James Morrison CD review [Interscope]

Music Reviews
James Morrison CD review [Interscope]
Apr 1, 2007, 20:03



It's suspicious. Whenever you walk by a chain book store and see a huge display for a musical artist you've never heard of before, instead of thinking that they're going to turn you on to something great, it feels a little dirty, like admitting to watching daytime TV.  Seeing that Interscope, of all labels, put out this record is twice as suspicious; since when did they sign singer-songwriters? Perhaps with the glut of aw-shucks singers as of late on top 40 radio, Interscope has a bad case of “me-too.” Are middle aged cubicle denizens the new tastemakers?  Add to this mix, then, a large list of “inspirational thank yous” in the back cover of the disc to a lot of the usual soul crooners and, inexplicably, Nirvana. Why thank Nirvana? Maybe because that band is not around to defend itself, or, as Cop Shoot Cop put it so succinctly, “everybody loves you when you're dead.” Somewhere, Dave Grohl is scratching his head.

That said, a gravelly voice every now and then does not a soul singer make. In this age of near-instantaneous availability of all kinds of music from all kinds of places, this just cannot hold up. As far as the arranging and songwriting goes, Rufus Wainwright does this ten thousand times better. A large number of his song titles (a whopping 7 out of 11) are deceiving—the songs themselves are originals, yet with a title like “Wonderful World,” you might be right in mistaking that for Louis Armstrong. My guess is that's exactly what he wants you to do. While you cannot copyright song titles, there are some that really do make a consumer think of another tune. “This Boy” likely makes you think he's doing a Beatles cover and “The Letter,” a Box Tops tune. If only.

 “You Give Me Something” sounds like a discarded Ron Sexsmith tune.  Vocally, James has talent; there again, though, Tim Buckley's got him beat, and he sounds like he's aping Buckley on “One Last Chance.” Even in light of what is likely the target audience for this kind of record (people who aren't quite ready to admit that they like Adult Contemporary), there are at least three or four guys in the Top Ten right now who already have these bases covered.  Do we really need more of this?Â

This really makes me wonder why talent like Jeffrey Simmons is struggling on a DIY circuit, playing to a dedicated room of followers, when milquetoast songwriters such as this are pushed as the next big thing. [Interscope]

-Amanda Nichols

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