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James MCcCartney


Me
ECR Music Group

..and with the production, programming and mixing assistance of David Kahne comes this new full-length album by James McC, son of Paul. The previous CD release of the set of EPs was a delight and it’s pleasing to report that the songwriting standard on these selections is just as high. James plays guitar, piano, bass and drums and though he has some vocal, guitar and drums contributions from Dad they are not easy to pick out amongst the other musicians’ efforts. I would swear on a Byrds box set that Paul IS playing bass on a couple of the cuts, however !

As before, there are a few things to note about the music of this man – in a nutshell he neither sounds or tries to sound like his father, he can play many instruments really well, he is more of a folk-rocker than a rock’n’roller MOST of the time ( similar maybe to Donovan in that respect ) and he is somewhat shy on stage. More talent than bluster, more craftsman than spotlight-seeker.  He would last five seconds on one of Simon Cowell’s TV farrago shows and that’s to his credit, so would Tom Waits or Tori Amos !

James’ songs given the chance will grow on you like James Taylor’s, believe me. More sitting room than stadium is the approach, however the punchier cuts are up there with the rockier works of more esoteric quality acts like Cotton Mather or DaDa.

Opener ‘Strong As You’ patters into earshot with a bright acoustic twinkle and Abbey Road treated-vocal and Leslie-soaked chordal wash shot through with single-note guitar figures. It’s like a warm bath, psych summer sounds…..love oozes out of this song ; next up ‘Butterfly’ has nimble guitar arpeggio twists and an ethereal vocal with pastoral lyrics. A “Yellow Submarine’ animation to accompany this song would make perfect sense. A hint of George Harrison ?  well, maybe…beautiful mystery delivered on a sonic cloud.

“You And Me Individually’ seems sincerely-meant but is a tad irritating to this listener, deftly played but repetitive  ;  far better is ‘Snap Out Of It’ which hints at Arthur Lee in its Love-like arrangement and steady electric bass with an emphatic vocal chased by deep Mediterranean orchestral waves. The strings are out on force on ‘Bluebell’ over Joel clank-chords. This however is where McCartney’s voice sounds most distinctive and all over such a very English backdrop, is that a viola seeping out of the orchestration to weave a dark counter-melody against dirty guitar ?…

With ‘Life’s a Pill’ starts with strident guitar and a more American melodic-rock band sound, in a kind of Wilbury sense. And what a great bit of singing !  the right key, the right miking and all firing, with simple but punchy guitar cutting in. Incredibly radio-friendly to these ears, too. If a single is needed.

The storming ‘Home’ is a heavy and brisk chug of almost Foo Fighters style, again he can sing this so very well. A doomy ascending riff with subliminal fairground organ and tremelo’d guitar…a long way from the sunshine-soaked opening tracks.  Catty guitar solo and all. You could play this to anybody and play the Guess Who game….have you ever done that with Chicago’s ‘Uptown’, by the way ? Terry Kath RIP.

‘Thinking About Rock & Roll’ is simply the Monkees single they never made  ;  my favourite here though is ‘Wisteria’ a cracking psych rocker with an insistent rhythm and delicious mix of electric guitars, recalling Al Stewart’s mighty ‘Electric Los Angeles Sunset’ and its six and twelve string melee all topped here by the so-right vocal. Could that be Paul on bass here ? I do wonder….

That Love flavour is back on ‘Mexico’ taken at a jaunty pace and again who IS playing that bass ? Brilliant whoever it is, I’d love to ask if James can give us an interview some time. Catchy as hell, this one. By contrast the solemn piano and flutes on ‘Snow’ whisk us to a Celtic winterscape.

James McCartney covers a lot of ground on this collection but consistently well, his singing gets better and better and the arrangements are breathtaking. Has he ever listened to the late David Ackles, do you think ?  the darker moments here evoke the mysterious Elektra label find

Pete Sargeant     www.fairhearing.co.uk

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