on 9 April 2007
I have been a James fan for the last 16 years ever since the Sit Down days. The last time James released a Best of was in 1998 and prior to this they had released 6 conventional studio albums, 1 excellent live album and an album of jams called 'Wah Wah' (released in September 1994). They had previously notched a very respectable 14 Top 75 singles including 6 Top 20 hits - the most well-known of these being 'She's A Star' and the #2 hit 'Sit Down'
The last best of similarly to this singles collection contained two great new tracks 'Destiny Calling' and 'Runaground' which were thought at the time to represent James new direction. The Best of James flew to #1 in the UK Album charts and sold nearly a million copies in the UK - a remarkable achievement. The following year the album 'Millionaires' was released and whilst critically it got almost resoundingly excellent views it was given a mixed reception by James fans who viewed it as slightly conventional and commercially focussed compared to previous offerings. The album did well and got to #2 but slid out of the charts fairly quickly not achieving the sales levels originally predicted. The three singles from this album are on this new collection. Whilst all are excellent songs they don't quite capture the true James spirit for me and are highly polished songs.
James then in 2000 instead of releasing more songs from Millionaires started writing their new album 'Pleased to Meet You' which tried to go back to how the originally wrote material through a series of jamming session. The finished album - produced by Brian Eno was released in July 2001 to overall disappointing reviews and again mixed reception from fans. Only one single was released 'Getting Away With It (All messed up)' - which is contained in this new collection which had an edgier, rawer feel than any of the Millionaires singles. However the album was a mixture of familiar sounds blending previous albums Whiplash, Laid and Millionaires with a new more laidback sound.
Following the release of the album which peaked at only #11 (the worst album performance on their record label at the time - Mercury Records)two critical decisions were made; Mercury had decided not to renew James contract and Tim Booth (Vocalist for 19 years at the time) decided to leave James at the end of their short Arena tour at the end of 2001.
With fans in shock and mourning James effectively split up at the end of the tour and went their seperate ways. Tim Booth released a solo album 'Bone' in 2004 which got critical praise from fans and music critics alike. Since that time time Tim Booth appeared in Batman Begins in 2005 with a small role and in 2006 as Judas in the Manchester Passion play.
In January 2007 it was announced that James would be re-forming with original guitarist Larry Gott and the rest of James (minus Adrian Oxaal - replacement guitarist for Larry Gott and Michael Kulas (guitar/backing vocals)and they announced an April 2007 tour, the Fresh as a Daisy singles and a brand new album - slated for November 2007.
So Fresh as a Daisy - double singles CD has every single created by James (minus Sit Down 98) including their earliest material on Factory records the majority of which has not graced a CD until now.
Why is this collection so brilliant - every single crackles with inspiration and great ideas. Their are anthems (Sit Down/Laid/She's A Star/Desting Calling/Come Homes), their are slowburners (Sound/Who Are You/Runaground/Getting Away With It), singalongs (We're Going To miss you/How Was it For you?/Tomorrow) and their are some mid-paced classics (Say Something/Lose Control/Folklore).
The two new tracks like the previous 'new' tracks on 'The Best of James' are original and show another different face of James 'Who Are You' is one of the greatest songs James have ever made and contains a brilliant outtro 'Warning Coming Down' and 'Chameleon' is totally different to other James track with a true rock n'roll feel.
Those who have bought the Best of - buy the double album it has 16 songs that weren't on the previous best of - for those casual fans buy the single CD you get the new songs as well as hearing what James are about.
For those who haven't heard James before they make music like no other band; not rock but not quite pop, estoric, very emotional, romantic, passionate, catchy, edgy and magnificent.
so 25 Years of Brilliance in one CD...go discover what you've never heard, find out those songs you've missed or buy for the brilliant new tracks. James are back - music is back!
Well James has meant a lot to me, I've seen them live well over 10 times. I guess they are my favourite band.
Unlike those below, I'm not allergic to the Seven "Simple Minds" era. To me James were expanding their sound, going widescreen. But still with their effortless ability to craft a hook and a chorus and a melody that stays with you.
As befits a band with a career dating back to the 80s James have had a number of phases. But despite these changes, they remain throughout definitively, distinctively James. Epic, uplifting.
Best of all, they are back, touring and writing new songs. 2 of them here, heavier (lots of base), more rock than folk (no complaints from me), and frankly fantastic.
Live fave Jonny Yen is not live by the way.
Unlike many previous reformations, this appears to be about more than a quick raid of your piggy bank to pay off the mortgage with some useless new tat and a bunch of old tat stuck together through contractual obligation."
Every band reforms these days. About the only people holding out are The Smiths, a band for whom acrimony is their bread and butter. After five years in the wilderness with nothing to show for it but a cameo in Batman, an obscure solo record and a period drumming in The Alarm, James are back. Instead of the usal cash driven rubbish, James present for the first time, the full scope of their work with a chronological, two hour collection of almost all of their hit singles (missing the first and third releases of "Sit Down" and the original version of "Come Home") and a couple of newies. Instead of taking the old singer and the old guitarist and building a karaoke tribute to past successes with new identikit session musicians, James took their classic lineup from their artistic and commercial peak, and here they are again.
"Fresh as a Daisy" is a necessary history lesson. Previous compilations have ignored James earlier, spiky years as quirky indie darlings, favouring the wider expanse of The Big Music. Here, they evolve, they grow from a caterpillar into an astonishing butterfly. With the first two, long lost, Factory EP's presented in their entirety, the start of this journey is the work of curiousity. By "Chain Mail" the band have started to find their melodic niche, moving into the age of vision and melody.
To be frank, you know what the main selling point of this compilation sounds like, and you've probably got it already - the uncool staples of indie discos with "Sit Down" and "Come Home" and "Laid" - widescreen visionaries with trumpets, unafraid to dream out loud and make fools of themselves in the process. (And fools they were, as anyone who has heard the slender but pointed "Destiny Calling" knows, they were unafraid of going too far). The main guts of "Fresh As A Daisy" are a perfect introductory point for the band, two hours of solid, superior stadium rock that showed up other acts who had a smaller vision but bigger ambitions for the charlatans they were.
Towards the end of it, James were starting to stagnate. "I Know What I'm Here For" is a lyrical fumble of scant substance, and "Getting Away With It" showed that the band perhaps needed to take a break to recharge after twenty years of constant work. The compilation comes to an end with two new songs from album number Umpteen (dependent upon your interpretation of what an album is), in the shape of the slinky "Who Are You?" and "Chameleon" that prove that the story is far from over, and that the flame still burns strong within them.
on 3 June 2007
Well it's been a long time coming but the boys are finally back together, playing live and recording once again.
If you are new to the band then this is a pretty good place to start.
It starts off back in their factory days with tracks that only hint at the sound that is to come. moving through the whole sit down and come home phase where most people started liking them. (I could claim to be there at the beginning but i would have only been nine years old and would not have been let in to where they were playing).
The most exciting thing for me is the two new songs and I have to say that they are great. really can't wait for the rest of the new stuff.
Oh and by the way, if at any time you have to go on a long drive at night, stick Laid on in the car. don't know whyy it works but it is the most fantastic night time driving album.
Unexpectedly a band called James have decided to reform, their comeback tour to tie in with this compilation selling tens of thousands of tickets in no time whatsoever. The band return, complete with long-term bassist Larry Gott (who bailed out in the mid-90s), and release the 'Fresh as a Daisy'-compilation to remind everyone who they were (the compilation and tour now apparently paying for their new material, while an ideal calling card for a savvy record company). I can't say I was that enamoured with James following 'Seven', it seemed to me the 1990s equivalent of Simple Minds stadium ascent the previous decade, which is probably unfair, but I tuned out to the band about the time of 'Laid' (though a former housemate had a tape of 'Millionaires' which I quite liked, but never got round to buying) - so the second disc to me, is perhaps a revelation?
The second disc contains many decent pop songs, the Eno-produced 'I Know What I'm Here For' and 'Just Like Fred Astaire' definite standouts , while the 'Laid/Whiplash'-material offers up a slicker version of the early ramshackle James with the likes of 'Laid', and 'Say Something.' & for some reason, I thought 'We're Going To Miss You' was by someone else, it sounds pretty darn' wonderful now and not like the James many might expect.
I can't say I'm that excited over the 'Seven'-material that starts the second disc and ends the first one, 'Born of Frustration' and 'Ring the Bells' are both very catchy, but 'Sound' really does sound like a band going into Simple Minds/U2 bombastic stadium mode - the precedent for dung like Coldplay and Keane then! The single disc version, packed as it is, and no doubt a future best seller, doesn't hold that much appeal and is probably closer to the previous best of (though there are new songs, including new live faves 'Chameleon' and 'Who Are You?' - James apparently having many new songs ready to go).
But the first disc on this limited edition version of 'Fresh as a Daisy' is very, very appealing, since it contains many an old chestnut not on cd before or very hard to track down. The previous best of hardly took in James pre-Gold Mother, from memory it only included 'Hymn from a Village' from the 'Village Fire' e.p. and nothing from 'Stutter' (1986) or 'Strip Mine' (1988). This disc opens with the complete 'Village Fire' e.p., which I still play on vinyl, a 12" on Factory that contained both of their early e.p.'s 'Jimone' and 'James II'. These five songs are brilliant, though ramshackle indie that many won't like and not really indicative of the band in the early 1990s. 'What's the World?' was often covered live by The Smiths, turning up in a live version on the posthumous 'I Started Something...'-single, while 'Fire So Close' is a manic version of the song that would be slowed down to become the folky 'Why So Close?' on the charming 'Stutter.' 'If Things Were Perfect' sounds sublime, after all these years, and 'Hymn from a Village' a sort of anthem that I still find a compulsive listen.
The non-album single 'Chain Mail' (later the opener for the deleted live LP 'One Man Clapping') is an absolute joy to have on cd, while 'So Many Ways' represents their debut LP on Sire, 'Stutter' - though as can be seen by the tracklisting, a version of 'Johnny Yen' is also included, would this be a live version? 'Johnny Yen', like 'Scarecrow' and 'Why So Close' is a highlight of that underestimated debut. Next up are two singles from their second & final LP for Sire, 'Strip-Mine' - the gorgeous 'What For?' (James in 'In Between Days/Just Like Heaven'-mode) and the catchy 'Ya Ho' - though this album had some other equally catchy moments, like 'Are You Ready?' and 'Charlie Dance' - certainly an LP to pick up at a nice price...
1988/89 was where everything changed, James line-up extended to take on board key member Saul Davies, keyboard player Mark Hunter and cult figure Andy Diagram (see the recent Diagram Brothers reissue!). There was the live LP 'One Man Clapping' on Rough Trade, an album sorely in need of reissue going on prices on E-Bay & an absence on Amazon. James pretty much started again around this point, in 1989 they were rejuvinated with the classic singles 'Sit Down' and 'Come Home', which along with an association with the fashionable Madchester scene, put them on the road to disc two. I'm not sure which versions of 'Sit Down' and 'Come Home' are included, shame that all versions weren't collected - though I'd prefer the 1989 originals to the versions easily found on the prior 'Best of' and the reissue of 'Gold Mother.' The first disc includes the catchy rocker 'How Was It For You?', which was probably about sex at the time, but feels like a comment on nostalgia now and the 1990 single 'Lose Control', which is a fine song, but one marred by production at the time (b-side 'Out To Get You' was much better).
This two disc version of 'Fresh as a Daisy' is a very welcome compilation, though it would be nice to see the odd reissue of the pre-'Gold Mother' work, as well as a two-disc collection (or box-set?) of b-sides like 'The Sky is Falling', 'Out to Get You', 'Hup Springs', 'Sound Investment' and 'Tonight' and maybe other hide to find songs or versions? It would be nice to make the past fully available prior to the next James album. In the meantime, here's a reminder of how great James were...
on 21 May 2009
This album is excellent!I bought it when it was first released and as I am a big fan of the band thought it was an excellent compliation of all of their best known songs and others not so well known.I think even people who are not familiar with the band will love this :)
on 30 April 2007
James have been one of my favourite bands for 20 years. The songs on this collection - including the new tracks - are fantastic. From pure pop to rock to indie, there's something here for everyone. But as a collection it misses the mark.
Casual fans should stick to the single disk release which should keep them happy. For them, playing the 2 disk version will be disappointing, with the "gaps" between the recognisable radio hits. There are certainly a number of songs on the album that are included on this album just to satisfy the diehard fans & collectors out there. This will no doubt lead the casual fans to skip tracks and be unsatisfied with the continuity of the album.
On the flipside, loyal fans aren't given enough. It will be a relief to finally get hold of some tracks that haven't been released on CD before, but there are many missing. It's like getting a toy without batteries on Christmas Day. The diehard fans will also be unsatisfied with this album.
The best option would have been a single disk version for the casual fans (as they have done) but have a box set edition for collectors - with all the vinyl-only releases, b-sides and rarities.
I've given this release 4 stars. The band have the material for a 5 star release but I think the record company have let the fans (and the band) down with this too-much-yet-too-little 2-disk set.
on 15 June 2010
I always quite liked James but never owned anything by them. This is good because the songs don't especialy remind me of anything or anyone; so its not about nostalgia, its about now. Fresh as a Daisy and then some. Musicaly, lyricaly and vocaly perfect. I've been listening to pretty much only James/Tim Boothe stuff for most of the last couple of months and I own a lot of other good music too but with all the madness that is going on with my slice of life right now James feel like a best friend that always knows exactley what to say to lift you back up, or comfort you or lay gentle little kisses upon the soul.
buy anything by James but this is a good a place as any to start
on 9 December 2007
I've been enjoying music by James since my student days when I first heard the classic tracks "What For" and "Ya Ho" from the Srip-mine album. Back then Gold Mother had been released, followed up two years later by Seven. Both are great albums, imo, and this 2-disc Singles album gets the top tunes from each along with other well known James tracks and some tunes that aren't so well known. What you get as always are lyrics that question life, government, the human condition and the unique James sound and voice of Tim Booth. Recommended for James fans, and those who may be interested in hearing more of the band than just the big hits.
on 17 February 2014
I've known of James since since the 90's via 'Sound', 'Sit Down' and their album 'Gold mother', which for some reason I never got into. Then I heard Getting Away With It and thought "got to get that" and was pleasantly surprised to re-discover James. I got a copy of thier iconic album Getting away with it........Live, which I love (also *****) and I've been expanding my James collection since.
I've read on Google that James are an under-rated band. I'ed agree. Listen to this and you too will be wishing for more!