Friday, 24 January 2014

James Stevenson - "Everything's Getting Closer To Being Over" album review.

When James released the preview EP "The Shape Of Things To Come" at last years Gathering (and via mail order) I don't think any of us expected such a long wait to hear the full album! However James had a pretty busy year even by his own standards with 100 gigs spread across 7 bands so we are probably quite lucky to have this album out so soon this year!

So having been lucky enough to hear "Everything's Getting Closer To Being Over" prior to the "soft launch" at The Gathering next week (the official launch for the UK will be March 10th via Absolute Marketing and i-Tunes etc) what strikes me over the EP is the sheer diversity of the album, each track seems to take you by surprise and I guarantee you will experience some genuine "wow" moments!

So first of all let's cover off who's on the album as it is a real who's who of amazing talent....James handles all guitars (what a shock!) and also lead vocals, Mark Taylor all keyboards, Peter Rizzo provides the lions share of the bass with 3 tracks in the capable hands of Glen Matlock and one track featuring Mr Craig Adams! Drums come from Chris Bell, Barriemore Barlow, Geoff Dugmore & Igor Marjanovic while we have Steve Norman on Saxophone & percussion, Dennis ILett on trumpet and Peter Walsh on piano for "Suzi's Problem". Providing backing vocals are the amazing Sexpistilletos comprising of Maggi Ronson, Elizabeth Westwood and Tracie Hunter whose harmonies compliment the music brilliantly.

Anyone who picked up the EP will be familiar with the albums first track, the slow build "Suzi's Problem" which will get you used to James' vocal style, his natural understated style allows you to appreciate the lyrics and music. Musically the album works well, no showboating just musicians at the top of their game playing great songs. There are some teasing solos before James finally lets rip and then frustratingly fades the track, if the live dates ever happen I really hope we will see some extended guitar work allowing the track to really explode.

The Sexpistilletos are in full force on "Go Mister!" as James, ever the passionate biker, accuses the government of "wanting to take my dough" through hidden speed cameras and the like. A great catchy chorus but it is the next track "Twilight Riders" which hits you with one of those promised wow moments! Marks keys are to the fore and James' tone is rich as he solos over a steady beat and vocal accompaniment, again the track finishes too early for my liking....don't get me wrong, it's not short at 4 minutes but this could be Allman Brothers territory...I'm hungry for more and already lost in the music so extending the track would work for me!

By the forth track "Come On People" you know what to expect and you wouldn't be wrong, there's that build again, all the signature sounds of the album so far and sweet guitar solo but then we also get treated to some great trumpet which works well. "Give It Up" follows which has a funky, choppy vibe to it. Something that surprised me at first before recalling that James has a love for Johnny "Guitar" Watson who dabbled in his share of funk as well as blues. The probing keyboard work of Marks is a marvel, proving he could quite easily play some great dance music if he ever wanted to!

"Why Am I Still Waiting For You?" is a slow soulful track with sparse acoustic and electric guitars with a keyboard soundscape that gels it all together before Steve Norman plays us out with a suitable sax passage.

The next two tracks are the final ones from the EP release and both are great in their own right, however, I'm not sure that "Been A Long Time Now" works well in the albums flow, it's the first track where the pace and focus seem to waver and may have been a better closer, a way to come down on a mellow groove. Once again Steve Norman features with great effect. "Naturally Wired" kicks in with it's great modern blues riff which would surely appeal to fans of Jack White or the Black Keys...not that this album will get the radio play those artists seem to get so often which is a sad reality check.

The albums title track shows James as the comfortable vocalist but again for me it fades as it is just getting going.

James' passion for riding returns for the closer "I'll Know Where I'm Going When I get There" which is a real stripped back affair predominately featuring James singing over a carefully picked guitar before the band joins him about two thirds of the way through the song. The song will disappoint you however, not because you won't enjoy it but you will know it's the final track on the album and it's an album that's over all too soon.

So it may have been a long wait but what an amazing pay off at the end of it! With "Everything's Getting Closer To Being Over" James proves not only has he been in some amazing bands but is more than capable of standing under his own name producing some brilliant music.

 This album delivers, whether you get it next week at the gathering or have to wait for the official release, just make sure you get it!

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