Though he's never been able to record a hit of his own, singer/songwriter Jules Shear has recorded several albums of highly accessible, hit-worthy material, and as a testament to his abilities, he's penned hits for others, including "All Through the Night" for Cyndi Lauper and "If She Knew What She Wants" for the Bangles. Born in Pittsburgh, Shear began writing songs as a teenager. He relocated to Los Angeles in the mid-'70s, joining his first band, a typically laid-back combo called the Funky Kings. The band released one album for Arista in 1976. While "Slow Dancing" from the album (written by Jack Tempchin) would later be a hit for Johnny Rivers, the three Shear songs were clearly the highlights of the album. Shear left the following year to form his own group, Jules & the Polar Bears, who released two critically acclaimed, though commercially overlooked, albums for Columbia. When a third album was rejected by the label, Shear forged on as a solo artist.
Signing on to EMI-America, he released two solo albums, 1983's Watch Dog and 1985's Eternal Return; both received critical praise but few sales. Once again, he was dropped by his label and unable to secure another deal. Shear then formed the Reckless Sleepers with the Cars' Elliot Easton. In 1988, without Easton, the Reckless Sleepers released their sole album for IRS, Big Boss Sounds; it failed to make much impact, though "If We Never Meet Again" from the album was later covered by Roger McGuinn. In contrast to the Reckless Sleepers' hard rock tendencies, Shear teamed up with the Church's Marty Willson-Piper for an all-acoustic, Dylanesque album, The Third Party, in 1989. The album ultimately led to a spot on MTV, where he hosted the first 13 episodes of Unplugged -- he left when the show switched to the single-artist format. Shear followed with two critically acclaimed, more or less pop-oriented albums -- 1992's The Great Puzzle and 1994's Healing Bones -- two of his finest albums to date. In 1998, he released Between Us, an album of duets for High Street Records. Shear moved to Rounder Records subsidiary Zoe Records for his April 2000 release, Allow Me, and to Valley in 2004 for Sayin' Hello to the Folks. Dreams Don't Count was released on the Mad Dragon label in 2006, followed by More, billed to Jules Mark Shear rather than Jules Shear, on Funzalo Records in 2008. ~ Chris Woodstra
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