Seven by James
James could've been the UK's answer to R.E.M. Maybe some muddled vocals, a couple of college radio hits and videos and a song or ten that over-referenced pop culture and they'd have done it for sure...but they did alright for themselves anyway. I'll bet you've heard of this band because of their song "Laid" which was quite the 'alternative' radio/MTV hit back in 1994 (if you haven't, fear not) and I remember many people I knew back then got their album of the same name but probably didn't listen to it very much. The thing is, James' better album was the one released BEFORE they kinda hit it big here in the US.
The first mention I ever heard of this band was in some interview that Morrissey did where he claimed that his favorite current band was James. Like a good little disciple I ran out and got the only album I could find, this very one I'm writing about. I liked the first track or two but didn't really give the record much of a chance and shelved it. A year later, the song and album Laid came out and the previously mentioned mass interest ensued. This I was a part of (thank goodness) and I started listening to Laid a bunch and then realized I had this other album by James. Finally my sense of music kicked in and I gave the album Seven the kind of attention it deserves.
What you'll find in listening to this album is a band well in control of their sound and songwriting skills. It's full of grand arrangements and subtly right-on producing. Every song on here just soars. In fact, I went hang gliding in Kitty Hawk a few times and if I was going to do it again (with an iPod and in someplace like the rocky mountains where one can actually fly for extended amounts of time) I'd totally bring this album to be my hang gliding soundtrack.
"...a record that married the ambitious scope of the lyrics with a grand, anthemic feel. Horns give songs like the lead-off "Born of Frustration" and the surging "Sound" a certain majestic grandeur, sweeping without being overblown. Lead singer Tim Booth is in fine form, lending passion to the proceedings, yet maintaining an intimacy. They don't totally abandon the more jangly, folk elements of past albums; it's still there noticeably on tracks like the lovely "Don't Wait That Long" and the shimmering, sardonic "Next Lover." Other highlights include the dramatic "Ring the Bells" and the resolute title track, which is propelled by Andy Diagram's trumpet, Booth's assured vocals, and a thumping rhythm."
"Seven refashions the septet into an English Simple Minds, spreading its wings across a grand polyrhythmic tableau in which everyone plays at once and nobody gets hurt. Against a surging model of dynamic textures in tautly controlled arrangements that employ the members' skills to the fullest, Booth keeps his singing dramatic but eloquent — more Liam Neeson than Charlton Heston, which serves to sharpen the vibrant music's focus. Whether topical ("Bring a Gun") or romantic ("Don't Wait That Long"), the lyrics are more considered and set lower in the mix, but the music's invigorating force is what makes the buoyant Seven James' first fully satisfying album."
I'd suggest this album to any fan of 80's or 90's college radio rock or fans of The Verve or even fans of U2 who like their more well known anthemic songs. Time for you to make up your own mind.
Listen to three songs from the album:
"Ring the Bells" "Sound" (full version) "Next Lover"
Previous Overlooked Albums from the 90's:
#1 - Saturnalia by The Wedding Present
#2 - The Inevitable by Squirrel Nut Zippers
#3 - This is Our Music by Galaxie 500
#4 - Dusk by The The
#5 - Fantasma by Cornelius
#6 - New Wave by The Auteurs
#7 - I, Jonathan by Jonathan Richman
#8 - Futureworld by Trans Am
#9 - Harmacy by Sebadoh
#10 - Cure For Pain by Morphine
#11 - God Fodder by Ned's Atomic Dustbin
if you'd like...
Pitchfork's top albums of the 90's
1st version of their list
Also, it appears another blog is onto this "Overlooked of the 90's" idea:
Top 30 'Other' Albums of the '90s
28 December 2005
Seven by James