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james - 'Be Opened By The Wonderful' Album Review


1. Sometimes

2. Love Make A Fool

3. We're Gonna Miss You

4. Tomorrow

5. The Lake

6. She's A Star

7. Lookaway

8. Sit Down

9. Alaskan Pipeline

10. Someone's Got It In For Me

11. Hey Ma

12. Hello

13. Beautiful Beaches

14. Why So Close

15. Medieval

16. Hymn From A Village (CD Only)

17. Say Something

18. Top Of The World

19. Moving On

20. Laid

James has released a new album which isn’t actually a new album, instead they’ve taken many of their greatest songs (they couldn’t do them all, they have too many great songs!) and some rarely heard songs and reimagined them as orchestral arrangements, working with 22 piece orchestra and a choir of 8.

So does it work? Emphatically! There has always been a cinematic aspect to the songs of James, they have always loved to tell stories in their songs, used imagery extensively and have used sweeping arrangements when they can, all of these translate incredibly well to this approach.

'Sometimes' has long been a favourite song of mine, it’s a driven, intense song, full of rhythm but with an insistence to it that demands your full attention, whenever it comes on when I’m driving anyone near me must laugh at the intensity with which I belt it out! They have completely changed it, it’s become quiet, thoughtful and, dare I say it, romantic. It’s gorgeous, Tim’s vocals have never sounded better. Given how much this song means to me I genuinely surprised myself with how much I enjoyed this new version.

You might imagine that orchestral arrangements will be understated, quieter and less funky, yet 'Love Make A Fool' can only be described as verging on the funky. It’s surprising and highly enjoyable, I found myself sinking into it and enjoying more than I expected to.

The album continues in this vein, it’s lush, it’s intense, it’s powerful and yet it’s also tender. It’s the soulful James you never knew you wanted but now won’t be able to live without.

Highlights, buy it and find out! But since you ask, personally 'Sometimes' (there’s a shock), 'Tomorrow', 'She’s a Star' and 'Say Something'. I know these are a bit predictable and I should have chosen one of the rarer songs but these are just so good! An honourable mention does also have to go to 'Someone’s Got It In For Me', this arrangement is prefect for it.

The only one that doesn’t quite work for me personally is 'Sit Down' but that because it will always be De Stihls night club in Dundee for me during my student years, sitting on the very sticky floor with my mates, swaying my arms around me signing at the top of my voice, so I still prefer the more upbeat version but it is still an impressive reworking.

However there isn’t a weak song on this album, some of the rarities are real revelations. It’s not something to put on as background music, it’s too good for that! I missed the recent tour with the orchestra, a fact I’m now bitterly regretting. James have always been at their best live, I’m guessing this was something special to see in the flesh!

Review - Iain McClay


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