Sunday, 21 April 2013

Desert Island Discs 17 Laid by James

17 Laid by James 1993

For some reason every time I do a post on James my visit figures drop like a stone. For loads of people they are either a classic singles band or the ones that did that now annoying Sit Down single. They seem to get only grudging praise and plenty of slagging off from the music press.

But bollocks to all that to my ears they have been one of he most consistent bands over the last 30 years , with only one slight misfire in all that time (and that had 4 or 5 cracking tunes on)

Just pipping the first lp and the last lp before their initial split is the Eno produced Laid.

Recorded on the back of an extended acoustic tour of America it was a conscious move away from the big sound of the Seven

Produced by Eno and emerging from hours and hours of jamming sessions (some of the rejects can be heard on the wah wah sister lp) , the lp has a much more organic sound.

There are quite few sections on the lps recording  in Eno's diary for that year ( A Year with Swollen appendices). He seems to have spent a lot of time trying to get Tim Booth to sing through some kind of  vocal modulator (I'm guessing we a re not talking auto tune) and wondering why singers find the concept so difficult to agree to. You get a good insight into the band politics but it seemed that Eno found the whole process enjoyable and creatively inspiring.

Among the more ambient material are 3 glorious singles. The first Sometimes is firmly rooted in my top 10 and makes great use of the Eno massed male backing vocals that he seems to love so much

Laid is a catchy sexy sing along (although there is a bit of a cop out lyric change for the video

Stick with this one as they stop and go into a much slower version

Say Something is a just an ache of a song

The balance comes from the quieter more grooved based songs. One of the best things they have recorded was rescued form a b side states their intention from the off by opening the lp with a lullaby to loneliness and paranoia

Out to Get You - James

I may be blinkered  (although I can see why the pseudo mysticism , tendency to repeat a phrase 3 times for a chorus , odd dancing beard/hat might annoy some) through endless live concerts but I think this lp never really got the sales or acclaim it deserved - cursed by an accident of birth in terms of being linked to yesterday's scene.

You can buy Laid here

On a related note I saw James play Brixton academy Friday night and they were excellent as ever including a storming versions of Why So Close from Stutter and Medieval from Stripmine. Also a killer final encore of a mass sing along to Sometimes , Getting Away with it , a simply joyous version of Laid and a frantic Tomorrow. The support act was Echo and he Bunnymen.. I had read that they have been a bit of a mess with Mac all over the place at some gigs. However they were amazingly sharp. A 45 min set which was basically a best of with Mac in fine voice. Among the highlights was a killer version of this


  1. This is another favourite of mine. When I heard it first, I didn't like it at all. It didn't have the big sound of 'Seven'.
    For me, this one was a slow burner and sometimes the slow burners end up in the front of the CD collection.
    Thumbs up again!

  2. "She only 'sings' when she's on top"... a wee bit of castration there. I remember years ago when they played Leno or Letterman it was "She only 'hums' when she's on top"... silly stuff.

    I know you like Stutter, which I think their weakest. Curious which one you deem a misfire? I'm sure with you on this one. You know my love for Sometimes. It's easy to be swept away by the BIG music, but you have to read the lyrics to appreciate the incredible power of the imagery...

    "There's a storm outside, and the gap between crack and thunder
    Crack and thunder, is closing in, is closing in
    The rain floods gutters, and makes a great sound on the concrete
    On a flat roof, there's a boy leaning against the wall of rain
    Aerial held high, calling "Come on thunder, come on thunder."

    "It's a monsoon, and the rain lifts lids off cars
    Spinning buses like toys, stripping them to chrome
    Across the bay, the waves are turning into something else
    Picking up fishing boats and spewing them on the shore."

    "The boy is hit, lit up against the sky, like a sign, like a neon sign
    And he crumples, drops into the gutter, legs twitching
    The flood swells his clothes and delivers him on, delivers him on..."

    #17 - ELLIS PAUL - "TRANSLUCENT SOUL" (1998)

    - What? Another singer/songwriter? I can hear the mutters. I'm not sure where to begin without blathering on about one of my 'secret' finds. Ellis Paul is one of those "criminally neglected" musicians who truly deserves to be acknowledged and celebrated. Tagged a "Boston folk singer" but that's deceptive. His musical arrangements are always rich and polished, the melodies catchy singalongs, and the words matchbook masterpieces of detail & character. One reviewer wrote, "Ellis Paul is one of the best singer/songwriters of his generation. His finely honed, literate songs tell stories filled with images that sparkle like jewels. His is a poet's heart, and a romantic's soul. He is an optimist who believes in people and possibilities."

    'Translucent Soul' is his break-up album, written through the pain of divorce, and contains some of his best tunes. "Angel In Manhattan" is my favorite, showcasing his extraordinary storytelling ability and gift for haunting melody.

    The man's live shows are an unforgettable experience too. A mix of stories behind the songs, improvisation, poetry & humour. For the latter just give "Paris In A Day" a spin...

    I'm having trouble finding quality clips from the album, so I'll add a few from other releases. I wouldn't suggest his later stuff as he's trying to rock out... awkwardly. If you're interested, pick up "Ellis Paul - Essentials" - an excellent retrospective of his best work up until 2006.

    Angel In Manhattan:
    The World Ain't Slowin' Down:
    Paris In A Day:
    If You Break Down:
    Snow In Austin (live):
    God's Promise (live):

  3. They did storming versions of sound, born of frustration and seven Fri night iano

    hi Tim whiplash for me is the slight misfire although it does have some great songs on and tomorrow is one of their best.
    if this was a singles chart then sometimes would be top10. I love the way the guitars reflect endless rain

  4. You lucky thing you! Would be nice to see them again. Think I have seen them 3 times. They never disappoint.
    It's funny you should say that there is never much interest in James posts here because over on there is always a very high download rate with James posts.
    I have to say I loved Whiplash too. I think they came of age with that album. They never had the dizzy heights since that album. Although I loved Millionaires too! Quite a humorous album that.

    1. It is an annual event for me and 4 friends to see them live and iy usually involves an afternoon in the pub which may colour my view!
      i loved pleased to meet you thought it a great way to end when they first split up

  5. I ordered this off the back of your recommendation David (or was it TT?)
    Just driven home from the coast to the soundtrack of EBTG's Amplified Heart which I'm liking a lot so hope this one works as well...

  6. let me know what you think - it has many an eno trademark sound , although I was more confident of you liking Amplified heart!

    1. May be outside the comfort zone... not very "gentle or soporific."

  7. I really don't care much for James. A sound geared towards playing live in a stadium, I always feel.Better not say anymore I could get hung for thinking such things on these pages!
    Tim - Ellis Paul has got me intrigued. Certainly going to check out more.
    #17 Obi - Diceman Lopez. The third and final album from Damien Katkhuda on my list.I know you went for their debut but for me it was just too short.This sounds more like a 'proper' album.As with most of his work, styles are all over the place .We have circus and gypsy music,folk ,mexican horns and the whimsical pop of 'Chewing at my soul'.
    Here's those Mexican horns. 'Tale of old Rodriguez'

    1. Thanks for the reminder. Magic Land, I agree is sweet but way too short. Diceman's "Sleep Well Dear Friend" is such a moving heartbreaker. Must order...
      Re James: Don't be afraid to instigate banter! I don't think there are any hangmen around here?

  8. Oh Phil - I tempted to send you a compilation of non "stadium" songs! although they are at their peak live.

    Great lp with Plague on this house my favourite song he ha done

  9. James with the Bunnymen supporting? I'm happy to hear it was a great gig. Jealous in fact. I'm always hesitant about attending elder statesmen's live performances, especially when age has taken it's toll or apathy has set in. I was sure Mac would be hooked up to an iron lung by now...


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