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FROM THE SOUTH-WEST CORRESPONDENT..WHAT’S IN YOUR BOX (22)

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The Shoebox of Delights – The Robster Picked Number 18
‘Nowhere’ Original Soundtrack – Various Artists

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Soundtracks. I rarely buy them, in fact I own two. This one, which I didn’t buy, and Trainspotting which was a gift at Christmas. The problem with soundtracks is that you never get one that is 100% full of good tracks. You get the odd track, the odd unreleased gem, the odd hard to find song, but you wouldn’t buy the whole thing because it also contains Celine Dion, Phil Collins or Mumford and Sons.

Nowhere is no different. It contains some excellent music but it contains some utter utter shite as well. Believe me no compilation album with Marilyn Manson on it is worth buying.

Nowhere is a Gregg Araki film about the Doomed Generation or something – here is a snippet from the press stuff around the film

“A group of teenagers try to sort out their lives and emotions while bizarre experiences happen to each one, including alien abductions, bad acid trips, bisexual experiences, suicides, bizarre deaths, and a rape by a TV star. All of this happens before “the greatest party of the year”.

Now bearing in mind my favourite film of all time is Raiders of the Lost Ark followed by Back To the Future II – this isn’t my type of film but it does have a pretty good soundtrack (Marilyn Manson, 311, Coco and the Bean and Catherine Wheel withstanding)

Going off topic slightly I was once on a training course and we did this stupid ‘icebreaking’ thing where you had to name your favourite food, favourite album, favourite film and fantasy dinner party guest to a bunch of strangers. Anyway, I was sat on a table with four chaps, one I can only describe as a ‘hipster twat’ and when it was his turn to talk about his favourite film (this was after I said mine and the chap next to me, said ‘I don’t know, probably Jaws’) said this “I guess, I’m kinda leftfield, my film would be something by Russian avant garde agent provocateur Alexandr Soukurov”. That is what he said. Hope he’s reading this and if so – your beard looked crap and from the look of it your tattooist has put the Sanskrit word for ‘Knobjockey’ on your left arm.

Anyway, the soundtrack, let’s talk about the good stuff, the best track on it by far is by Chuck D ‘Generation Wrekked’ angry, shouty hip hop at its best by the guy who does it better than anyone else on the planet. There are some other gems ‘How Can You Be Sure?’ by Radiohead – which I think features on the B side on ‘Fake Plastic Trees’ but dates back to when they weren’t even called Radiohead (thanks Badgerman, for that snippet of information, he really is a walking Radiohead encyclopaedia). You get an Elastica track ‘In the City’ which I think is only available on a BBC Radio Sessions, and at just over 90 seconds, it is exactly what you expect from Elastica snotty, ferocious and bratty. There is also ‘Dicknail’ by Hole, which is them at their rawest, angriest and ultimately best. It’s a downright nasty song but its also great.

mp3 : Chuck D – Generation Wrekked
mp3 : Radiohead – How Can You Be Sure
mp3 : Elastica – In The City
mp3 : Hole – Dicknail

There are a couple of tracks which are not rare, ‘Life Is Sweet’ by the Chemical Brothers is here (given the Daft Punk remix treatment) in all its eight minute glory and ‘Trash’ by Suede – or The London Suede as the album calls them. Both are excellent – the Suede track ends the album and rather lifts the gloom from the Americanised College rock that precedes it.

You also get a few tracks by decent bands who recorded them specifically for this album – there are two of these that stand out ‘Nowhere’ by Curve, which is possibly one of the best tracks that they have ever produced. They sound sinister, angry and Toni Halliday vocal is more menacing than ever on it. The other one is ‘I Have the Moon’ by the much missed and loved Lush – and this may be the albums highpoint, a tremendously dreamy gorgeous song that is relaxing and a genuine chill down the spine moment.

mp3 : Lush – I Have The Moon

You also get a rare James track (saying that I gave up on James after ‘Whiplash’ so it might not be that rare) called ‘Thursday Treatments’ which is an instrumental track. Its bland. Really bland. They are trying to sound like Aphex Twin but end up sounding like the music I expect to be played in Japanese lifts. Seriously this is why I gave up on James. Twenty years ago I would have bought this solely for the fact it had a James track on it and would have justified its uselessness by calling it ‘Experimental’. I don’t know why but this song has angered me so much but I have just punched a cuddly toy owl.

mp3 : James – Thursday Treatments

So that is ‘Nowhere’ I am half tempted to give the film a spin now but I have just read that it has Ryan Philippe in it, so know it will be waste of time, a man that is to acting what I am to flying helicopters – bizarrely it also has Gibby Haynes from the Butthole Surfers in it, still no reason to watch it though.

That was Number 18, on the list, what’s next guys…?

S-WC

THE JAMES SINGLES (27) AND (28)

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We're Going To Miss You FrontGetting_Away_With_It_(All_Messed_Up)

Apologies to those who don’t like James for them featuring two days in a row. But I had intended to have this series wrapped up well before now.

Yesterday’s single was the last of the James singles that I have in my collection. I did have a few gaps that I’ve plugged since beginning this series back in November 2013 and while it was tempting to chase down the final CDs via ebay/discogs etc I decided against it and instead hunted down whatever songs I could find online.

We’re Going To Miss You was an unexpected third single lifted from Millionaires albeit the track was re-recorded for release as a 45. However, the record label again seemed to mess things up by shoving it out just before Christmas 1999 when the airwaves were full of the usual cheesy numbers that abound at the time of year as well as filling time with a look back at classic pop songs of the 20th Century as the new millennium was just over the horizon. As a result, the single completely stiffed and for the first time in seven years the band missed out on a Top 40 placing:-

mp3 : James – We’re Going To Miss You (not available)
mp3 : James – Wisdom Of The Throat
mp3 : James – Top Of The World (Live at the Embassy Rooms) (not available)
mp3 : James – Pocketful of Lemons
mp3 : James – We’re Going To Miss You (Eno’s Version)

The next and final physical single appeared in June 2001. It was the only single lifted from the album Pleased To Meet You. The single preceded the album by a week and was released at the end of June 2001.

mp3 : James – Getting Away With It (All Messed Up)
mp3 : James – Make It Alright
mp3 : James – So Swell
mp3 : James – Stand
mp3 : James – The Shining (live at Ridge Farm) (not available)

It reached #22 in the UK charts. An anthemic number that, at the time, was dismissed as very much James by numbers and used to demonstrate just how tired and cliche-ridden they had become.

Six months later, James called it a day but signed off with a triumphant tour of the UK’s main arenas culminating in a gig in Manchester that was later released as a live album.

POSTSCRIPT

The band reformed in 2007. There have since been three singles released as digital downloads – Whiteboy, Waterfall and Not So Strong – none of which charted.

And that, dear readers brings the series to a close.

Next up, and in response to the positive feedback the other week, will be a short series looking at ten singles released by Altered Images.

THE JAMES SINGLES (26)

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I’d be amazed if anyone who was into James circa 1985 – with songs like Folklore, What’s The World and If Things Were Perfect – would ever have imagined they would g on to write and record what can only be described as an MOR love song such as Just Like Fred Astaire some 14 years later.

By all accounts, I should hate this song.  It is sentimentally soppy and tune wise it is the sort of thing that you would imagine would be handed to the winner of the X Factor or The Voice to grab hold of and release on the back of them winning the vote of the general public.  But, just like the Four Tops (and Orange Juice), I can’t help myself….and have to confess to having a real affection for this particular single.

There’s a place in the world for outstanding love songs and James, having previously delivered an absolute belter in Sometimes back in 1993, managed to deliver another one right here.  It the sound of a band comfortable with their place in the world – the success of the greatest hits package had finally put any money worries firmly to bed – and the notion of making new and innovative sounding music can now be left to others.  It is mature, grown-up music that in the hands of others could border on boring, but thanks to the collective talents of all concerned, they manage to pull it off:-

mp3 : James – Just Like Fred Astaire

It was released on 2 x CDs in October 1999 and came with three completely new tracks plus a re-working of a track from the Laid LP:-

mp3 : James – I Defeat
mp3 : James – Long To See
mp3 : James – Mary
mp3 : James – Goal Goal Goal

The first of these features a contributing vocal from Sinead O’Connor and is one of those songs that you listen to and wonder why the band chucked it away on a b-side. It’s another mid-tempo ballad but it is quite unlike anything else the band ever recorded and, with its catchy chorus could easily have cut the mustard as a single.

Long To See is a real slowie that relies heavily on Tim’s vocal to make it of real interest while Mary sounds like an outake from the Whiplash era, so if you liked that sort of song you’ll fall for its charms.

Goal Goal Goal is a real oddity. It takes the tune of Low Low Low but the new lyric is football related. The story is that the band were keen to have it adopted as the official anthem of the England Football Team at the 1994 World Cup taking place in the USA – after all, New Order had enjoyed a #1 hit with World In Motion at the previous tournament four years earlier. The problem was, England failed to quality for the 94 Finals……

The song was however, put on an excruciatingly awful album called Gloryland, released by the football authorities to commemorate the tournament. To give you an idea of how bad this record was – Queen, Jon Bon Jovi, Tina Turner, Fleetwood Mac, Scorpions, Daryl Hall and Santana are among those who feature. The band however, five years on, dug it out and shoved it on CD2 of Fred Astaire.

The two CDs do make for a decent enough package but the record label made a huge error in releasing the single just one week before the LP Millionaires. It did hit #17 in its first week on the back of solid amounts of radio play and the band carrying out promotional duties on UK television but the type of record buyer it was aimed at would have bought the LP when it came it out rather than boost the sales of the single.

It remains the last time that James went Top 20 in the singles chart.

Enjoy

THE JAMES SINGLES (25)

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It’s now approaching nine months since the nonsense of the Sit Down remix and it is time for what would be the 25th single to be released by James.

Let’s give the band a bit of credit.  They were wounded by the criticism offered by fans about the multi-formatting of recent 45s and that almost all of them had been padded out with remixes or live versions. and so it was made clear that the first post Best-Of single would come accompanied by high quality new songs unavailable elsewhere.

The single itself caught more than a few folk out:-

mp3 : James – I Know What I’m Here For

This was a different sounding James…well to an extent. It had a joyous sounding 45 with a catchy chorus but in a way that was unlike any of their other singles.  I was caught out by it at the time and to all intent and purposes I should have fallen for its charms.  But I couldn’t help but think that they were trying to take a leaf out of the book of U2 with a conscious and deliberate attempt to make something different just for the sake of it rather than head down any new and exciting musical direction.  And sixteen years on, I remain strangely unmoved by the single.  There’s evidence that I wasn’t alone as it stalled at #22 in the charts.

So what about these anticipated b-sides??

mp3 : James – All Good Boys
mp3 : James – Imagine Ourselves
mp3 : James – Downstairs
mp3 : James – Stolen Horse

CD1

All Good Boys is a slow song initially driven along by a strong vocal from Tim over an acoustic guitar before the chorus licks in where it sadly falls away into something a bit dull and leaden with the rest of the band joining in on backing vocals over a tune that could pass for a Robbie Williams b-side.

Imagine Ourselves is another slowie.  This time it is initially driven along by a strong vocal from Tim over some electronic noodling.  However, there is no upbeat shouty chorus to take the song to a different level so it sort of meanders along for the whole four and a half minutes but in a way that is quite lovely and moving.  It’s a song that needs two or three listened to be fully appreciated but there’s no denying it is top quality for a b-side.

CD2

Downstairs is very much James in the 90s by numbers in that if you were fond of the singles you’d immediately fall for its charms.  Regular readers will know that I found the James of the 90s a bit more miss than hit and so it is with this song. But I can see and appreciate why it is so well-regarded by fans

Stolen Horses is yet another ballad and again doesn’t do all that much for me but this is as much to do with the fact that James are no longer sounding anything like the band that I had fallen for almost 15 years previously than it being a crap song.

Listening to the songs some sixteen years later and I think I may have come up with the answer to as why I’m not a huge fan of them…….

These b-sides, and indeed the a-side could have been written today and no-one would be any the wiser.  There’s lots of singers and bands out there who have great sounding voices and whose technical skills on their chosen instruments are there for all to hear and who have no trouble filling large venues and arenas to ever-increasing fanbases.  These James songs from 1999 sound as if they would fit very comfortably into such sets and that’s what’s wrong with them.  The music snob in me shies away from the mainstream for the most part and these highly proficient songs repel me in the same way.

But this journey of looking at James singles is almost at an end and so I’m not disembarking the vehicle until it reaches its final destination.  I am however, bored with the repetitive scenery as I look out the window.  I need that ‘wow’ factor………

 

THE JAMES SINGLES (24)

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I hadn’t forgotten about this series….I was simply putting off having to write about this rip-off.

I mentioned last time out that the release of Runaground, while being a right pain in the proverbial with its 3xCd format, at least, and for the first time in ages, provided some value(ish) for money with decent b-sides, mixes and live session versions.

Six months later in November 1998, and with the Best Of still doing quite well in the album charts James were about to embark on a sold-out tour of large arenas in the UK complete with support from either Stereophonics or Gene.  The record label decided something had to be done to tie-in with the tour and also to prompt the Christmas market record-buyers that a James greatest hits CD might be worth popping into someone’s stocking.

And so the idea of a remix of Sit Down was hatched……

There’s lots to despise about this release.  It has an appalling sleeve and the remix isn’t very good…it sounds awfy like the Doctorin’ The Tardis by The Timelords which had got to #1 away back in 1988…and then there’s the heinous crime of the record label stating that the inclusion of Sit Down on the b-side was the ‘original version’ when in fact it was the hit single version already on ‘Best Of’ rather than going to the trouble and expense of getting permission to go with the version released back in the days on Rough Trade.

What almost saves it are the two acoustic tracks lifted from the April 1998 session recorded for GLR Radio and the rocking version of China Girl which the band had recorded as a one-off on 21 April 1997 as a contribution to a Radio 1 Show, hosted by Jo Whiley, to commemorate the 50th birthday of Iggy Pop.  If you hadn’t taped it off the radio it was otherwise unavailable:-

mp3 : James – Sit Down (apollo four forty mix)
mp3 : James – China Girl
mp3 : James – What For (GLR session)
mp3 : James – Sit Down (GLR session)

Enjoy.

THE JAMES SINGLES (23) : A RE-POST AND APOLOGY

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An observant reader spotted that I had messed up some of the links to the b-sides in the original posting. The easiest thing to do was delete the old posting and do it all gain using cut’n’paste.  Sorry I made such a basic fuck-up…..

Here we go with V2.

Yet another James single which came as a 3xCd release, with each going for £1.99 or all three for £5 if you wished.

Truth be told, I didn’t wish. Runaground is a decent enough single but was already available on the Best of James compilation as one of the two new tracks which I had already purchased out of laziness just so that I could put one album with all the ‘hits’ into the CD player.

Not buying Runaground was a major error in my part for it denied me the opportunity to enjoy some tremendous live versions of old favourites as well as a couple of otherwise unavailable b-sides.

The single was released in May 1998 when the band were receiving all sorts of acclaim for the quality of Best Of which had topped the album charts in the UK. I think everyone concerned was bitterly disappointed when it crawled into the singles charts at #29 and then disappeared from trace almost immediately. Maybe if a little bit more had been made of the b-sides  or maybe if the record label hadn’t blundered by labelling Disc 1 as having exclusive rare tracks when fans of old already had them then we night have given it a bit more attention.  Who knows.

The three b-sides on CD 1 consisted of two tracks that had originally featured on the initial release of the 1990 LP Goldmother only to be removed and replaced by the singles Sit Down and Lose Control less than a year later when the LP was re-released as the band’s popularity exploded; the other track on CD1 was a song previously available as a b-side to the hit single Born of Frustration.

So far so humdrum

The three songs on CD2 consisted of songs taken from a BBC Greater London Radio session that had been transmitted on 6 March 1998. Here was a stripped back and wonderful sounding James with acoustic takes on three previous hit singles that bore little resemblance to the original versions.

Now you’re talking.

The three songs on CD3 featured an interesting and extended 8-minute remix of Runaground which is very reminiscent to the remix of the song Goldmother as featured earlier in this series when it was a b-side to hit release of Come Home; a largely instrumental track with a spoken/choral vocal that sounds as if it would fit on a film soundtrack; and a cracking and funky remix of an otherwise dullish track from the 1997 studio LP Whiplash.

Put On Your Dancing Shoes.

mp3 : James – Runaground
mp3 : James – Hang On
mp3 : James – Crescendo
mp3 : James – Be My Prayer
mp3 : James – Say Something (live at GLR)
mp3 : James – Laid (live at GLR)
mp3 : James – Lose Control (live at GLR)
mp3 : James – Runaground (The James Remix)
mp3 : James – Egoiste
mp3 : James – Lost A Friend (Aloof remix)

At long last, an entire singles package that wasn’t a rip-off.

Enjoy

THE JAMES SINGLES (23)

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In March 1998, all concerned thought it would be a good idea to compile and release The Best of James. It brought together fourteen hit singles from the Mercury/Fontana years together with Hymn From A Village from the Factory Records era plus two brand new songs, both of which were due for release as singles as part of the promotion of the ‘new’ LP.

Destiny Calling was made avilable a couple of weeks before the album and was issued, as had become the norm, in a 3xCD package. It’s a single that’s among the best James released in the mid-late 90s. The tune is more than decent while the lyric pokes fun at how the music industry was beginning to pan out in the run up to the turn of the century with its ever-increasing emphasis on manufacturing and controlling the entire sound, look and feel of musicians. Who really in their right mind would set out to be a famous pop star in these times?

The first of the CDs featured what was claimed to be three exclusive rare tracks all of which however had been available as b-sides to previously released hit singles and therefore probably already owned by most fans.  The second CD went for live material from what had been, to all intents and purposes, a more than decent show at the Reading Festival the previous August, and having come in for justified criticism over the choices made on previous live songs as b-sides it was good that two of them were from Wah Wah and this rather different in the live setting that than the studio.  Just a pity the other track was a lumpen and wearisome number that too often sounded like u2 by numbers.  CD3, which I don’t have, provided a  multimedia section containing the video of She’s A Star together with snippets of videos of other songs you could find on ‘Best Of’.

Interestingly, the artwork for the single harked back to the baggy era with the use of the daisy logo that had adorned so many t-shirts.

The single entered the charts at #17 and dropped down the week after just as the album began its ascent to the #1 spot.

James were now arguably,  more popular and better-known in the UK than at any other point in their career, thanks to this compilation drawing attention to the consistency and quality of the singles.  Those of us who has been looking on for over a decade could only sigh and think of all the great tracks that would have made it a genuine ‘Best Of’ rather than a chart-fodder effort.

The tracks on CD 1 (Assassin, Goalie’s Ball and The Lake) have all featured earlier in this series so here’s the tracks from CD2:-

mp3 : James – Destiny Calling
mp3 : James – Jam J (live)
mp3 : James – Honest Joe (live)
mp3 : James – Sound (live)

Enjoy

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