a crutch, but you can sting those strings! Thanks for sending the disc my way. It's in heaviest rotation mode in my car now, and I am constantly grabbing the Jewel Box to see who played what. I will soon crash. I am partial to 'Arnie' for its shuffle beatiness, but am just wild about My Belinda and am singing it to myself all of the time. Annie is the best bass singer I have ever heard. Not a dud tune on the thing and a cheerier cheekier Jay-y-er disc does not exist. Kudos to Yudos. More Jay on wax is a very very good thingie. -- Brad, L.A.
The five-star rating I've given is because: 1) your new album is FINALLY here, and 2) just based on the samples I heard, DUDE! You did the unthinkable! You TOPPED yourself! (Oh...should I rephrase that...? Hehheh...) But just based on what I heard between the title cut and "Smak Dem Krischuns (MY spelling) Down", my order will be in yer hot little...I mean hot BIG hands by this week's end! I can't wait to put together a folder of my faves from both albums on my new MP3 player...And I thought that "I Like Mike" was the best song you'd ever done...D-OH! Thanks again, Jay, and I'm still waiting to see you live and in the hunky 'beef-bo' flesh!--Donny N., Arlington, VA.
Got the new cd today - listened to it twice on the ride home from work (commute was hell - but the cd in the stereo made it ok!) - all I can say is "wow". You've outdid yourself. Several songs have become instant new favorites, in fact I just caught myself hummng "My Boyfriend's Back"! Didn't think the Angels original could be improved upon, but I think you've done it. -- Mike, VA
MORE LISTENER REVIEWS:
How many songwriters these days are actually witty?
Boy Howdy is hilarious and has been glued to my CD players for a week. And not only do you get great lyrics, but also fabulous sax arrangements and back-up vocals. It's mostly euphoric but has some richly emotional moments, such as the unlisted last track &endash; a deranged classic. This is something that I can play to my muso friends, my gay friends and my friends who appreciate quality and need to know that an insane homosexual pop star with a rough-and-ready voice and a drum machine is making some of the most interesting stuff around.
Robert Farrar, East Sussex UK Jay Spears Fan Club President
"What's Not To Like?"
If Leonard Cohen had a younger, gay brother with a polar opposite worldview of his older, gloomier big bro, an ear for melodies, an arch and witty way with a lyric and a mean-fingerpickin', folk/rock style on guitars, and let him run loose in the studio, BOY HOWDY would be the end result! Catchy love songs about ex-boyfriends and dating new ones? Who'da THUNK??? But there's so much more to this album than just that. Nope, Jay is no Pavarotti, but with songs this good, you'll be paying much more attention to the self-effacing wit and heartfelt touches he applies; from the jaunty "MY RAY" and the infectious call-and-response/jockboy vibe of "I LIKE MIKE", to the surprisingly touching message behind "POSITIVE," and the sad sweetness of "LULLABY FOR BEA," and the hopefulness of "YOU WILL LOVE AGAIN." No matter who you are and who you happen to be in love (or lust) with right at this moment, one listen to Jay's debut and the only thing you'll be asking yourself about this guy is "What's Not To Like?"
-- dcscribe (Arlington, VA.)
The Other Spears
No relation to that other blond bombshell known as Britney, Los Angeles singer-songwriter Jay Spears is just the kind of troubadour that the gay world needs. The comical slice-of-life pieces on Spears' acclaimed debut, "Boy Howdy", perfectly capture his easygoing West Coast sensibility, all the while making nods to the men he's loved and sometimes lost.
But don't think that these are merely sentimental romantic numbers. The classic guy's guy, Spears writes and sings from a jockish, happy-go-lucky perspective, though he's also skeptical about the macho-man mentality. (In fact, it's Jay's gay softball team that's currently brought him to the Eastern U.S. for the National Championship and a late summer tour.)
"My Ray" is the first in a string of tunes named after those special men whom Spears has encountered. Against a '50s doo-wop backdrop, he aims his arrow for the heart of a "big strong chango" in a love song that's like no other: "He didn't show up for our date at the zoo/ 'Cause he got a bad haircut, what can you do?/ He said he loves me when he called me today/ That's why I love my Ray." The chanting sports anthem "I Like Mike" finds a hunky teammate at the center of Spears' affections, while "Cryin' over Brian" follows the path of a heartbreaking heartthrob right to Jay's bed.
Spears' musings aren't always so lighthearted, though. "Positive" takes a sobering look at how HIV status can affect potential relationships. Despite its honest resolution ("So now we're pals and I tell you no lie/ I hope he finds a beautiful positive guy"), the track has caused some controversy among listeners. Such is the dilemma of difficult themes that deal with volatile emotions, and Spears triumphs by inviting people to think about the issues in a way that's moving and real. (9 out of 10)
-- Jason Roush, Boston Bay Windows
A Los Angeles singer/songwriter/string player whose tongue is most definitely in cheek when it's not occupied with other pursuits, Jay Spears offers a unique, thoroughly delightful, and more than occasionally wry take on life. The voice itself will hardly earn him a Met audition, but his brash presentation and go get 'em lyrics definitely push this disc to the top of the chart.
It's hard to pick favorites. "I Like Mike" (What's Not to Like? He's the best darn thing to come down the pike) is more of a chant than a song, with a peanut-gallery chorus echoing phrases such as "He's always playing hardball, that's my Mike". If Mike's got "an attitude bordering on brattitude," it reflects Spears' own, which adds to the fun. "Positive" is one of the finest songs about the stickiness of status disclosure yet written, while "You Will Love Again" and "Lullaby for Bea" are disarmingly tender. Ending with "Oh Hell!" and "House on Fire" (a great big beef-bo caught my eye, And soon the sparks began to fly), Boy Howdy is a cheering affirmation of gay love.
-- JASON VICTOR SERINUS (The New York Blade, North Carolina's Q-Notes, The Washington Blade, The Southern Voice, San Diego Update, The Gay Outlook)
I was one of the judges in Out Song Of The Year and your work is in a completely different league from everything else I heard.
You have a wonderful sureness of touch: lines like "He's got an attitude bordering on bratitude, give the boy some latitude" or "I dropped my wallet in the toilet" are as great as anything by Dylan or Eminem. In conception and execution your tracks had such huge exhuberance, originality and sheer joie de vivreI was grinning all over my face with enjoyment.
I present a new music show on 6 Music for BBC Digital Radio three hours a night, four nights a week. I could play a song of yours right alongside The Strokes or Busta Rhymes or Ani Di Franco without a word of explanation - and get listener e-mails clamouring to know who the hell you are. In fact, as soon as your CD arrives I intend to.
All the best, TOM ROBINSON, BBC6
From the beginning, you know this is different: irreverent, funny, in-your-face, and downright personal. Jay Spears hits many marks with his over-the-top lyrics and catchy-camp musical style. Dealing with everyday themes, some which are rarely discussed with any honesty, Spears shows us we can face the music so to speak and still maintain a sense of humor. Overall the entire CD is a rare listen, filled with good times and thought-provoking lyrics. Hmmm, can we really think and have fun at the same time??? You can when Jay Spears is guiding the train. -- LEN ROGERS, StoneWall Society
I just saw your "I Like Mike" video-what a refreshing, fun, and great song. A guy likes a guy and sings about it in a guy kind of way. It's a great fun song and Ilike it. -- David, ME
Not since, maybe, Randy Newman, have I heard a body of work so packed with unique songs. You certainly have a refreshing and knowing view on the world... and the talent to express it. And I'm amazed at the ease and fun with which you write about same-sex love. It's usually treated as such a heavy thing. My personal favorite by far is "Nothin'". It's wonderful. And "I Like Mike" almost killed me when I started laughing out loud during a press at the gym (I brought along my Walkman that day). Again, you've got an amazing mind. Thanks for letting us all inside it. -- MITCH GALLOB, Streeter Music
Funny at times, heartfelt at others, but always entertaining.
The style of Jay's music is his real success. Earthy, real and gutsy describe not only his wonderfully authentic voice, but his beautiful words and sentiment. Whether it's an ex-beau, his mom or a current squeeze, his words bring smiles and tears. His is the most real music I've heard in a long time. You'll love every melody, every word and every rhyme! -- ME in OKC
The Hills are alive!
Jay Spears' Boy Howdy is simply good music that touches every gay man in the heart. Fun melodies, fabulous lyrics, and a voice you can fall in love with. -- M. Ramsey
Perfect balance between fun and melancoly. Melodic geniality.
Not many artists manage to balance between seriousness and ironic fun the way Jay Spears does. At first some songs on Boy Howdy are just plain fun but underneath an ironic and sometimes downright tragic reality appears. Just like in life itself. But it is not forced in any way, which means that you can take it to you if you want or choose just to see the irony and laugh about it. Musically Boy Howdy is completed by the smart melodies and often unexpected harmonic turns. Jay Spears has a healthy disrespect for the conventional singer/songwriter-idiom. That in combination with interesting arrangements overshadows the occasionally lame and poor drum-programming, which I on the other hand know attracts some people. To sum it up. Boy Howdy is the best that has happened to the genre in a long time. Buy the record and help spread good music.
-- Per Fredrik Larsson (Sweden)
WARNING! Do not listen to this album if you insist on being in a bad mood!
The music is varied and refreshingly unfashionable - clumsy hip-hop via 60s pop to Purcellian chant. Although each song is rather surprising, Boy Howdy is following a red thread - the songs are mainly about taking things as they are and making the best of life (and death). The lyrics are as ambivalent as the music is: A little tongue in cheek, a little self irony, high handedness, cruelty, sadness, sensibility and sheer bestial beauty filling up to three hankies (sniff...). Perfect for intensive listening and as perfect as background for Sunday's breakfasts. -- Mianek