JAMES GRANT Strange Flowers Vertical (2009)|
It has been nearly five years since Grant's last offering 'Holy Love' -
a continuation of the solo style that Grant has worked up since he
broke away from Love And Money in the early 1990s and for some a tad too
broody in places with a rootsy feel well removed from his "pop"
Whilst this analysis overly simplifies, there is no doubt that James Grant is a
Messiah to his devoted flock but could be heavy going for the faint at
heart. However once the listener eases into the groove and the
frequently enigmatic lyric, the world suddenly becomes a more
To some he may appear the forlorn performer who experienced the excesses of a big label budget in the eighties.
There is no doubt in my mind that Grant is one of the finest singer
songwriters of his generation and terribly honest about his
predicament and place in the current world of music.
The new album opens with the
glorious, orchestrated "This Could Be The Day" - a classic slice of
pop that must rank high amongst his more irresistibly catchy output.
is again upbeat with a devilishly infectious swamp beat and harmony
vocals from Monica Queen and Karen Matheson along with deft use of
electric guitar (yes, electric!) to punctuate the rhythm.
Flowers' has jazzy inflections and invokes the spectre of L&M whilst
'The Hallowing Touch' is closer to his more familiar post L&M output
with gospel flavours, again enhanced by Monica and Karen's backing
vocals and Donald Shaw's piano figures.
The axis of the
album is the nine-minute epic 'My Father's Coat'. James was kind to
send us this track several weeks ago as an exclusive for the radio channel and it is a
With a moody backdrop punctuated by long-term collaborator Fraser
Spier's harmonica interjections and a Neil Young-esque guitar
workout at the end. The lyric is equally compelling: Grant buys his
father's coat he sees hanging in a marketplace and the memories that
What a day
What a day
But a day like any other
I thought I'd seen the back of him
And I smell like some bad joke
That the rains invoked
Some wall-eyed dream of brilliantine and whisky and nicotine
In the culverts and the crags run both
The disease and the antidote
As I turn the key in my fathers coat
"The Bay At the
Nape Of Your Neck" complements 'Darkstar' with its infectious beat and
country inflections - a sort of grown up 'Ode To Billie Joe' for the
rolls on in a 'Maggie May' sort of way and could roll on to prime-time
BBC Radio 2 too.
'Is This The
Kiss' has the requisite amount of drama. This could be Scott Walker's
Bond Theme c.1968. Wonderful vibe, and I'm not sure if James was
serious when he told me he offered the song to Shirley Bassey. Whatever, her loss.
culminates in the insistently funky (and autobiographical) 'Can't Beat
The Music' - it's almost like Grant has reconciled himself to the
glorious funky undertow evident in early Love And Money.
against the pricks
Chased my tail
Note #3 in the scale
Iíve been a slave, a slave of a kind
But freedom is a state of mind
It's a state of mind
By way of
contrast, 'Scarecrow Song' offers a more traditional Celtic
ballad, as if to bring us back to reality, whilst the short 'Catherine
Burns' sends the album out in a blaze of strings.
It would be easy
to say that this is one of the best James Grant solo albums, and it
surely is, but never underestimating all that has gone before because
each of those albums has inner strengths. But there is a roundedness
in this album, perhaps a realisation too from Grant that he needs
to take the beat up a little.
And with albums increasingly pared down to just voice and guitar he has
dared to rekindle his electric soul.
"You break the
cycle of doubt and fear", a line from the opener "This Could Be The
Day" could be as much about his loyal fanbase as anything else. The
hardcore will be delighted with 'Strange Flowers' and the undecided
may find an altogether more satisfying bouquet.
Review by David Randall
Feature - 2008
Gig review and interview - 2007
Feature - Love And Money
James Grant was Featured Artist on GRTR! Radio in September 2008 and is a regular inclusion in the afternoon sequence, (14.00 - 16.00 GMT Mon-Fri)
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