Odds and sods about the British rock band Slade

Friday, March 02, 2007

James Whild Lea: “Therapy”

In January I made an “over-all impression” review of the downloads on Jim’s website. Now the CD is here and as I had to do a track-by-track review anyway, I might as well put it up here for you to read, too. So here goes:

James Whild Lea’s new album “Therapy” is now out on CD. It is a very honest album with very personal lyrics evolving around themes like death, loneliness, insecurities, identity and thoughts of growing old and of coming to terms with fame and life in general.
The 13 tracks are mostly ballad-like songs with an orchestral sound spiced with a few rock tunes. The album has a both disillusioned and elevated feel to it, where the frequent use of words like shit, screw and masturbation is quite becoming within the otherwise often thoughtful lyrics.
James Whild Lea has written, produced and arranged all tracks and with the exception of French horns (Heidi Bowdler), oboes (Vicky Adams), trumpet (Rob Adams), cellos (Graham Carter) and extra percussion (Mark Viner Stuart), almost all vocals and instruments are by the artist himself. He hasn’t lost his hand as an instrumentalist, guitars, strings, piano etc. having that JWL-sound. Here’s a track-by-track review of the album:

1. Heaven Can Wait (For Those Who Pray). Without doubt the album’s most perfect composition. From the key modulations in the beginning to the violin in the end (extra violin by Andrew Kosinski), this is a truly magic song which not even Paul McCartney could have matched. With its instrumentation, megaphone-chorus and unexpected changes in melody this is the perfect opener for the album.
2. Big Family. Known as “Great Big Family” from the Jim Jam-concert in Bilston 2002, but now with the full lyrics. A rock-tune with semi-philosophical lyrics about the love/hate-relations of families, both the close family and the global one. Spoken megaphone-vocals and a Beatlesque “Love, love, love”-ending with a twist. Backing vocals/screams by Paul Hudson. This song was recorded as “Samen Door Het Vuur” by Belgian boyband Mama’s Jasje in 2000.
3. The Smile Of Elvis. A melancholy ballad and favourite of many Slade-fans. Introducing the theme of self-insecurity. Dominated by piano and oboe, which underlines the wistful lyrics. JWL’s somewhat hoarse voice suits the track.
4. Deadrock U.K. Listing the many rock stars, who died an early death. The music is composed to match the sound of that of the departed with a “Bye, Bye Love” (“All That Jazz”-version) bass-line in the end. Andrew Sadowski is on drums. The megaphone-voice, record crackling and crowds cheering set the scene of glories past and a typical ironic “See you later guys” finishes off the song. One of the best rock tracks of the album.
5. Could God Be A Woman. This track seems a bit pompous orchestration-wise and JWL’s voice sounds almost like Dave Davies’ in the chorus. The song is however saved by JWL’s spoken verses and a hefty punch line. A homage to motherhood and the female sex, it seems a gentle echo of Lennon’s “Woman Is The Nigger Of The World”.
6. Go Out In Style. This Who-inspired song about Keith Moon will be known as “Wild, Wild, Wild” from the 2002 Jim Jam-concert in Bilston. Probably the album’s weakest track as it is not as well-composed as the rest. Still it fits in with the dead rock stars theme of some of the songs and it is one of the few rockers on the album.
7. Universe. Re-recording of JWL’s Slade-tune from 1991. This solo version is not as grandiose as Slade’s. Instead it has a soft, poetic feel to it. Especially JWL’s voice at the end of the track makes this version warmer and lighter and therefore less desperate than Slade’s.
8. Time And Emotion. A follow-up on Universe, so to speak. A new take on loneliness and longing for the loved one, although in a more philosophical wrapping. This tune stays in your head for ages. Backing vocals by Paul Hudson.
9. Your Cine World. One of the album’s most haunting tracks. Another tune that sticks in the head. Very flattering for JWL’s voice and with a megaphone echo at times. Hard, condemning lyrics about the psychic masturbation of certain female media personas with a little laugh at the end to soften things up. The very abrupt ending seems a bit unfinished, though.
10. The Valley Of The Kings. Lyrics-wise probably a personal song about the (Slade-)past. An okay pop-tune with a great chorus in the end, elevating the whole song. “Singalong assistance” by Tony Clarkin.
11. Why Is Youth Always Wasted On The Young. A step deeper into personal lyrics, it seems, this time about coming to terms with own youth wasted on being miserable. JWL doesn’t mince his words, which can also be heard in the stereo-effect comments to the song. A mourning of the loss of youth on behalf of gaining the wisdom of maturity. Great tune, another one that sticks, and great vocals as well. Again the ending seems a bit abrupt.
12. Notice. Another track with very personal lyrics. A both gentle and cynic-pragmatic track with a haunting melody. This delightful composition with thoughtful, spoken megaphone-verses makes you think that the British Invasion hasn’t quite ended yet.
13. Let Me Be Your Therapy. A tongue-in-cheek sinister song with creative use of sound effects. One of the album’s best. JWL’s use of a convincingly smutty voice and heavy breathing in the verses and the crude pronunciations in the raw choruses questions psychotherapy, getting back to the theme of psychic masturbation. The last line of the song gives both the track and the whole album an ironic twist.

The album comes in a cardboard cover that is adorned by a striking 1976 sepia drawing, based on a photo by Alan Barrow, and it shows a young Jimmy Lea with icy blue eyes (!). It reminds of Albrecht Dürrer’s copperplates, but the depiction of JWL as a classical renaissance artist is shattered by the fade-out of the brocade fabric, a trick mostly used in commercial drawing. It echoes and almost contradicts one of the album’s themes, the one of not being able to be a sage in a young body, the commercial brocade-drawing showing the young, extrovert, commercial side of the album whereas the Dürrer-style shows the mature, introvert and intellectual.
The album is accompanied by a booklet containing the lyrics. Unfortunately this suffers from a vast amount of typos. The sloppy piece of inferior typing is in dire need of proof reading and pulls down an otherwise fantastic album.

James Whild Lea’s “Therapy” is released through Jim Jam Records and can be ordered from:


At 5:02 PM, Blogger CA said...

I totally agree with most of the comments in the review above. The album is really great and the best songs are: 1. The smile of Elvis. 2. Dead Rock UK. 3. Could god be a woman. 4. Why is youth always wasted on the young 5. Well... I could go on.. The album is really fantastic

At 7:48 PM, Blogger Lise Lyng Falkenberg said...

I think there's something for everybody on this album. My own favourites are 1. Heaven Can Wait. 2. Notice. 3. Let Me Be Your Therapy, with Why Is Youth, Deadrock U.K. and Your Cine World as close runner-ups.
Thanks for your comment.

At 10:09 PM, Anonymous dave fearn said...

This has made my year. The album should be played to everybody as it is a land mark in the world of popular music. If Noel Gallager was to release an album 25 years after his band split up, everybody in the music industry would be falling over them selves to hear it. So why not this. Jim tell the world cause i am damn sure i will.
The album is brilliant.

At 7:59 AM, Blogger Lise Lyng Falkenberg said...

I guess that as long as Jim wants to avoid the music business including touring, videos and massive press exposure it is difficult to spread the word about the album.

At 1:08 PM, Anonymous Henrik Badger said...

The album is nothing short of stunning at first and it grows on you....
I bought it as soon as it was released. As an old Slade fan i thought i had to have it to complete the collection.
Was i ever wrong! Therapy is a masterpiece in it's own right. JWL's comment that he was going to make an album and it was going to be therapy should have resonated in the music world.
Now the album will have to do the resonating on it's own. And Therapy will i'm sure.
Without record company hype, being overplayed on the air and that whole annoying sale promotion.

At 6:30 PM, Blogger Ari said...

This is one of the best CD's for a long long time. James Whild Lea is a genius. I hope he'll finally get the respect he deserves.


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